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JOHN THOMAS "TOM" GHORMLEY SR.
June 14, 1918 ~ January 25, 2014
Tom Ghormley died January 25, 2014 of age-related causes at the Vancouver, WA home of his daughter Peggy Leinweber. Peggy, along with her daughter Jennifer Leinweber, were his devoted caregivers throughout his final days and they, along with granddaughters, Amy Perdew and Eileen Fournier, were at his bedside when he passed. He was 95.
John Thomas Ghormley Sr. was born June 14, 1918 in the small northeastern Oregon town of Helix, near Pendleton, to Thomas H. and Isabella (Mills) Ghormley. He was the first of four children that would be born into the family. When he was born, his father was with the U.S. Army in Germany during World War I. Tom saw his father for the first time when he was almost a year old.
Tom's parents moved to the Portland-Vancouver area when he was about six years old. Tom helped his family and learned basic business principles by selling magazine subscriptions from the time he was about eight until his parents started a family-owned drug store in Vancouver in 1931, during the Great Depression. Tom would work in the store before school and again after school until it was time to go home and get ready for the next day.
During his time growing up in Vancouver, an event occurred which occupied a place in Tom's memory for many years after. On a June day in 1937, the then 19 year-old heard that a Russian plane had just landed in Vancouver, completing a history-making non-stop flight from Moscow. He grabbed his box camera and quickly rode his bicycle to Pearson Field to capture the historic moment. The plane, piloted by Valery Chkalov and two other crew members, was the first to cross the North Pole in a flight that lasted a little over 63 hours. Tom wandered around the airfield, taking pictures of the plane from several angles, photographs that he kept for the rest of his life.
After graduating from Vancouver High School in 1936, Tom worked for a year to earn money to enroll in the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. While at UW, he was active in ROTC. He graduated and received his commission in the U.S. Army on June 14, 1941.
During World War II, his military service took him to Aruba, Trinidad, Venezuela, France, Germany, and across the United States. For several years after the war, he remained active in the U.S. Army reserves as a Captain in the Medical Service Corps.
While he was in the Army, he married Eileen Marie Clyde at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Columbia, South Carolina on May 19, 1944. He had met Eileen in Seattle on a blind date prior to his military service.
After the war, Tom and Eileen settled into raising a family in Seattle, Vancouver, Yakima and back again to Vancouver over the next 40 years while Tom pursued a career in pharmacy and business ownership. During that time, eleven children were welcomed and loved into this world. After having opened and operated a very successful drug store in Yakima, Tom returned to Vancouver in 1960 to take over his parents' store (Ghormley Drug). He operated the store for several years, until closing it in 1967. Afterward, he continued to work as a pharmacist in drug stores in Vancouver and Clark county.
Both Tom and Eileen retired in the early 1980s and continued to enjoy each other's companionship through traveling and their respective hobbies, including Tom's stamp collecting and reading. Eileen's passion for her family was what kept her busy throughout her later years.
Eileen died March 20, 1986 after a brave fight against cancer. After Eileen's passing, Tom searched to find a new way for himself, a new beginning. He decided to take on Eileen's involvement with the family. From that time on, he made certain that each adult child received an invitation to come have lunch with him on their birthday.
He continued this practice for many years, even when it meant having to get help from his caregivers.
He married a long-time friend of Eileen's, Jeannie Berens, on July 17, 1987. The union brought two large families together, Tom's nine and Jeannie's six adult children, and their numerous grandchildren.
After 20 years of marriage to Tom, Jeannie died September 23, 2007 of bone cancer. After Jeannie's passing, Tom moved out of the long-time family home on Columbia Street into a retirement facility near Vancouver Mall. After a time there, he moved once again into his daughter Peggy's house in northwest Vancouver.
Since Tom was a member of Vancouver's Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church for 54 years, the parish community was an important part of his life. For many years an active member of his church choir, he enjoyed singing at Sunday Masses and other special events. He also appreciated the opportunity to share in parish social gatherings, whether it was coffee after daily Mass, breakfast after Sunday Mass, or the monthly senior luncheon.
Tom was pre-deceased by his parents; and his brother, Willard; and his two sons, Patrick and Terry, who died in infancy.
He is survived by his children, John Jr., Jim (Liane), Peggy, Bob (Kathie), Bill, Dan (Cindy), Dennis (Elizabeth), Steve (Lisa), and Pete (Sharon); step-children, Dan Berens (Colleen), Jack Berens (Ali), Jim Berens, Bob Berens, Anne Shackleford (Dane) and Peggy Greene (Sean); sisters, Bettie Hochwarter and Bonnie Watson; 33 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Due to inclement weather, Tom's funeral service will be changed to Wed., Feb. 12th at 11:00 a.m. The recitation of the Rosary will start at 10:15 a.m., with the funeral Mass of the Resurrection to follow, at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 4701 NW Franklin St., Vancouver. A reception will follow the liturgy in the parish hall. Burial service will be at 2:00 p.m. at Mother Joseph Cemetery, East 29th and 'O' Streets, also in Vancouver.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Tom's memory may be made to Our Lady of Lourdes parish school, 4701 Franklin St., Vancouver, WA 98663.
Please sign his guestbook at: www.columbian.com/obits.
Published in The Columbian on Feb. 5, 2014