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And then the Patriarch was gone. After 92 years of a vivid life and colorful adventure Tom Fortune (The Man of the West) passed peacefully at home with his boots on. He did life “his way” resiliently adapting to hardships, challenges and change presented in a life spanning 92 years. He never gave up in his quest for excellence in all endeavors and began each day with the end in mind. Whether it be jerking a steer, training a horse, setting shoes on a horse, throwing the perfect loop, singing a song, or driving kids on a school bus without error, excellence was always the goal. Giving up was never an option. In the last several months he continued to persevere, refusing to give up. Tom started each day with a couple laps around the track and filled his day spreading cheer and kindness to friends and strangers alike. On Sunday prior to his passing he climbed the two flights of stairs to the choir loft, as he did every Sunday, and blessed the parish with a song. The last of the old time cowboys, Tom had the talent and opportunity in Nashville, however, chose family and a passion for the cowboy way.
Tom was born January 14, 1931 in St Louis MO. As a youth in St Louis Tom fell in love with horses setting his destiny. In his early teens he left home with a gunny sack over his shoulder on a quest to be a cowboy. He traveled about from Texas to Arizona and on to Wyoming. He performed in wild west shows riding rough stock, broke horses, guided in hunting camps, was a brand inspector, and punched most of the cattle from Wyoming to the Mexican line. Every chance he could get he would be competing in a rodeo. Tom competed in every rodeo event over the course of his life. After several years of marriage his family grew and he realized he needed to settle down and provide a proper home for Carol and the kids.
With a shovel, spud bar, saw, sledge hammer, a set of farrier tools, guitar, and a voice from God Himself Tom settled his family in the Little Horn Valley in 1971. He cut his own timber, built his corrals and arena and started raising Quarter Horses. Together with his faithful wife, Carol, they broke the cycle of broken homes, creating a loving home to raise their five children. Tom established a fine line of Quarter Horses and was an amazing horseman. He was a sought after farrier due to his workmanship and knowledge. He kept his singing talent in his back pocket for rainy days. As the years passed, Tom's resilience allowed him to adapt to the challenge of age. He retired his saddle and farrier tools to begin a new chapter. He started singing more and driving a school bus until the age of 90.
Tom was fearless, there was nothing tomorrow would bring that he couldn’t handle. He taught his kids by example. Tom was self reliant, ethical, his word was good, he had fortitude, and an unrelenting work ethic. He was honest, humble, respectful, responsible, timely, and prepared. He taught proper etiquette and believed manners make thy man. His deep philosophical thoughts combined with age and experience were amazingly insightful. Tom stood alone for justice many times in his life and would never tolerate a bully regardless of size or stature. Tom was a gifted singer who humbly acknowledged his gift was Gods. He truly believed this gift was to be shared for comfort and joy of his fellow man.
Today the Cowboy rode away somewhere over the rainbow to where no one stands alone. He was met in the garden with Jesus and Mom for a sweet hour of prayer.
Tom is survived five children, Ronnie, Twila Desmarais(Rene), Clayton, Waylon (Amy), and Jesse (Katie) Grandchildren Colter Dale, Thomas (Erin), Ashley (Jon), Whitney (Daniel), Mariah (Ray), Annemarie, Mathew, Isaiah, Josey Clayton, Jesse Thomas, Eliza Rose, Caroline Jean, Emily and Anna. Great grandchildren Abby, Noah and Jonah, Jackson and Jennings, and Laramie.
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