When Kris and I moved to Oak Grove in 2004, we were surprised by the neighborhood. We’d just come from Canby, which seemed like a proto-typical small town. Yet we barely knew our neighbors there. We smiled at them and waved hello and helped each other with small tasks, but we were never what I’d call friendly. Our area never felt like a neighborhood or a community.
Our street in Oak Grove felt like a neighborhood from the start. People were welcoming. They chatted with us and shared vegetables. We talked about the cats and the druggies down the street. We exchanged baked goods at Christmas and watched each other’s homes. This has never felt intrusive — just friendly.
Tom, the old man next door, was perhaps the best of the lot. He liked to stand at his fence and chat about our gardens or our cats or the history of the neighborhood. He shared advice on growing fruit trees. Once, while we were holding book group outside, he brought over a wheelbarrow full of old photography magazines to give to me. (And later gave me a bunch of darkroom equipment.) Tom was a Good Man.
Tom died last Saturday. I never thought I’d devote an entire blog entry to mourn the loss of a neighbor, but I’m doing so today. As I say, he was a Good Man, and it somehow seems wrong that there’s no digital memorial to him. Well, Kris and I attended Tom’s funeral service this afternoon, and the program contained a fine biography of the man. I’m going to preserve it here.
18 September 1927 – 08 January 2011
Arnold Thomas Sandwick, Jr., was born 18 September 1927 at Terrebonne, Deschutes County, Oregon, and went home to be with his Lord on 08 January 2011. He was the first of five children born to Irene Beatrice Deach and Arnold Thomas Sandwick. Tom was followed by Andy, Anitra Van Matre, Carmen Olsen, and Eric.
Tom and his first wife, Mildred, also had five children: Carl, Jean, Karin, Kristen, and Judi. After his divorce, Tom married Roberta and gained two more children: Clifford Sandwick and Catie Elrod. He was predeceased by his parents and brother, Andy.
At 17, Tom graduated from Redmond High School, and whiled away the summera as a railroad section hand pounding spikes into a rail line under construction. After he turned 18, he joined the Navy. He served a partial tour of duty at the end of World War II on a submarine. He was called back up during the Korean War and served on a seaplane tender.
Tom spend the years between and immediately after his time in the Navy continuing his education. He attended Powellhurst Bible Academy, Whitworth College, Oregon State, Western Seminary, and Denver Seminary. He had a degree in civil/structural engineering from Oregon State and became a registered professional engineer in 1961. When structural engineering became a separate discipline, he successfully applied for dual registration under the grandfathered application process. He did not renew his license in 2007, although he was willing to brainstorm engineering problems after that time.
Tom’s engineering career was complex and varied. He designed the marine park at Kalama, Washington and worked on the Bull Run water source for the city of Portland. He was involved in the ramps on the Morrison Street Bridge, the sewer system in Oak Grove, and a now-abandoned chip loading facility in Lake Oswego. These are just a few of the many projects he was a part of as a problem solver or designer. On a personal level, two projects stand out. The first was the house in which he raised his children. His favorite was his last project, the house in which he spent his retirement.
As a young boy, Tom was entranced by airplanes. He read about them and built model airplanes. Much to his grief, he was never able to fly due to very poor eyesight. Tom learned to develop and print his own black-and-white photographs while on the submarine at the end of World War II. Photography was one of his pleasures. A collection of his prints is scattered through the second house. He had a very good eye. Tom took great satisfaction in growing a significant portion of the household fruits and vegetables. He was also an immense help in putting up the surplus for winter use.
Family was always at the center of Tom’s life. He worked very hard to be a responsible parent in a single-income household. At times this spread his resources very thin, but the results were worth the effort.
Tom seriously considered a life in the ministry, but decided that he was just not cut out for the pastoral role. He valued greatly the education at Powellhurst, Western, and Denver. He applied this education to all aspects of his life.
Tom usually had some deep thought wandering around the back of his mind, even at the very end. Shortly before he lapsed into unconsciousness he said, “This is ridiculous.” When asked what “this” was, he answered, “The whole concept — yet it’s perfectly plausible.” Perhaps he meant that the idea that man was in charge of anything was that which was ridiculous. That would be consistent for a man who said “love” was not a big enough word to encompass the emotion he was experiencing.
I only knew Tom for six years. He and I would stop to chat when we saw each other in the road. (When he was setting out to feed the neighbor cats, for example, or when I was walking up the hill to my office.) I didn’t know Tom well, but I liked him. I wish I had known longer and better.
Tom Sandwick was a Good Man.