Last Ride – Tom Anderson

Rick Butler

It is with a heavy heart that I announce to you that on Feb 11th we lost a dear friend, Tom Anderson. But before I go on, I’d like to go back a few years when Tom finally retired after a 24 year career with the University of Kansas where he served as Facilities Operations Director and in his later years, director of special projects for the KU Environmental Education Center. Then to give him something to do while he wasn’t riding (and out of Bev’s hair) he started working on a part time basis for the Lawrence Transit Authority. But his hip started bothering him to the point that he found it difficult to sit or ride, so after a medical evaluation, he had a hip ball replaced. This allowed him to ride greater lengths without the pain so he was back in the saddle again. But early in February, Tom started having stomach pains that became unbearable. When his doctor admitted him to the hospital for testing, it was found that Tom had an advanced form of stomach cancer that was already in his liver and lymph system. Yes, it had gone too long and was terminal.

When Tom’s wife Bev called me about Tom’s condition, Tom only had a few weeks or so left and they were releasing him to go home in a few days. When I heard this I knew I had to go see Tom before it was too late, which I cleared with Bev that it was ok. I was then in immediate contact with three other close MTA friends about Tom’s condition and discovered that only Jerry Bryant was able to get away to go see Tom. So after I spoke with Jerry, I decided to drop by his place in Arkansas on my way to Lawrence, Kansas and the two of us would spend Super Bowl weekend with Tom and the family. And this is exactly what we did. We were not able to only spend quality with Tom and Bev, but also with their many children and grandchildren. If any of you have ever spent any time with Tom and Bev, you know they have a large close family of six girls and one son. In fact the first time I saw the girls they were wearing t-shirts with numbers on them. Tom couldn’t remember all their names, so he numbered them.

Like I said previously, Jerry and I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoon with Tom and their family and even got to watch New England defeat Philadelphia in the Super Bowl. But when we left Sunday evening, it was a very somber good-bye. And as we were leaving, Tom called me back to tell me that “You guys are going a great job”. Tom succumbed to the cancer and passed away that following Friday and was buried with full military honors because of his service during the Korean War.

But with all of this being said, I will always cherish the memories of Tom based upon our past experiences together. If you remember back in December of 2001, I did a special article called “Three Amigos” where I told how I first came to know Tom Anderson as well as Dave Henderson and the friendships we formed. When I went back to review this article it was like looking at an old scrapbook, where I smiled as I read Tom saying, “I found us a room!” And if you don’t mind, I’m going to tell this story again.

It was 1991 and the three of us had just left Sturgis and were coming South out of the Black Hills into Nebraska, where we road into one of the grandest lightening storms I have ever been in. We rode dry, but there was lightening on all sides of us, so bright at times it would blind Tom who was trying to follow my trailer lights. We went through several towns with motels, but all we saw were "No Vacancy" signs, so we kept on going. By 1:00 am we were in the middle of Northern Nebraska (and another hour or better from Ogalala a nice size town on the interstate), when we stopped at Broadwater a small town of about 100 to check the map and smoke a cigarette. It just so happened there was a small motel with about 10 rooms and while Dave and I looked at the map, Tom knocked on the door so see if they possibly had a room? Well he came back all excited that he had us a room for 3. It was a room with all right, with one double and one single bed and just barely room to undress, but we were tired and welcomed anything. I was asleep about an hour when I felt something crawling on my leg. Yes, I jumped up and grabbed the light and scared the crap out of Dave and Tom. I was thinking cockroaches, but it was just harvest beetles and harmless, so we all went back to sleep.

When we woke and got ready to leave, we saw a small cafe next to the motel, and since we were hungry, we decided to check it out. We noticed there were no menus so when we asked the "Tug Boat Annie" waitress, she told us that she didn't have any menu and we would have what she fixed us! Well with that, we told her we would have three of them with coffee, and out the back door she went. In about 3 minutes she was back where she cooked us up eggs, bacon and hash browns. We were sure that she had to go home and lift the hens for that many eggs. What a trip! And Tom, Dave and I spent many more trips like these riding together for the next 13 years or so.

Tom was one of the first members to be nominated to the Board of Directors of this organization in 1987. His main objective as a Board member was to insure that the integrity and credibility of this organization was of the highest character for the membership. It was in 1990 that Tom tried to get me involved in the Board but that didn’t work out. Tom left the Board that year because he felt this integrity had been compromised, but then returned to us in 2000 to again spend time with his old friends. This was the year that an open Board position became open and Tom nominated me to that position, where it was accepted by the membership at that meeting. Then in 2001 Tom accepted the Board appointment to fill the unexpired board position left by Phil Griggs. He again insisted that we maintain the highest level of organizational integrity and creditability with our membership. As a change to our office procedures in writing checks, he suggested that the MTA checkbook be turned over to Barb in the office. Barb would then prepare the checks and return statements to be mailed once or twice a month to the Treasurer and one other officer to review and sign the checks and then drop them in the mail. And Barb would not be on the bank signature card. This provided for a complete separation of duties between those that could write the checks and a balance in who signed them. I tell you this because in memory of Tom’s feelings toward this organization, we will constantly strive to fulfill his commitments to the membership of the MTA.

If you have ever spent any time around Tom, you know that first and foremost he was the kindest, most genuine gentleman you will ever meet And for those of us who have been in this organization since it’s inception, Tom was truly what this organization is really about, "Riding with Friends". And in closing this chapter of Tom Anderson and his part in shaping the future of this organization, I know I do not stand alone when I say he will be missed by his many friends in the MTA and we wish him the best in his next journey.