PLAINS — Thomas Clifford Vander Velden, 86, passed away at his home Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017, from complications due to Parkinson’s disease.

Tom was born Aug. 12, 1931, in Little Chute, Wisconsin, the seventh of eight children born to Martin and Gertrude (LeRoy) Vander Velden. After serving four years in the Air Force, he earned a conservation and biology degree from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, where he also met and married Carol Braun in 1959.

Tom spent summers during college fighting fires for the Flathead National Forest and fell in love with Montana. He moved his family there in 1964, where he worked in Employment Assistance for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, both in Browning and Helena.

An avid reader, Tom also enjoyed hunting, fishing, gardening, raising ducks and scoring a good deal at yard sales. He had a reputation for “shooting the breeze” and enjoyed a “cold one” every afternoon.

He is survived by his wife Carol; son Mark (Jess Brewer), Stevensville; daughter Cheryl Emch (Dallas), Eureka; sister Bette Derus, Menasha, Wisconsin; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Interment will take place at a later date at the Missoula Veterans Cemetery. Memorial donations can be made to Friends of Montana PBS.

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