Thomas J. Flaherty Jr.

1914 - 2012

Thomas J. Flaherty Jr. was born May 14, 1914, in Seattle, to parents Thomas Sr. and Edna (née Sowders) Flaherty. Tom passed away at the age of 98 on Oct. 9, 2012, at his residence in College Place.

In his youth in Canada, Tom was an outstanding track and field athlete. Unfortunately, as a young adult, Tom was involved in an accident, severely injuring his leg, which eventually precluded him from combat duty. Tom worked in the hotel business in Alberta with his father for a while, and later, worked for six years with the Corps of Engineers. Throughout his life, Tom lived in Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, Alberta, and Montana. It was while serving in the COE in Hungry Horse, Mont., that Tom met the love of his life, Erma Bell, of Butte, Mont., who also worked for the COE as a nurse. He married Erma in 1936, and they shared a great life together for 66 years until her passing in 2002.

After the Corps, Tom had a successful career in the Business Equipment industry with Remington Rand, then as a manager of a Safety Equipment company, and lastly as an executive with Young & Rubicam. In ’79-‘80 Tom and Erma relocated from Royal Oak, Mich., to the Walla Walla Valley to pursue their hobbies of travel, hiking, canoeing and wood carving.
Tom and Erma traveled extensively across the country in the comfort and tradition of their Airstream trailer. Tom divulged that he and Erma purchased and used three such trailers throughout their many years of travel, always pulled by a large Detroit-built sedan. They traveled extensively throughout Montana where they fulfilled their passion for canoeing; portaging many, many, miles just to find that idyllic section of river. One day, they would find such a spot on the Lochsa River in Idaho where Erma’s ashes are now scattered … and where Tom’s will eventually rest.

Tom was meticulous in every endeavor and craft he pursued, keeping logs and making copious notes of every detail of the experience. He was a brilliant person — a type of modern-day Renaissance man — who appreciated the beauty of nature, the benefits of tidiness and organization, inquisitiveness about machinations, and a passion to create with his mind and his hands. All of these traits were highly evident in his craft of woodcarving.
In 1998 Tom and Erma moved to a neighborhood in College Place where he first met Mel Wheatley, who was also an accomplished woodcarver. Tom then joined the WW Valley Woodworking & Whittling club and the rest is history. He prolifically produced scores of carved rounds, relief work, and figurines; particularly favoring Western (cowboy) art in the vein of Charles M. Russell’s subjects. Tom’s works were all masterfully executed, but their seeming effortless beauty and natural perfection belied the tedious planning, skill and labor that Tom put into each piece of his art.

Tom was known to have a wry, witty, intellectual sense of humor. He was strong-willed about convictions and opinions (highly conservative), but he was quick to tease and chuckle … and he often laughed at himself. His face naturally held a scowled expression that quickly would flash to a devilish smile once he found a fun way to raise your ire. Lastly — and most importantly — Tom was a loving, giving person; helping people where he could, sharing his art with friends, and sacrificially supporting charities in the Valley. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, at 2 p.m. at the Country Estates Community Center, 938 Scenic View Drive, College Place.
Memorial Gifts may be made to The Salvation Army of Walla Walla, 827 West Alder Street, 99362 or Walla Walla Community Hospice, 1067 E. Isaacs, 99362.

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