Thomas Richard Glassford
Oct 22, 1947 – Feb 23, 2012
Soul at home in God’s outdoors
Growing up, Tommy was a mischievous youngster. However, after graduating in 1967 from Broughton High School in Raleigh, he quickly straightened up upon entering the Air Force. He served four years in Alaska, where his only child, Julie, was born. Afterwards, he studied forestry and graduated from the University of Idaho.
Lover of the outdoors, Tommy then began an illustrious career with the US Forest Service, serving in Idaho and Oregon and teaching US Forest Service courses across the country. His other loves included photography, books, running, training his horses, playing his guitar, working on his tree farm, creating in his workshop, backpacking, and living and working in the beautiful Oregon mountains. Even though he was wooed to work in Washington, D.C. more than once, he preferred the simple and quiet Oregonian life.
Tommy touched hundreds of lives with his caring and generous spirit, his special humor, his meticulous work ethic, his impact as a beloved scout master, and his philosophical and logical thinking by which he mediated many legal cases for the US Forest Service.
One of my favorite memories was in the summer of 1996 when Tommy drove from Oregon to Raleigh in his prized older model truck, which he maintained with kid gloves. As his visits were far between, the family always anticipated them with much excitement. Sporting his classic, quirky look of full length wool socks and short shorts, he serenaded his young niece and nephew on his guitar. They sat mesmerized, gazing at him with adoration as he sang, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” substituting each of their names for Jackie Paper.
Another favorite memory was two years later in 1998, when we flew to Oregon to visit with Tommy and his wife for a week. “We” included my parents, my brother and his wife from Burlington and their children, being that same niece and nephew. While there, everyone except my parents hiked to the top of Ruby Peak. We left early one morning and had a steep and adventurous climb to the top, where we signed a visitor register.
As we descended, night fell and it became evident that something was wrong. Unknowingly, Tommy had bumped his compass along the way, and it had gone awry. In other words, we were lost in the dark, somewhere on a mountain side, with no direction! Because Tommy had drawn the area topography maps for the Forest Service, he knew the mountains like the back of his hand. Amazingly, he got us down the mountain through the pitch black, linked hand-in-hand, creeping inch by inch on a nerve-racking descent, until we exhaustedly reached his truck for the ride home. What surging relief, not only for us, but also for my panicked mother who, in the wee hours, sat in the living room intently listening for the sound of tires on the gravel. Dad? Sound asleep!
Sadly, Tommy entered a deep depression upon realizing that his marriage was failing, and the thought of losing his beloved wife caused him to take his life in 2012. Despite his tragic death, his spirit will always live in our hearts, along with favorite and treasured memories.