Tom DeChandt Tom DeChandt, age 66, of Las Vegas, passed away March 31, 2014. He was a loving father, grandfather and husband, a San Diego police officer and served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. Celebration of Life ceremony will be on Friday, April 11, 4:00 pm at Palm Mortuary, 7400 W. Cheyenne Ave Las Vegas. See link for more information. www.palmcheyenne.com
My Beloved Dad
Roses are red, violets are blue, we celebrate your life today Dad, cheers and love to you! Many of you know my dad’s love for starting cards and letters with his “Roses Are Red” poems, so I couldn’t resist starting my remarks the same way.
As I sat down to organize my thoughts about my dad, it was hard to figure out where to begin. How do you summarize your beloved father in a few remarks? So many memories, so many fun times, so many characteristics about my dad that I want to honor.
When I think about my dad and what he’s known for – I think primarily about his love for his family.
My dad was always talking about his family – he was always so proud of all of us. He would introduce me to his friends and co-workers and they’d say, “I’ve heard so much about you, your dad talks about you all of the time.” At first, I was embarrassed by this and I would say, “Dad, you’re boring these poor people, stop talking about us all the time.” But then I realized just how great it was to have a father that loves you so much and takes such pride in you that he shares it with everyone. Family was his joy.
Dad was constantly telling jokes and making people laugh – he was so quick witted and always ready with a joke – most inappropriate, but if anyone was offended, I don’t think it lasted long because he was always so charming. My dad had a great sense of humor.
Dad was a great story teller – it didn’t matter the subject. I’ve heard great stories about growing up in Mandan, a small town in North Dakota. He had great adventures as a kid – from fishing and hunting to riding on horseback for a character he played in the Custer drama at Ft. Lincoln park. He had funny stories about his delinquent behavior too. He was the kid in Catholic school that hit the nun back after she rapped his knuckles with a ruler. He and his friends put snow down the stack of a train, blowing up the engine, and he and his brothers and friends had a distillery in their basement.
Dad would make up stories for fun too. Some were so far-fetched, but told with such conviction that he could convince a lot of people they were true stories.
There was the time my dad had a woman convinced that he met my mom in Vietnam while his platoon was shelling her village and that as my mom was running across the rice fields, their eyes met and it was love at first sight. This lady kept telling everyone at the dinner party how interesting it was how Tom and Sylvia met. A friend finally explained to her my dad’s sense of humor.
He had the gift of gab and was always so engaging with people – from ones he just met to long-time friends.
My dad was so much fun! He liked dancing and singing and would often times try to do both in his car. As a kid, we did a lot of road trips. My dad would let me sit on his lap in the driver’s seat and steer the car while we’d be singing at the top of our lungs to the 60s and 70s music he loved so much. Mom would be in the back seat reading her book. And at my 5th grade father/daughter dance in 1980, we won the dance contest for dancing the hustle.
As a grandfather, he was always entertaining and fun and this made him a favorite and most cherished person to his granddaughters, Isabelle and Eva.
My dad was always a great support to me. No matter what I was pursuing, he encouraged me endlessly and always said, “I’ll be there, whatever you need.”
Dad was simple. He didn’t want a lot of stuff – unless it was fishing rods, hunting guns or a bass boat and for those hobbies, he had plenty. Before mom and dad moved to Las Vegas, dad would visit me and walk in from his car carrying on one hand his pants, shirt, underclothes, toothbrush and comb – all on one hand! I’d shake my head and say, “do you at least want a grocery bag to carry that stuff in?”
Service to country and community meant a lot to my dad. My dad served in the Navy for nine years during the Vietnam War as an engineman on a river boat. He was very proud of his military service and was able to enjoy several reunions over the years with his shipmates.
My dad continued to serve his community as a police officer for nearly 20 years. He enjoyed his work and balanced it with the right amount of toughness and compassion. My mom and I are very proud of my dad for his military and police service.
I have so many favorite memories of my dad. Waking me up was a ritual. It was full of stories with crazy characters that would tickle me, like tire squealing ants and basketball playing elephants. Now I need to find more time to wake my kids up the same way.
My mom worked during the day and went to college a couple nights a week for most of my childhood. Every Monday night my dad would order Filippi’s pizza and we’d do homework and watch Monday Night Football. And every Sunday was filled with Charger games. He’s the reason I love football so much today. Go Chargers! – right Dad?
We did so many road trips while I was growing up and with road trips came a lot of camping. The three of us were always crammed in a small three-man dome-shaped tent that was blue – I called it the Big Blue Marble. Every camping trip has its own stories of fun and adventure.
There were also stock car races, working on his cars, helping him reload shotgun shells … real girly stuff – but he made it all fun.
When I think about my dad’s character, I think of his take-charge attitude. As a kid, I always thought my dad was so tough – and he was, he was tough in character. Sure, there were times in his law enforcement career that he needed that physical toughness, but for as tough as he was, he was always approachable, helpful and respectful to others – we’ve heard from many of his colleagues since his passing and so many have shared what a generous spirit my dad had in his approach with people.
That toughness and strength served him well in his battle with cancer. There were a lot of side effects from his cancer treatment and numerous times he’d experience a physical set back, but he’d get through it. He had tremendous strength to give us three more years with him since his diagnosis with stage four lung cancer – practically unheard of for stage four cancer patients. I cherish these last three years with my dad. He had more time with his family, especially his young granddaughters who love him so much – I’m grateful for the memories they’ve created in this time, and knowing how meaningful they are to my kids, I know they’re memories that will last.
I think what fueled his strength and toughness was his positive attitude. He had the most upbeat, confident, can-do attitude. He’d tell you about some challenge, or if you told him about a challenge, he often said, “We’ll get it done, we’ll get through it…” or “Oh well, what’re gonna do, you have to work hard and just keep going – sometimes chickens, sometimes feathers.” His whole family – parents and siblings have always had that “buck up and keep going” attitude in the most tenacious and optimistic way.
My dad now joins his two older brothers Tony and Bob in heaven. As my cousin Melissa put it, we know all three of them are now together, enjoying each other, drinks in hand and bad jokes flowing. I take a lot of comfort in this – knowing that my dad’s struggle and discomfort with cancer is now over. May you rest in peace, Dad, and know that you’ll always be remembered and honored through our love and great memories of you.
By: Angelique Williams, loving daughter talk at Tom’s Celebration of Life 04/11/14
Tom enjoyed hunting and fishing. When I was a kid, Tom made the trip to South Dakota each fall to hunt ducks, geese and pheasants. I always looked forward to these trips because there were always one or two days when just Tom and I would hunt together. When it was just Tom and I, Tom never treated me as child or his nephew. He treated me as if I was another friend. I do not remember much about the hunting, but I remember a lot of walking and talking together.
During our conversations over the last few years, Tom told me how proud he was of Sylvia, Angel, Chris, Isabelle, and Eva. He loved spending afternoons after school with Isabelle and Eva. When I think about Tom, I think about family. You will not find many families that are as close as Tom’s family is.
Tom was very proud of his service in the Navy and in Vietnam. If you ever saw Tom in public, he was wearing his Vietnam Veteran baseball cap. I always enjoyed listening to Tom tell stories of his Navy service. When Tom talked about being in combat, his stories were not like the stories you see in movies or read in books. It was real. Tom always said that there is nothing glorious about combat. It is the scariest experience you can imagine. I appreciated that he was willing to honestly talk about his experiences.
I miss Tom.
By: Cameron DeChandt, loving nephew talking about his Uncle Tom at the Life Celebration.
April 11, 2014
My name is Fran McGregor and I am Tom’s younger sister. I want to thank you all for coming today to honor my brother. I have so many memories of my brother and I would like to share some of them with you.
Tom was 9 years older than me, and so we were not especially close while I was growing up. In fact, we pretty much looked at one another as a nuisance. When Tom was asked to babysit for me, he more often than not dropped my off at a friend of my mother’s with the excuse he had to do work at the library. I don’t know if he knew what a library looked like. But from there he would go to our Aunt Ida’s where he would do one of two things: ask her to type a term paper, or more likely, write the term paper for him. The latter is the most likely. He was always a charmer. That was Tom.
Tom loved pulling pranks on me. I remember sitting on the front porch of our house and Tom goading me into yelling, “Dirty stinking copper” as a police car drove by. He always managed to slip away at the most opportune time. However, I did manage to get my revenge. Tom and his buddy were brewing whiskey in our basement, and I remember getting so mad at him for some offense that I threw his prized baseball glove into the brewing mash. He was furious, but who was he going to complain to? My father eventually discovered what he had cooking down there and told Tom to get it out of the house. So, Tom and his buddy moved it out to Rodney’s farm where they decided the best place to continue the process was in a historic old sod house. The two of them went off to a dance and left Rodney’s kid sister in charge. She decided it wasn’t cooking fast enough and turned up the heat. Well, she turned it up a bit too much and ended up blowing up the entire sod house. We look back on that story and can’t help but laugh. As you know, Tom went on to a career in law enforcement, and his buddy, Rodney, went on to become a minister. So it wasn’t a big surprise when Tom came back for his 10 year reunion, he was voted “Most Changed.” That was Tom.
Needless to say, when he joined the Navy right out of high school, I was not too sorry to see him go. But, absence does make the heart grow fonder. When he came home for his first leave, I remember being so excited to see him, and so proud as I watched him in his Navy whites walk down the street with my father. I think we began to appreciate one another.
If you know one thing about my brother, it would be how important his family was to him. It also wasn’t until I was older that I discovered just how important family was to him. My family wasn’t well-to-do by any stretch of the imagination. My mother worked nights and my father wasn’t always employed. Tom worked as a bell hop at the Patterson Hotel in Bismarck, about 12 miles from our home in Mandan. Many nights, Tom would walk those 12 miles to and from the Patterson and then turn over his tip money to my mother to help out with family bills. That was Tom.
While Tom was stationed in Guam, he met Sylvia and when we met her, my family fell in love. Sylvia reminds me of how I pulled out Tom’s high school yearbooks during that first night and proceeded to point out all the girls Tom had dated. It was quite a list and poor Sylvia wondered if she was the only one who was stupid enough to actually marry him. In all reality, he had hit the jackpot. That was Tom.
Just because I was getting older didn’t mean Tom still didn’t want to get one in on me. On one of his visits home, he decided I was in need of a bra. Instead of mentioning it to my mother, Tom decided to take care of it himself. Imagine my embarrassment when at Christmas with the entire family gathered around, I opened up my package from him and there were two training bras. Not necessarily the gift you give your kid sister, but that was Tom. But it was also Tom who came to my junior high school and had me pulled out of class when he and Sylvia were leaving to go to San Diego to be sure he was able to say good-bye to me. That was Tom.
When I was 23, I became engaged. My mother was not so sure this was a wise decision since Gordy had two major issues going against him. One, he had a beard. Two, he was divorced, and for my mother, a Catholic convert, that was a deal breaker. During this time, Tom called home and during the conversation asked about me. My mother responded by saying, “Who?” to which Tom replied, “You know, my sister,” to which my mother replied, Ï don’t have a daughter.” Needless to say, Tom decided it was time to come home. He came to Flasher, the small town where we were teaching. In small town North Dakota, sports are king, and we were in the middle of the district basketball tournament. We won the tournament and everyone was celebrating in the bar and afterward at a house party. Not surprisingly, Tom discovered he knew quite a few of the people at both places since he had gone to school with a lot of them. Go figure, Tom knowing people. At the party, someone came running up to me. “Miss DeChandt, Miss DeChandt!” Your brother and your fiancé. You have to come.!” Imagine my surprise when I walked into the next room and found the both of them standing there with their pants around their ankles. I asked what in the earth they were doing to which Tom responded, “We’re pulling up our socks.” It made perfect sense to the two of them. I guess he gave Gordy his stamp of approval. That was Tom.
Our two families enjoyed spending time together. One of our first vacations together was to Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Angel can tell you about the size of hailstones in the Dakotas after one hit her in the head. And we all remember our trip to the Sylvan Lake Lodge on a rainy night when we couldn’t sit around the campfire. We drank the hugest margaritas ever while playing “Name That Tune” around the lobby piano. We were having such a good time, we forgot we had to walk back to the campground in the dark. There were no street lights and we certainly couldn’t walk on the narrow road back to the campground. So we found ourselves stumbling back through the forest to our campsite, still singing all the way. Looking back on it now, I’m amazed Tom didn’t have one of his many flashlights with him. You may not know it, but he had a collection of flashlights hidden everywhere so he could always be prepared, just in case. I think he even had them under his mattress. It was that love affair with flashlights that earned him his gang nickname – Ray-O-Vac. That was Tom.
After my family moved to Nevada, we vacationed together quite often. One favorite spot was to Palm Desert where Tom and Sylvia have a time share. Now keep in mind the temps in Palm Desert in July tend to climb well over 100 degrees. But we all knew that even though we’d be in the heat of the desert, we had better pack sweatshirts because Tom also had a love affair with air conditioning. That picture of Angel bundled up in a blanket was not staged. It was also during those trips that we all heard about his petite feet and his pretty toes. He was extremely proud of that as well as telling me what a big nose I had. Apparently he forgot to look in the mirror. That was Tom.
He was a great person and a great brother and I thank God that he was a part of my life. I can’t begin to tell you how much my family will miss him.
I want to thank several people who have been there these last few years. My nephew Cam has been such a comfort and support to both Tom and Sylvia and I want him to know how much that has been appreciated. Angel has been such a rock through all this, showing such incredible strength and courage. I’m so grateful for her and also so proud. And finally, I want to thank Sylvia. She took such good care of my brother and was always positive and supportive. Sylvia, all I can say is thank God none of those other girls said yes. My brother was so lucky to have you in his life. And that was Tom.
By: Fran McGregor, loving sister’s talk at Tom’s Celebration of Life, 04/11/14
Email dated: June 26, 2014
Friends, doesn't cut it, so hello family...
I hope all is well with you and want you to know I think about you all frequently. Many times, I recall Tom events that trigger good times....I always pray for you, knowing that your heart is hurting, knowing Tom is no longer hurting draws comfort to get through. I wrote this note below the night before the service, which was wonderful by the way. Had there been ' open mike ' this is what I was going to express....the part beginning with Dear Child of Mine, belongs to the late John Powers...Tom n I heard him speak at a security conference and Powers had us all in tears as he ended with this..
I should be returning to Vegas in the next 2-3 months and will check in advance that we can get together.
I love you all...
WE GATHER TODAY TO MOURN THE LOSS OF A MAN THAT MEANT SO MUCH TO US ALL.
WHAT WE SAY TODAY IS ONLY AN EXPRESSION OF WHAT WE CARRY IN OUR HEARTS.
WORDS PALE IN THE SHADOWS OF OUR GRIEF AND THEY SEEM INSUFFICIENT.
TODAY WE WEEP BECAUSE WE ALL LOVED TOM VERY MUCH.
I FIRST MET TOM WHEN HE JOINED THE ASSET PROTECTION DEPARTMENT AT JACK.
WE DIDN'T REALLY HIT IT OFF AT FIRST, BOTH EX LAW ENFORCEMENT, BOTH OPINIONATED AND STUBORNNED.
WE QUICKLY GOT PAST THOSE ISSUES AND BECAME GOOD FRIENDS. OUR PIGEON POLICE JARGON, OUR STREET WISE CRAKS LANDED US NICKNAMES....HE CALLED ME HOMEY, I CALLED HIM HOME-SKILLET. WE WERE CAR 54 TUDDIE AND MULDUNE.
WE SPOKE ALMOST EVERYDAY AS WE WERE 500 MILES APART, ME WORKING IN NORTHERN CALIF, HE IN SAN DIEGO. I WOULD ASK WHAT HE WAS UP TO, HE'D ANSWER..SEVERING THE TENTACLES OFF THE OCTOPUS OF CRIME, WHEN IT WAS MY TURN, I'D SAY, LIVIN THE DREAM. AND OFF OUR CHATS WENT.
OUR CONVERSATIONS ABOUT WORK, WOULD QUICKLY CHANGE TO BE ABOUT POLITICS, WE WERE NOT FROM THE SAME PARTY YOU SEE. OR OF THE SAME OPINIONS ON POLITICS. WHEN IT SEEMED WE BOTH WERE FED UP, WE'D TAKE A LINE FROM THE ANIMATED MOVIE MADAGASCAR AND SAY ' JUST SMILE N WAVE, SMILE N WAVE'
WE WOULD COVER EVERY MAJOR NEWS EVENT, EVERY POLITICAL ISSUE AND OFFER SUGGESTIONS ON WHY OUR PARTIES WERE SO SCREWED UP. WE USED OTHER WORDS, BUT YOU GET THE IDEA.
WE DISCUSSED IN DETAIL, ABOUT HIS TOURS IN VIETNAM. ABOUT SOME OF THE NOT SO PLEASANT DAYS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT HE'D ENDURED.
HE SHARED HOW HE N SYLVIA MET, ABOUT MEETING HER FATHER ABOUT HOW HAPPY HE WAS TO HAVE CHRIS AS HIS SON IN LAW.
HE LOVED TO TALK ABOUT HIS BROTHERS AND THEIR FAMILIES, HE TOLD ME COUNTLESS STORIES ABOUT HIS FISHING TRIPS, SO MUCH SO, I WILL NEVER LOOK AT ANOTHER FISHED CALLED WALLEYE AGAIN...
WE SHARED A HOTEL ROOM IN DALLAS ONCE, BOTH VOWING TO NEVER EVER DO IT AGAIN, OR WE MIGHT KILL EACH OTHER.
REGARDLESS IF IT WAS IN PERSON OR OVER THE PHONE, OUR TALKS ALWAYS LED TO OUR FAMILIES. THESE ARE THE TIMES I WILL MISS WITH TOM THE MOST...BUT I WILL CHERISH THE MANY MANY CONVERSATIONS WE HAD.
HE ALWAYS COMPLIMENTED MY WIFE ON HOW POLITE AND RESPECTFUL OUR SON AND DAUGHTER WERE. HE ALWAYS ASKED ABOUT THEIR LIVES, WHAT THEY WERE INTO.
SYLVIA, YOU WERE HIS QUEEN, ANGEL , ISABELLE AND EVA, YOU WERE HIS PRINCESSES. YOU WERE HIS 'BUCKET LIST'.
WHEN ANGEL WAS PREGNANT WITH EVA WE WERE PLAYING IN A GOLF TOURNAMENT AND TOM GOT THE CALL ABOUT ANGEL IN LABOR. HE POLITELY AND QUICKLY THANKED OUR VENDOR SPONSOR AND DROVE THAT GOLF CART BACK TO THE CLUBHOUSE LIKE HE WAS IN THE LAST LAP OF THE INDY 500.
AS I HUGGED HIM AND OFFERED CONGRATS, HE SAID, " MY FAMILY IS MY LIFE"
THESE WORDS ARE A GIFT TO BE GIVEN...
The following is By: John Powers
DEAR CHILD OF MINE
AS I LOOK INTO YOUR EYES FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME I CANNOT BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE EMOTIONS THAT ARE GUSHING WITHIN MY SOUL...
I DON'T KNOW YOU AT ALL, HOW COULD I, YOU ARE LESS THAN 20 MINUTES OLD.
IN AN HOUR YOU WILL HAVE LIVED 3 LIFETIMES...
BUT ALREADY I LOVE YOU MORE DIFFERENTLY AND MORE DEEPLY THAN ANYONE I'VE LOVED BEFORE....
I WOULD DIE FOR YOU...
BIRTHDAYS ARE ABOUT PRESENTS, SO ON THIS VERY FIRST BIRTHDAY LET ME GIVE YOU THE GIFTS THAT WILL LAST AS LONG AS I LIVE...
I GIVE YOU THE GIFT OF FREEDOM, EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR INFANCY, EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR CHILDHOOD, AND CERTAINLY EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR TEENAGE YEARS, YOU'LL BE MOVING AWAY FROM ME, THAT'S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE...
AT FIRST THE MOMENTS WILL BE SO SMALL THAT I WON'T EVEN NOTICE THEM, BUT ONE DAY I'LL LOOK AND SEE THE DISTANCES BETWEEN US AND I'LL WONDER WHY I NEVER SAW IT BEFORE AND IT WILL CONTINUE TO GROW UNTIL THAT DAY ARRIVES WHEN YOU TRUELY WALK OUT OF MY LIFE...
COME BACK BECAUSE YOU WANT TO, NOT BECAUSE YOU HAVE TOO...
I GIVE YOU THE GIFT OF REJOICING IN WHO YOU ARE AND NOT WHO I WANTED YOU TO BE...
I WILL REMIND MYSELF THAT I'M NOT RAISING A MIRROR, THAT YOU'RE NOT HERE TO GRASP WHAT WAS BEYOND MY REACH, YOU'RE NOT HERE RO LIVE MY LIFE AGAIN...
YOU ARE HERE TO CELEBRATE YOUR EXISTENCE IN THE WAY YOU CHOOSE....
I GIVE YOU THE GIFT OF ME, ALL OF ME, IN MY MIND YOU'LL NEVER BE MORE THAN A THOUGHT AWAY...
MY EARS WILL HEAR YOUR WHISPERS AND YOUR SIGHS, YOUR LAUGHTER , YOUR CRIES, YOUR TRIUMPHS AND TRAGEDIES...
MY EYES WILL TRY TO SEE THE WORLD AS YOU SEE IT, YOUNG, EXCITING, LOVING...
YOU'LL HEAR MY VOICE, EVEN WHEN I CANNOT SPEAK, TEACHING YOU, ENCOURAGING YOU, GUIDING YOU, CORRECTING YOU, REMINDING YOU ...HOW SPECIAL YOU ARE...
MY SHOULDER IS THERE FOR YOU TO LEAN ON, MY ARMS WILL ALWAYS LONG TO HUG YOU, TO CARRY YOU WHERE YOU WANT TO GO, TO HOLD YOU BACK WHEN I KNOW I MUST, TO LET YOU GO WHEN I KNOW I SHOULD...
MY HANDS WILL PAT YOU ON THE BACK, APPLAUD YOUR EFFORTS, NUDGE YOU IN THE DIRECTION WE BOTH KNOW IS TRUE...
AND HOPEFULLY MY FEET WILL LEAVE FOOTSTEPS YOU'LL WANT TO FOLLOW, BUT WON'T RUN AFTER YOU WHEN YOU WANT TO LEAVE...
EVERYDAY YOU'LL GIVE ME THE GIFT OF BEING WHO YOU ARE, DOING WHAT YOU DO, LIVING YOUR LIFE THE WAY YOU CHOOSE...
LIKE MOST GIFTS, MINE ARE FREE, YOU DON'T OWE ME ANYTHING..
BUT PERHAPS ONE DAY YOU'LL TAKE THESE GIFTS, REWRAP THEM IN YOUR OWN SPECIAL WAY, AND GIVE THEM TO THE GLEAM I NOW SEE IN YOUR EYES..
DEAR CHILD OF MINE...HAPPY BIRTHDAY
By: John Morris co-worker and dear friend, tribute to Tom.
Roses are red violets are blue
Some life love prose from me to you
Tom, I Thank God for you. I look at the life we built, our home, our family and our marriage and I realize how blessed we were that He brought us together.
I came from Florida, you came from North Dakota, and we met on the small island of Guam where we married and started our life together.
We shared the same ideas about life. We grew in our love, hopes and dreams and we wrapped our Angel in those same loving values.
Your comrades in arms of the US Navy and the San Diego police force remember you as dependable and quick-witted.
Your friends and family remember you for your love, support and humor.
Because of you, I know what real love is, it's strong, it's deep and unconditional
I will always love you and always remember.
By: Sylvia DeChandt loving wife, lover, and best friend.
April 11, 2014