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Tom was the fourth of five children born to Charlie and Emily Hufty in the stunningly pretty heritage mountain town of Nelson, BC. His childhood was largely spent finding adventure with his siblings and neighborhood friends. He was a top athlete and played many sports, but especially loved baseball and hockey. A naturally graceful water skier, he spent summers on beautiful, glacier-fed Kootenay Lake. At summer camp up the lake, his dad, Yardmaster at Canadian Pacific Railway, would stop the outbound train to bring mail to the campers from their families in Nelson - something that made Tom’s deep blue eyes shine with pride, even years later. In the winter, he skied the Selkirk Mountains and dodged cars while tobogganing down the steep streets of Nelson.
Always a hard worker who earned his own way, as a kid he delivered newspapers, worked at a grocery store and set pins at the bowling alley. After high school graduation, with the encouragement of his mother, he decided to pursue a college degree. His family was of modest means, so he worked to save money for tuition as a brakeman with Canadian Pacific Railway, and as a timber cruiser deep in the forests of BC. Timber cruising included being dropped by helicopter in the BC wilderness with a shotgun and supplies for two weeks. Grizzlies were a real and quite frankly, unwelcome consideration. After his experience as a timber cruiser, Tom never willfully camped.
Gonzaga University was recruiting for a hockey team, and Tom’s lifelong love for GU was born. He received a partial scholarship to play hockey and worked campus jobs like “gym cop” to help pay for school. He also met the prettiest co-ed on campus, Leila Broz, whom he would later marry. Dan Crowley and Jack Stockton played a significant role in helping Tom get through school. They hired him as the first student bartender at Jack and Dan’s (then Joey’s Tavern), the consummate Gonzaga bar, a tradition carried on by his son-in-law and now his grandson. Jack and Dan both believed in Tom and along with Clementine and Lois, put the bar up as collateral to sponsor his US Visa. The support of the Crowleys and the Stocktons was never forgotten.
Tom and Leila married in Sherman Oaks, CA on December 29th, 1965. He launched his career in sales with the Kellogg’s company and they moved to Yakima where Leila taught elementary school. It was in Yakima they bought their 1965 Mustang which stayed in the family in mint condition for decades, despite his daughters’ later attempts to wreck it. Daughters Jolene and Christine were born in Yakima, and spent their first few years in the house on Viola Avenue across from an apple orchard.
The family returned to Spokane where Kelly was born, and Tom became the National Sales Manager for Lily Tulip, a position he went on to hold with a variety of companies. He was a dedicated employee and remarkably successful throughout his career. Tom’s business reputation was sterling and his personality unforgettable.
Tom and Leila built a new family home in the Ponderosa neighborhood in the Spokane Valley where the girls grew up. In the huge yard, the kids climbed trees, played in the snow and chased their dog, a small Cockapoo Tom named “Thunder”. The girls were provided with ski, ice skating and swim lessons, as well as musical instruments and braces . . . really anything Tom and Leila thought would make a good childhood. The house also had a sweet 1970s intercom system which Tom delighted in using to call out bedtimes.
In 1978, with the help of a couple of skilled friends, Tom built the family lake cabin on Hayden Lake. An impressive feat, given his lack of prior construction experience. The family spent much of their summers at Hayden where he taught his girls to water ski - all three became slalom skiers by the time they were ten years old. One ambitious day, he got all three girls up at once and skied them around the lake. As a grandfather, Tom reveled in the unadulterated joy of his grandchildren playing at the lake - countless friends have spent time at the cabin with the Huftys and it has a special place in the hearts of many. Later, Tom would build other structures and became a skilled furniture maker.
An extraordinary golfer, Tom regularly played with “the golf guys” as well as made trips to courses like Pebble Beach. Growing up, his kids never realized shooting in the 70s was anything but typical. Tom (of course) had a hole in one. Tom and Leila built their last home on MeadowWood golf course in Liberty Lake where the grandkids enjoyed golf cart rides in the summer and getting pulled around on sleds in the winter. Grampy deeply loved his grandchildren and regularly offered soft drinks, ice cream, cake, or anything else the kids might like - at any time of day. His English muffins with loads of peanut butter and Canadian honey were a standard.
Tom was an entertaining storyteller and had a terrific sense of humor. He did not suffer fools or fall for sound bites. He was fastidious and kept his home and vehicles in immaculate condition. Tom strongly valued education, was opinionated, argumentative, confrontational, funny, sweet, and not always an easy person to be around. But his love for his family was fierce, and in return, he is fiercely loved.
Tom is survived by his wife of 57 years, Leila; daughters, Jolene Hufty (Mike Wallat), Christine Conradt (Jason), and Kelly Hufty (Dave Self); brother, Harry Hufty (Margaret), sister, Patricia Speirs (Ron), and brother-in-law, Jim Swanson. He was predeceased in death by his infant son; parents, Charles Boyd Hufty and Emily Kathleen Susan (Dimock) Hufty and sisters, Fay Swanson and Betty Ann McKenzie. He leaves behind grandchildren Nolan, Emily and Henry Conradt; Charlie, Katie and Josie Self; and Lily Wallat, all of whom attended Gonzaga basketball games with Grampy and vow to carry on his love for the Zags. He also leaves many nieces and nephews in Canada and the US and his lifelong friend, Dale Skapple.
The family would like to thank the amazing nurses and staff of Sacred Heart’s 7th floor; Dr. Jackson, the nurses and staff at St. Luke’s; and Lora Lee and Vicky of Hospice of Spokane, all of whom gave Tom and his family support in his fight against brain cancer. A Funeral Mass will be held at Gonzaga’s Chapel at College Hall on September 23rd at 5pm with reception to follow at Jack and Dan’s. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to Gonzaga University’s Fr. Tony Lehmann, S.J. Scholarship, or Hospice of Spokane.
To share memories of Tom, visit his Tribute Wall.