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April 27, 1943 ~ July 27, 2021 (age 78)


Thomas (Tom) Allen Zornes passed away on the afternoon of July 27, 2021 at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Tom was born on April 27, 1943 in Spokane, WA. He was the second child of Robert and Emily (nee Miller) Zornes. He graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in the spring of 1961 before enrolling at Gonzaga University where he earned a BS in Physics. Following graduation, he immediately began his career with the United States Army. He was an ordinance officer, rising to the rank of Captain, and was, among other things, a nuclear weapons specialist and an expert marksman. During the Vietnam War, he served overseas in Korea.

After separating from the service, he used the GI Bill and went back to school, this time at Washington State University, and earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s in Geology. His love of the subject never waned, especially when it came to gems. He also earned a lifetime science teaching certificate. While at WSU, he met Kathy Reich. She, too, was a student there and also became a teacher. After four years of “Coke dates” and a Cracker Jacks box with an engagement ring, the two were married on February 14, 1975. They were married 46 1/2 years, but were together for 50 years.

The couple came to Oakesdale for the 1974/75 school year - he teaching secondary science and she educating fourth graders. In 1979, they both left the field to start their family and their son, Peter, was born October 12, 1980. A few years later, they welcomed their second child, daughter Joy. The four of them had a very good, strong relationship and Kathy and Tom provided an ideal childhood for their kids. They regularly said that their greatest accomplishments were their children.

In 1988, shortly before Kathy returned to teaching, Tom took a job at a local agricultural fertilizer plant and remained there for 33 years. He began as the bookkeeper for the Oakesdale branch, but as agribusiness and the company developed, so too did his responsibilities. Ultimately he became the Customer Accounts Specialist for for a larger working group, which included over 6 different plants and several roving bookkeepers who Tom supervised. Always wanting to make the world a better place, Tom worked hard to make the Oakesdale plant as eco-friendly as possible. One of his greatest professional accomplishments came when, with Tom as the driving force, the plant earned both the state and the larger Western Regional Environmental Respect Award, the industry’s highest recognition for environmental stewardship among U.S. agricultural retailers. He and a co-worker, plus their spouses, were flown out to Washington D.C. where they met with lawmakers and committees, saw the sites, and were recognized at a formal awards dinner.

During this time, he was also an active member in the town’s city council, first serving as a council member from 1990 to 1997 and then was the mayor from 1997 to 2004. He used to joke that everyone in a small town had to take turns being the mayor and his number came up.

Tom was an incredibly kind man, but his strength and toughness were legendary. He showed a great deal of grace and courage when his wife became seriously ill in 1999 and he found himself having to work full-time, run the home, be the primary active parent, and support a wife during her months of recouping. In 2005, he was a pillar of strength for his wife and daughter when his son was the victim of a double homicide/suicide. In late 2016, Tom had some serious health issues of his own and some claimed it was touch and go, but he did not quit. He changed how everyone spoke and thought about his recovery, saying, “What do I need to do to get out of the hospital?” as opposed to “Why can’t I get out of here?” He shocked everyone when he returned to work within a few short weeks and when his wife and daughter questioned this, he simply said, “It’s busy season. They need me.” Unfortunately for Tom, Joy also became life threateningly ill and the family spent several more days in the hospital, pacing and waiting to hear the news. Tom didn’t quit, though, didn’t let the adversity dictate his life. At every turn, Tom did it his way, in his own time - but everything was always, always done for his family. He loved them “right back” and “uncontrollably.”

Tom loved reading, photography, and anything related to geology. He was an avid baseball and golf fan and especially enjoyed the few summers he and Peter got to play in a golf league. He was a varsity bowler while at WSU and never quit amazing people with his crazy left-handed alley bend. He taught his daughter to play ping-pong and deliver a nasty left-handed spin to her opponents. On any given night, you would find him dancing with his wife in the kitchen as they made dinner and afterward he enjoyed what he called his “nightly piano duet concert” as performed by Kathy and Joy. Like his father he was an incredible wood worker and gifted a brand new cherry stained patio table to his wife just last summer. No matter what he did, he always did it keeping in mind his family’s own motto: Grace, Wisdom, Courage, and Loyalty. As a devout Lutheran, Grace was an especially important concept to him.

He was preceded in death by his son Peter, father Robert, mother Emily, and mother-in-law Ida Mae (Clark) Reich. He is survived by his wife Kathy and daughter Joy, both of Oakesdale, father-in-law Don Reich, Colfax, brother-in-law Tom (Gena) Reich, and sisters Sue (Greg) Plummer and Leonna Zornes Bowers, both of Spokane, and Darla (Ralph) DeCristoforo, Maricopa, AZ. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews.

Memorial donations can be given to the Peter A. Zornes Memorial Neuroscience Scholarship at Washington State University (https://giving.vetmed.wsu.edu/giving-opportunities/peter-zornes) or the Peter Zornes Memorial Golf Tournament, Kathy Zornes, director.

Kramer Funeral Home of Palouse, Washington is caring for the family.  Online condolences may be left at www.kramercares.com



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Funeral Service
August 10, 2021

11:00 AM
Palouse Federated Church
N. 635 Bridge St.
Palouse, WA 99161


Web: https://giving.vetmed.wsu.edu/giving-opportunities/peter-zornes

P.O. BOX 272, OAKESDALE WA 99158

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