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Obituary: Mckay, Thomas

Sun., July 7, 2013

McKAY, Thomas Tom McKay passed away on July 1, 2013, at the Spokane Veteran’s Hospital.

Louise his wife of nearly 72 years was by his side.

Tom was born in Plains, Montana on May 21, 1919, the 5th child of John F. and Christie McKay.

In 1932, the McKay family moved to Spokane, Washington where Tom attended Havermale Jr. High and North Central High school.

From the age of 12, he spent his summers camping in the mountains of Montana, and picking huckleberries to earn money to help support his family and finance his college education.

This was no ordinary huckleberry picking operation.

He picked the berries by beating the bushes into a large handheld shallow canvas container.

Often he would pick 35 gallons a day.

He and his older brother, Maurice, sold the berries to various shops in Missoula and Spokane.

Maurice would take the berries to the train to be shipped to the stores, leaving Tom up on the mountain, camping and picking berries by himself.

In 1937 Tom graduated from North Central and the next year enrolled at Eastern Washington College of Education.

He drove a commuter car from Spokane to Cheney.

Louise had graduated from North Central also, but they didn’t know each other during high school.

She enrolled in EWCE, and needed a ride out to Cheney.

Her father, Carl Strosnider, and Hubert Tauscher, Tom’s brother -in-law worked together at the Long Lake Lumber Company.

Hubert suggested that perhaps Louise could commute with Tom, and thus began a long friendship and love story.

At the end of the school year, they decided to get married and Tom took a position as a locomotive fireman with the Northern Pacific Railway.

This was the era of the last of the hand-fired coal burning steam engines.

After the U.S. entered WWII, Tom received several deferments because the railroad was a vital war industry.

Their daughter, Colleen, was born February 14, 1944.

In the spring of 1944, Tom was drafted in to the infantry.

He was wounded in action on June 9, 1945, on Okinawa.

His right shoulder was shattered, so when he got home, he could no longer work for the railroad.

He, Louise, and Colleen moved to a 920 acre ranch in Ferry County near Curlew.

In partnership with his father-in-law, Carl, he farmed, logged, and sawmilled.

He was determined to rehabilitate himself.

He was elected to the Curlew school board, and the superintendent convinced Tom to go into teaching.

He taught at Curlew, and then moved to Cheney to receive his Master’s Degree on the G.I.


By then Nancy, Tom, and Christie had been born.

Summers were spent at a ranch in Curlew where Tom built a log cabin for a vacation home.

After he received his degree, he taught at Blair School at Fairchild Air Force Base, while Louise finished her teaching degree.

In 1958, the family moved to Omak, where Tom taught 6th grade and Louise taught 3rd.

Tom was active in politics and the Okanogan County Historical Society.

He was an avid hunter and enjoyed camping and fishing as well.

Often the family would go to the Friday night football game in Omak, then drive to Curlew so Tom could go hunting in the wee hours of the morning.

After retiring from teaching, Tom and Louise moved back to Curlew in 1981, where Tom built a beautiful home from cedar logs he cut down, and sawmilled on his one-man sawmill, with Louise helping the whole time.

Tom was active in the Democratic Party, was president of the Ferry County Historical Society, and was very involved in the renovation of the historic Ansorge Hotel in Curlew.

Tom and Louise enjoyed traveling, including trips to England and British Columbia with their best friends, Bruce and Merilynn Wilson.

They traveled to Scotland and Ireland with family members, and most recently they took a cruise to the Panama Canal when Tom was 92.

Every year, Tom enjoyed the annual family trip to Kauai.

While in Kauai, he and Louise continued their tradition of nightly Scrabble matches and her reading aloud to him so they could share a book together.

He is survived by his wife, Louise; daughters Colleen McKay (Kenneth Izutsu), and Nancy McKay (Kent Richardson) , his son, Tom McKay (Loretta), and 5 grandchildren: Tom Amend, Kellie Cardwell, Kerrie Cardwell, John McKay and Michael McKay.

His daughter, Christie McKay Cardwell predeceased him in 1991.

His brother, Gene McKay and sister, Ann Ohler, live in Spokane.

Services will be held on July 10, at 1:00 p.m., at the Hennessey-Smith Funeral Home at 2203 North Division; Spokane, WA.

Donations may be made in Tom’s memory to the Ferry County Historical Society, 15-2 N. Kean Street; P.O.

Box 287, Republic, WA 99166, or the VAMC Spokane Voluntary Service, Spokane VA Medical Center, 4815 N. Assembly St., Spokane, WA 99205.

Please visit Tom’s on-line memorial page at to leave a message of remembrance.


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