Thomas Doyle Brekke was born June 19, 1958, in Ames, Iowa to Doyle and Darlene Brekke. He graduated from Ames High School in 1977. He worked at the Department of Transportation from 1977 to 2008 and was active in the local Jaycees for over 15 years in the 80s and 90s. He met his wife Sue (Shuey) at the DOT in the summer of 1978 and immediately fell in love. After a short courtship, mostly at Grand Daddys bar in Ames, the two began dating. It wasn't long before they were in love and knew they couldn't live without one another. In the face of much familial criticism and objections, their love persisted, and they were married in May of 1980. His wit, charm, and warmth were eventually embraced by her family, and he became especially close with his father-in-law, Ken Shuey. His love for her was never in question and was obvious to anyone who knew them. They celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary in May of this year.
While he found love in the arms of his wife, his life was truly fulfilled with the births of his children, Shawn in 1983 followed by Lisa in 1987. He showed his love by being protective, encouraging, and generous, and his kids never had to question if their dad loved them. His proudest moments were watching his son graduate from Iowa State, and seeing his daughter earn her doctorate in physical therapy from Sacred Heart in Connecticut. He enjoyed going to I-Cubs games and movies with both kids, watching Shawn play slowpitch softball, and screaming at the TV when watching Packers games with Lisa.
Tom had a passion for kids. Not just his own, whom he called his greatest achievements, but all kids. He was a counselor at Camp Sunnyside in the late 70s, working to help kids with disabilities far worse than his own. In the 80s and 90s he became a Little League coach for both youth baseball and softball, first coaching his nephew Jason and niece Angie (whom he regarded as close as his own kids), followed by Shawn and Lisa, he became known simply as "Coach" to many a young ballplayer. His signature move was to give every kid a nickname, mostly because he couldn't remember their actual names. Winning was never the focus, instead making sure the game was fun for every kid that played for him. He also spent many years volunteering to speak to elementary classes about bullying, acceptance, and what it was like to be disabled. In the last year of his life, he gained the title of "grandpa", and never missed the chance to spoil or show his love for his grandkids, including helping to once again coach his grandson Reed in Little League, this time alongside his son.
His passion for his wife and children might have only been surpassed by his love for the Green Bay Packers. Sundays in the fall were reserved for the Packers, and he was rarely seen without a green and gold shirt or hat. He hated all things Minnesota Vikings, especially the color purple, and he loved to trade jabs with anyone who would give him a hard time about his fandom, which was just about everybody. At his best when he was cracking jokes and slinging one-liners, his good-natured side was always at the forefront of his humor.
A lifelong Ames resident, Tom knew just about everyone. As his daughter-in-law, Ami, quickly found out, one can't cross the street in Ames without running into someone that knew Tom. To say he never met a stranger is an understatement. Terrible with names but never forgetting a face, if he ran into someone who knew him (an almost daily occurrence) but couldn't place the person, he'd talk to them as if they were lifelong friends, and would more than likely buy them a drink. Tom loved making sure everyone was having a good time and would foot the bill more often than not. For many years his ISU football tailgates were must-attend events, where his meat grilling prowess garnered many a faux proposal, mostly from the guys who eagerly devoured his perfectly cooked steaks and pork ribs. Never rich in money but was always rich in generosity, he had a booming voice and a personality to fit a man three times his size. Always the life of the party, he was happiest when surrounded by friends and holding court, buying drinks, giving people a hard time, and taking it right back. He could sling bull with the best of them and could talk his way out of just about anything.
As his son lovingly described him, Tom was the least handicapped, handicapped person you could ever meet. Whether it was playing HORSE with Lisa, bowling in a weekly league, playing basketball or football in the street with Shawn and his friends, or attempting to skateboard and boogieboard, he sought to and succeeded in redefining people's notions of what a guy in a wheelchair could do. He refused to live a life that was defined by the disability with which he was inflicted, and his larger-than-life personality and enthusiasm were enough to ensure everyone who met him only saw him for the big-hearted man he was. His lasting legacy will be reflected in the stories and laughs shared by his friends and family; we just hope we can do him justice. He will be truly missed.
Tom is survived by his wife, Sue of Ames; son Shawn (Ami) Brekke of Ames and their children; daughter Lisa Brekke of Des Moines; sister Jerri Dee Brekke of Ames, and several nieces and nephews. He was particularly close to his nephew, Jason Sorenson of Des Moines, whom he regarded as close as a son.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother Mark Brekke; and his four-legged companion Cuddles.
As an alternative to flowers, remembrances and memorial donations may be made to the family for use in a to-be-determined memorial in Tom's name.
"Sue and family - I?m so sorry to hear about Tom. Loved working with him at the DOT. Sarcastic and fun - he had a huge personality and loved to help everyone. Years later I ran into all of you on one of my trips back home. Still the same smile and hi. He will be missed by many. "
"I'm so sorry to hear of Tom's passing. I've known him since my Meeker days and always remember him with a great sense of humor. Packers in Heaven are surely embracing Tom's arrival."
"I?m so sorry for your loss. Tom was a great guy. I remember him twirling around on the dance floor at Granddaddy?s and when he worked in Design."
"Sue, Shawn and Lisa, know that I am thinking of you guys. I met your dad when I started working at the DOT he was my team lead. He would become one of my closest friends. I have so many great memories. I can say he was the only person that could calm me down when I was mad. He supported me through many dark times in my life. He always referred to them as chapters in are counseling sessions. When he retired he said, the counselors shop is closed. Even then and now he still checked on me. Matter fact he called 2 weeks ago and was offering me advice. I have so many great memories that I better keep this the short version because that is what your dad would say to me. I am so sorry for your loss and I am always here if you ever want to talk, because I am working in Arizona I can't be there, know that I am always here for you and thinking of all of you. Shawn I still have the S10 and it is still driven at the farm. Rest in Peace Tom, you will be missed but never forgotten."
"I?m so sorry to hear of Coach Tom?s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you all as you grieve for your loss and celebrate his life. I remember Coach Tom fondly. He coached our girls softball team for a few seasons and we respected him and learned from his a coach and a person with a disability. We must have been in jr high as I recall I babysat for his kids a few times. Amy (Smith) Mcgregor "
"I?m so very sorry your loss. I clearly remember the supportive dad Tom was when Shawn was in my class at Sawyer. He always wanted the best for his kids. Thoughts and prayers to all of you."
"My condolences to the Brekke family. I have a few great memories of Tom from his DOT days. My favorite ?Tom? story was a time when he got a new truck. He was showing it off in the parking lot at the DOT and I told him it was ?cute.? He looked at me sternly and told me that you never tell a man that his truck is cute. Of course I told him his truck was cute every time I saw him after that ? RIP Tom. "
"I am so sorry to hear of Tom?s passing. I met Tom in his younger years working for Dr. Baird at McFarland clinic. I know what he endured as a child, took many casts off those fragile bones. He was a brave child then and as I saw him in later life such a joyful man. He always knew me and we joked and laughed?..he was so proud of his kids. My grandchildren also went to Kate Mitchell so I saw him at school activities and caught up. His courage gives me inspiration now that I live in Assisted Living with mobility issues. Tom never felt ?disabled?. My prayers are with the family. Pat Folkmann Fawcett. "
"Tom worked with my late husband Rodney Halverson at the DOT - they might 'disagree' at times but Rod thought the world of Tom and Sue. Card club with Tom & Judy Thomas, Bill & Sandi Bishop, Tom & Sue, and us was a fun time and so many memories. Fun watching Shawn and Lisa grow up. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you. - - Janice Halverson "
"I had the pleasure of meeting Tom at the Iowa DOT in Ames where he worked his entire adult career just s I did. Tom taught me lots of things as most people do -- he taught me perserverance, love and life! He had an outgoing personality as to point out to folks, "Hey, I'm Tom - I'm in a wheelchair but I won't hold that against you!" LOL He kidded about everything. And, if ever there was a commotion where a bunch of folks were looking down like at something low on the floor -- but with a booming voice saying something close to inappropriate (borderline always) -- that would be Tom! He is and will be unforgettable. Tom, I will see you in about 40-50 years when it's my time - I enjoyed our trip here hope you did and take your place with that ALL NEW, PERFECT body that the Lord intends for you, God willing. I love you and miss you Tom -- and Sue, be strong, it's a short time (we all need a short break from Tom LOL) and then we'll be together, together."
"Sue, I am so sorry for your loss. I always enjoyed all of the times I was able to visit with
him. He was really fun to be around!
"Sue, we are so very sorry for your lose and are praying for Holy Spirit to fill the holes that are left in your day to day life with peace, comfort and joy.
Thank you for the wonderfully written obituary. It brought back so many memories of the late?70?s at the DOT in Road Design. We were all quite the young crew back then just trying to all figure it out. It was always a mystery what was going to happen when Tom would come into Sharry?s and my office. He kept it lively. You and I, we did well in finding our lifetime loves in that place. May God hold you in His arms now. Keith and Mary Lou Sheldon Norris"
"Sue, my heartfelt condolences. Tom and I met in the Jaycess. He changed my life in that he showed me how to look past the disability and the the device that a person may have and to focus on the person. He did that simply by being himself. A very valuable lesson! Thank you Tom and thank you Sue and his children for sharing him with us "
" Tom and I were classmates at Welch Jr High and Ames High School. I remember him as always up to just a little mischief - not so much as to get in trouble, but just enough to add a little spark to our school days! Always a smile and a friendly greeting as he zipped by! Your obituary tells me his zest for life continued until the end. So sorry for your loss. Sara Warman Nelson"
"Tommy was a joy to know and work with over many years. Our last good visit was at Battle's BBQ when it was on Welch Ave. A random visit while we all ate, and had a chance to catch up. There was no nicer guy, noone more admired by all, for his shear grit in taking on life's challenges. I remember him pitching to young little league batters & a line drive by a stronger kid shooting straight at him on that pitcher's mound...how he spun his wheelchair on a dime & avoided being hit.
He was an amazing coach for our son, and my husband enjoyed helping out under Tommy's tutelage. He is missed and always will be. We see him running all over Paradise on strong healthy legs, singing the praises of his Packers! Our heartfelt sympathies to all who loved Tommy. God bless. Maggie&Steve Westvold"
"My thoughts and gentle hugs are w the family, I was fortunate enough to get to deliver their mail for several years on Melrose and I was always greeted w warmth as though we?d been friends forever. (Not such warmth from Cuddles but I understood) and of course the Packer?s sign let you know you were entering a Green Bay fan zone.
My sincerest sympathies to all of his loved ones"
"Sue and family,
I was shocked to read of Tom's passing today online. Tom was the life of the party with his wit, charm, and 2-wheeling around.
I got to know him at the DOT and in a few educational classes they sent us too. He was never handicapped to me; just a normal person with huge compassion.
I'll never forget reading 1 time his wheelchair was stolen from his pickup while parked! The cruelty of people.
Sue/family, may God comfort you now and in the days, months, and years to come.
Betty Gordon, DOT retiree, Ames"
"Tom was a great guy! Very compassionate and caring of others with a great sense of humor. Ornery and mischievous at times too. Enjoyed knowing over the years.
So sorry to family and friends; Tom will be missed greatly"
"I was first introduced to Tom's voice where it came out of a speaker at the front of our grade 5 class at Meeker. He was in the hospital and would join the class daily via this speaker. I don't remember when he came back to the classroom, but when he did, I remember him zipping between the rows of kids as we did jumping jacks. And, yes, it was on the back two wheels and he always managed to stop before he slammed into the wall. I met up with Tom again in high school where we were in the same home room for three years and daily ribbings took place. He became a good friend. I am so sorry for your loss. Steph Waggoner"
"I was lucky enough to have known Tom since we were in Jr. High at Welch. I will always remember watching in awe as he wheeled down the hall on his back 2 wheels. If I remember correctly. He may have even challenged the stairs! You will be missed around Tom, you were a joy to hang out with. We'll toast you at the class reunion next weekend. "
"In recent years I gave lots of thought to how I became the man I am today, It always came to tom and sue. Tom was basically the first real, solid father figure I had to learn from. He didn't approve of a lot I did, but he was always there to give guidance, and furthered my growing into a decent human. "
"Tom was always kind and gentle. He didn't let his handicap get him down. I am so sorry for the loss of such a wonderful spirit. My Prayers are with you."