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Deep in the world tonight, our hearts beat safe and sound.
I'll hold you so close, just let yourself go down.
Thomas Neal Driscoll entered the Great Unknown on April 8, 2022, in Schofield, WI. He cannot be defined by his untimely death and only just barely by the story of his life.
Thomas was born on October 19, 1945, in Wausau, WI, and was granted his movie-star good looks from Cornelius and Rosalie (Braatz) Driscoll, an unusually attractive couple. He was the first of ten children, followed by Larry, Bonnie, John, Patty, Leanne, Janet, Tim, Daryl, and Connie. He married Sally Sowinski on October 9, 1971; they celebrated their 50th anniversary last year.
After graduating in 1963 from D.C. Everest Senior High School, Thomas enlisted as a communications center specialist in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1964 and was stationed in Germany. After an honorable discharge from active duty in 1967, he served in the U.S. Army Reserves, worked briefly as a local news station cameraman, and started his career as a machinist at Federal Mogul (then Wausau Motor Parts), retiring in 2000.
A noted raconteur, Thomas had a flair for dramatic storytelling. How exactly did a man know so much? If you asked him, he would simply say that he knew “a little about a lot.” He was passionate about archaeology, genealogy, outer space, petrology, music, culinary arts, and Wisconsin history. He had knowledge and he was determined to drop it on you, which would sometimes force you to find a graceful reason to escape or he would keep on talking for hours.
Thomas loved fly-fishing on trout streams, but he either used catch-and-release techniques or was just lousy at fishing because he rarely brought any fish home. He was a self-taught master of tying flies, and collected endless amounts of feathers, fuzz, and shiny and sparkly things to use. It was not uncommon for his family to open the freezer and see the wing feathers of a particularly beautiful bird in a bag, preserved alongside the frozen vegetables.
When he wasn’t tying flies or fishing, Thomas could often be found on one of his touring motorcycles and was known for making particularly long journeys to visit his brother, to go to the Florida Keys, or to see his daughter graduate from USAF basic training. He traveled every back road in Marathon County on his motorcycle, and he loved the curvy serpentine ones the best. Now that he can’t get in trouble with his wife for it, we can freely admit that he once reached 135 mph on his motorcycle with one of his children riding as his passenger.
We know this much is true: Thomas was a wonderful husband and father, and an endlessly patient instructor in the arts of street frisbee, backyard fly casting, canoe paddling, and cribbage. It couldn’t have been easy to take three toddlers hiking so often on Rib Mountain, but Tom and Sally made it seem effortless. To his children and grandchildren, he could make anything into an adventure. Canoe trips on the Rib River were transformed into adventures on the beaches of “Little Tahiti,” and when the canoe floated out of sight downstream, our dashing hero exhausted himself swimming to bring it back so we wouldn’t be marooned forever. At times, he had odd tastes in family field trips, unless it’s totally normal to take your kids on a special trip to a historic grain mill. While we will admit that the House on the Rock and Little House in the Big Woods trips were great, we really didn’t need to see Birds in Art that many times. And did we mention the food? Thomas was the family chef de cuisine, and his alter ego, “Mama Papalito” created the best homemade pizza in town.
We’re not so sure this is true (but it makes a good story): Thomas told his children that as a teenager, he ran errands for members of the Chicago mafia that were sent to Wausau to cool off when the heat was on.
Thomas is survived by his wife, Sally, his three children: Jim (Shelly) Driscoll, Mosinee, Erin (Austin) Henderson, Wausau, and Dana (Jeff) Jones, Seaside, Oregon; grandchildren: Zachary (Rayne), Austin (Sarah), Ian, and Sophie Driscoll, Felix Henderson, and Bailey and Sam Jones; one great-grandchild: Toby Driscoll; eight brothers and sisters; numerous nephews and nieces; and his 101-year-old mother-in-law, Betty Sowinski. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Larry, and his talented grandson Randy Driscoll.
At this time, no funeral services are planned. A private family celebration of life will be held at a later date.
His cup runneth over.
Helke Funeral Home, Wausau is assisting the family with arrangements. You may leave messages and condolences for his family at helke.com.
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