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Thomas Willetto

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Thomas Willetto Obituary
Thomas H. Willetto passed away February 10, 2013 at the HospiceCare Center in Louisville. He was 79 years old. He was born March 3, 1933 near Crownpoint, NM to Chee and Lucille (McCauley) Willetto. He was a member of the Navajo Nation and was "born to" the Bit'aahnii clan and "born for" the Todich'inii clan. His maternal born for clan was Ta'neezahnii, and his paternal born for clan was "Naakaii Dine'." Tom attended primary school in Crownpoint, NM, and secondary school in Anadarko, OK and Putney, VT. Starting as a young teen, he spent many summers at the Lowell Whiteman Ranch for Boys in Steamboat Springs, CO; first as a camper and then as an employee. Thomas served the United States Army during the Korean conflict, where one of his duties was as an atomic weapons inspector. Later he attended Colorado A&M. He returned to the Whiteman Ranch and worked there full-time as a wrangler, counselor and teacher. He met and courted a beautiful redhead who had hired on as a ranch cook for the summer. They explored most of Storm Peak and the Zirkle wilderness on horseback; and on March 28, 1959 Tom married Jeanne Marion Lund, from Newell, SD. They were married for 46 years. Mr. Willetto earned his BA in Photographic Arts at the prestigious Brooks Institute, in Santa Barbara, CA. He was employed by General Motors as a photographer in the defense research division. In 1970, the family moved to Durango, CO where Tom and Jeanne purchased a photography studio. Following graduate studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Tom worked as a librarian and media specialist on the Navajo reservation, spending many years in Rough Rock, AZ and Borrego Pass, NM. He especially enjoyed the elementary aged students - at one point serving as the first Santa Claus they had ever encountered who spoke Navajo. He volunteered many hours as a translator and photographer at countless community events. Tom and Jeanne moved to Erie, CO in 2004 to be closer to family. More recently, Tom lived with his son Thomas and his family in Niwot, CO. Tom was very involved with the Widowed Persons Group with Hospice of Boulder and Broomfield Counties; and attending AA meetings in Boulder. Tom was in regular attendance at Rocky Mountain Christian Church in Niwot, CO. Tom was an avid horseman for many years, teaching all of his kids how to ride and care for their own animals. He was a skilled artist, handyman, guitarist, and outdoorsman. Along with his wife, he taught the family to enjoy music and sing around the campfire, was an accomplished birder and continued his love of photography for many years. Thomas was preceded in death by his wife Jeanne on April 11, 2005; and by his brothers, Harry Willetto, Gallup, NM, Frank Chee Willetto, Crownpoint, NM. He is survived by his daughters Carla Willetto and husband Todd O'Hara of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Abbie Wolfe of Anchorage, Alaska; his sons Thomas Willetto II and his wife Linda of Niwot, CO and Arne Willetto of Gallup, NM; his sisters Jennie Begaii of Brigham City, UT and Ella Mae Chischilly of Crownpoint, NM; nine grandchildren and 1 great-grandson and many beloved nieces and nephews. A celebration of life will be held for friends and family later this summer. Our thanks to the kind people at Ahlberg Funeral Chapel and Crematory for their assistance in final arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to either The Lowell Whiteman School's endowment fund for library/technology; or to the Widowed Persons Services (WPS) group via HospiceCare of Broomfield and Boulder County. Visit www.ahlbergfuneralchapel.com to share condolences.

Published in The Daily Camera on Mar. 3, 2013
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