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May 27, 1927-
March 14, 2014
The World flung her arms open wide to welcome him on 16, May 1927 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His parents, Leslie and Elizabeth (O'Loughlin) Westbrook must have quickly realized their son was irrepressible. At age six, little Tommy decided to stage a show, charging other neighborhood kids a nickel each for the chance see him kiss Susie.
Tom was the kind of guy who'd start singing in a crowded room, simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time. He didn't hog the spotlight, he loved it when others joined in. He formed a couple barbershop quartets, and made it to the national competition.
Tom was passionately involved in the world around him. He was a voracious reader, a broad spectrum consumer of news, and lover of ideas. Tom so loved our Country and the ideals for which we stand; he so loved the Catholic Church and the gospel vision it purports, that he bristled at injustice and the hypocrisy of self-interest. And being Tom, he wasn't shy to speak up.
Tom served in the US Army of occupation immediately after the close of WWII. He joined the Red Cross and returned to Europe during the '50s serving our base in Baumholder, Germany. There he met his future wife, Janet Staley from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Tom often said "the secret to happiness is marrying well," and he sure did - he married Janet Staley in December of 1958. Together they lovingly raised five children (named below), who in turn bore nine delightful grandchildren. Tom and Jan's progeny are: Mark Severyn wed Nancy (Roberts) Westbrook, proud parents of Severyn John and Kaylee Ann; Christian Staley wed Luisa Marie (Orellana) Westbrook; Sara Elizabeth Westbrook partner of Gina Papke; Rebecca Ann wed Grant Shields, proud parents of Jacob Keith and Jessica Janet; and Abigail Victoria Westbrook is the proud mother of five Campbell children Nicholas Severyn "Colin", Shannon Olivia, Megan "Edie", Ian Thomas, and Tristian Michael.
Tom and Jan moved to Spokane in 1962 so they could live near Tom's only brother and his closest friend, Father J. Severyn Westbrook (Rev. Sev).
In the 1960s Tom was on the front lines in LBJ's war on poverty, working as a community organizer in Spokane. He especially loved working with local church leaders of various religious groups. Tom was at the front of many marches for civil rights, against wars, and to promote ecology. When a local developer tried to pocket federal housing money, Tom helped lead the fuss and the story went national becoming a segment on CBS's "60 Minutes".
In the early 1970s Tom went back to college and earned a degree in Speech Communications, and briefly taught at GU and EWU. While at GU he developed, patented and started a company around his invention, Tell-Back. It was a computerized way for a gathering of 50 to 100 people to continuously give their reaction throughout TV shows, commercials, political speeches and debates. Multiple TV stations became clients, including the American Broadcasting Companies, or ABC.
Tom's legacy includes:
-Freedom at the Arboretum, an annual Fourth of July picnic
celebrating thoughtful citizenship and the values expressed in our
Declaration of Independence. Now in its 51st year.
-Tom helped bring public radio to Spokane in 1980. He loved public
radio! We children remember radios throughout the house,
seemingly always on, and the only permitted station was KPBX FM.
Dad was a voice on many a pledge drive pitching the number so
many times that a couple weeks ago, after an early morning fall the
ONLY phone number he could think to call was 328-5729, or KPBX.
-Perhaps Tom was most proud of his involvement in 1983 when his
beloved St. Ann Catholic Church declared Sanctuary. He became
Dom Thomas to the El Salvadorian family (Orellana) who took
shelter there. Christian later married Luisa Orellana, bringing the
We'll celebrate Tom's life this Saturday, the 22nd of March, with a Funeral Mass of Christian Burial beginning at 11:00am at St. Ann Catholic Parish (2120 E. First St., 99202). Reception with eulogies to follow in the parish hall. Inurnment at Greenwood Cemetery will be 3:30 pm. Memorial gifts may of course be given to any good cause; the family reminds you of Spokane Public Radio.
Published in Spokesman-Review on Mar. 19, 2014