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Thomas Laffins

1933 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
THOMAS LAFFINS Thomas Laffins died Thursday evening July 2, 2015, holding his wife's hand. He came into this world on a beautiful summer morning at his great uncle's farmhouse in Low Point, Illinois. He was born on August 16, 1933 to James and Juanita Laffins. Tom spent his childhood in Ottawa, Illinois surrounded by extended family. His fond memories of Ottawa included visits to Aunt Elizabeth's bakery, and Aunt Mary's Taylor Street Market. His closest cousin was Jack Stortz, and he dearly loved his Scottish grandmother, Lillie Mitchell Laffins. rowing up in America's heartland he enjoyed a wonderful boyhood. With occasional trips to Chicago and Wrigley field, he became a lifelong Cubs fan, as well as an A's supporter. Tom attended Lincoln Street School K-8, he was a cub scout, delivered the Ottawa paper "The Times", and was baptized at the First Evangelical Church of Ottawa. In 1947 the family moved to Chico, and he entered Chico High. He was in the graduating class of 1951, and played Varsity Baseball as the Panthers Catcher. Just days after graduation he was on his way to San Antonio, Texas for basic training at Lackland, AFB. He spent the next two years as a tailgunner on a B-29. On a rainy day in December 1952, he fell from a B-29 onto the runway, breaking his heel. He came home for Christmas on crutches. Little did he know his life was about to change. A friend had arranged a Christmas Eve date with Gayle, a senior at Chico High. She was 16, he was 19, and they liked each other immediately. Tom returned to Texas, and a flurry of letters and phone calls followed. At this same time he was assigned to a flight crew on a KC-97, part of Strategic Air Command, they flew countless hours over the Continental United States and the North Atlantic. Their mission was to rendevouz with long range bombers for inflight refueling. As the "boom operator", Tom was responsible for talking the B-47 pilots into position for the fuel transfer. Lying in a prone position at 26,000 feet, looking down on the jet below, required skill and precision. In June 1955, he was honorably discharged and came back to attend Chico State, buy a brand new Volkswagen "bettle", and marry Gayle on December 15, 1956; four years after they met. While attending Chico State he worked at Mitchell Avionics at the airport as a draftsman. He then joined his parents Jim and Juanita Laffins in their newly formed business as J & J Electric. He undertook and completed a four year apprentice ship with IBEW and spent the next 20 years as an electrical contractor in Chico. While he was raising a family and building a business, he built most of his family home with help from other craftsmen, and his father-in-law, Roy Snodgrass. Roy had a special place in Tom's heart. Later, he and a friend built a 40 foot houseboat and put it on Lake Oroville. The two families enjoyed life at the lake for many years. Always happiest on the water, Tom was able to fish in Newfoundland, off Nantucket in the Atlantic, Mexico, and the Pacific Coast. Most of all he was lucky to spend over thirty salmon seasons at his cabin in Fort Bragg. He leaves his wife almost 59 years, Gayle, daughter Melanie, sons Brad (Jaimie) and Jody (Sandy) and five grandchildren; Mitch, Kirk, Jordan, Kamille and Shelbey. He is also survived by his brothers Ron and Rick of Chico. Tom was our cherished husband, father, and grandfather. We are grateful for his life, knowing with certainty we will see him again.
Published in Chico Enterprise-Record on Aug. 16, 2015
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