At noon on Saturday, June 18, 2011, surrounded by his loving family, Thomas David Craft Sr. passed peacefully away at Billings Clinic Hospital due to pneumonia and Parkinson's disease. He was 80 years old.
Tom was born in Fort Collins, Colo., on March 14 1931, to Torrance and Marie (Reichel) Craft. He attended grade school and high school in Fort Collins. On December 12, 1953, Tom married Delores "Dee" Beffert in Billings.
He joined the United States Navy on February 26, 1951, in Denver. Tom took basic training at the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego. He served in the Korean War on the USS Lake Champlain (CVA 39) and the USS Bennington (CVA 20). He was stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. with the Lake Champlain and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard when on the Bennington. Tom was honorably discharged from the Navy on February 5, 1955.
After the Navy, Tom went to work for Henry and Minnie Frank of Laurel. In 1958, he went to work at Owen's Texaco in Billings on 19th and Grand. In 1969, he opened Tom's 76 at 15th and Grand. In 1972, he bought his first wrecker, "Little Dee." He worked with the police department, sheriff's department and the Highway Patrol. He found his niche in life working with law enforcement and in the wrecker business. In 1979, he moved to Eighth and Broadwater and became Tom's Exxon and had three wreckers. In 1989, he moved to Eighth and Central and became Tom's Conoco. In 1998, he left the service station business and became Tom's Repair and Wrecker service at 341 Orchard. He closed his business and retired four years ago. In 2008, Tom was awarded a plaque from the Montana Towing Association "for his many years of service to the Industry and the Public."
Tom's hobbies included his business, wreckers, collecting old John Deere tractors, and sheep. He LOVED his sheep!! He had sheep for over 30 years, and they were the fattest sheep in the county! He was written up several times in The Billings Gazette for his sheep and his great love of old tractors. Dee always said, "Tom was born a hundred years too late."
Every year, Tom would plant corn with the old John Deere tractors and equipment he had collected. The grandsons were the pickers and the sellers, and they would sell corn on the corner of the business until they got to high school. People would come from all over the city and county for his corn.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Richard, in-laws Walter and Amelia Beffert, and special nephew Steven Hoban.
Tom is survived by his wife, Dee, son Tom (Tammy) Craft Jr., daughter Vicki (Evan) Brink, all of Billings; grandsons Jason (Lora) Craft of Camas, Wash., Joshua (Heather) Craft , J.W. (Candina) Craft, Dustin and Matthew Bayman, all of Billings; great-grandchildren Jillian, Garrett, Madison, Taya, Jaden, Kyliee, Ju-Ju, Alexc and Piper. He is also survived by his brother Gilbert Craft of Ballantine; brothers-in-law Francis (Betty) Beffert of Everett, Wash., Curt Beffert of Marysville, Wash., Darrell Beffert of Portland, Ore.; sister-in-law Donna (Larry) Hoban; several nieces, nephews; and lots of cousins.
The family would like to thank Dr. Dennis Regan for his compassionate care of Tom and the family.
Visitation will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursday June 23, 2011, at Cremation & Funeral Gallery. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday June 24, 2011, at Cremation & Funeral Gallery.
Memorials may be sent to First United Methodist Church, Billings Health and Rehab, or the charity of your choice.
Arrangements are by Cremation & Funeral Gallery. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.cfgbillings.com.