NYE - L. Thomas Eaton, son of pioneer educators, lover of life, poetry, horses, his ranch on the Stillwater River, education and Rocky Mountain College, passed away on April 25, 2002, in Columbus.
Born Feb. 2, 1916, in his parents' house on 17th and Poly Drive in Billings, Eaton attended grade school and high school at the Billings Polytechnic Institute, co-founded by his father, Lewis Eaton and uncle, Ernest Eaton. He also attended Grinnell College in Iowa, where he excelled in track. Tom graduated from Billings Polytechnic Institute in 1936, received his MS in physical therapy from the University of Montana in 1952 and a master's in secondary administration from Montana State University in Bozeman in 1961. His honorary doctorate in humane letters was presented to him by Rocky Mountain College in 1998. Eaton served in the Army during WWII, where he trained young men in boot camp.
Education was an important theme in Tom's life. Dedicated to the philosophy that service to humanity should be the focus of a person's work, Eaton taught school, coached, worked as a high school administrator, and encouraged education for all of those around him. An innovative administrator, he encouraged students' creativity through nontraditional course work and the arts. He also sought to serve others through physical therapy, where he provided exercise programs for individuals with physical disabilities.
Tom derived his pleasure from his horses and his poetry. He developed the Montana Traveler horses, known for their mile-eating gaits and gentle dispositions, through years of careful breeding. Eaton also loved writing, reciting and performing cowboy poetry. He will be remembered for his renditions of Frank Debreas' "Laska" and "Riden'."
Tom is survived by his wife, Thelma of Absarokee; his son, Thomas T., daughter-in-law, Katie, their children Cadance, Cain and Chance of Absarokee; daughter Jacqueline Eaton Dundas, son-in-law Don, their son Ian of Billings; and daughter Judi Eaton Gress, son-in-law Gregg and their son Joseph of Ennis.
Funeral services will be in Losekamp Hall on the Rocky Mountain College campus Saturday, April 27, at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Student Scholarship Endowment of Rocky Mountain College, in care of the Advancement Office, 1511 Poly Drive, Billings, MT 59102.