Celebration Slideshow

Feb 21 2013

We hope you enjoy this slideshow of Tom’s life.

He Grew Fast!
Watch above or download full-res video here.

3 responses so far

A Son’s Tribute

Feb 24 2012

Thank you all for joining us in celebrating my Father’s life. I’d like to thank Reverend Kevin Ross, the rest of Unity, and its volunteers for helping us through this process and making this day possible. I’d also like to thank Mercy Hospice, my Dad’s nurse Jan, and Taya our social worker. They stepped into the most difficult time of our lives and helped us achieve our goals, and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for.


So many people have said to us, “I wish there was something I could do.” Your warm messages filled my Father’s heart with happiness as he read them from his iPad, comfortable in our living room. All of the gifts of food, flowers and company reminded us what great friends we have. You have all done something. You are all here now, together as one to reflect upon, and Thank God for Tom’s life.


My Father was an amazing man who dedicated his life to restoring energy into families homes. Not just in his 37 years at SMUD, but everyday as he came home from a long shift, put away his work boots, and continued to be a force of energy and love to his own family. He was incredibly passionate about his work. Not only was it his means of providing for his family, but also his method of giving back to the community. When the power went out and he got the call, whether it be a casual Saturday afternoon or Christmas Eve he rushed out the door in service, eager to restore power to homes and return to his. The last night before my Father slipped into a coma, I had to hold him down to keep him in bed. He was trying to get up and asking for his work boots. He was still trying to go to work.


We have so many of his friend and co-workers with us here today. If the power starts going out around around town we’ll know he’s messing you with all…Get back to work!


People would often ask him, “How do you do it Tom? How do you give so much?” What’s in it for him, they wondered. I recall doing the same, but throughout this process I have felt components of my Father awaken in me. I can tell you his secret was simple. He gave unconditionally, expecting no particular attention or affection in return. He gave simply to give. That made him happy, made him complete and it made him a Leader among us all. What I’ve learned is when you can give like that, to give truly becomes to receive, and he received so much.


One of my favorite childhood memories is when my father taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. Not feeling confident I could do it alone, he jogged beside me, hand on seat post. That feeling of looking back and realizing I was on my own, sailing along was a pivotal point in time when my Father taught me I am capable beyond my own confidence.


My Father taught me how to swim in the bathtub, so it was only a matter of time before he got me on a swim team and up on the starting blocks. He was at every one of my swim meets, often volunteering to be a starter or timer. He’d use a cap gun to start the races but I remember one meet in particular when a young girl who had immigrated from a war-torn country was afraid of the gun. She approached him and asked if there was any other way he could start the race. He had someone find an air horn. For the duration of the meet, he kept track of that young girl’s schedule and made sure there was never a gun used to start her races. He was a mountain of a man, but he gave off an aura so kind this young girl wasn’t afraid to approach him.


My Father may have never been blessed with a daughter of his own, but that did not keep him from seeking and perfecting a more tender kind of love. It means SO MUCH to me that he was able to be a father figure not only to me, or my friends growing up, but also to you three. Savoy, Alyssa, and Olivia, remember that, as do I, this love is not something you say good bye to today, for the method and the package he delivered it to you in, is something you can carry with you always.


My Father was an accomplished wrestler and helped coach me in Jr. High. Wrestling is part brawn and part brains. I had more brains than brawn, but he taught me that with brains you can figure out how to use your opponents strength against them. Each week we had to wrestle off for the varsity spot. I always had to wrestle my teammate Jason, who was much stronger than me, but less experienced. I wanted to keep my Father’s techniques to myself, but he would not allow it. After practice he would take us aside and coach us, particularly Jason actually. “Come on man, You’re giving away all my tricks away!” I’d say. “You’ll just have to try harder then” he would say. And so I did.


As the season came to an end Jason and I were tied in Varsity matches. Little did we know that the ultimate tie breaker would come in our last tournament. Both having worked up the brackets, we had to face off against each other, only one of us able to move on. Jason pinned me, rather quickly actually, with a technique he learned from my Father. I still remember being tied up and pinned, trying to escape but simply unable and seeing my Father smiling. After the match I was disappointed, but as he and I watched Jason go onto great things in that tournament he said “Son, do you see how much Jason has improved?”. “Sure do!” I scoffed. He said “He wouldn’t be the wrestler he is today if you hand’t chosen to treat him as a teammate first, and an opponent second. I’m so proud of both of you, you made each other better”.


That day I learned that it is better to lose when the stakes are high then win as they are low. And it is this lesson of teaching your competitor that led me to return to the college I graduated from, less than a year later, and teach students who would soon be competing for my job.


My Father was an incredible swimmer. He swam butterfly like a dolphin, and held records at La Sierra High School until the school closed. I always tried to make him proud but hadn’t really perfected my butterfly stroke when I was young. One particular 25yd butterfly race, I nearly drown. My dive was off, and my goggles slid down my face and positioned themselves securely in my mouth. I tried my best to keep going, to not break stride or get disqualified, but halfway across the pool I had taken so much water I had to grab the nearest lane rope and try and catch my breath. Still unable, the officials fished me out of the pool. As I laid on the cement, coughing up a lung full of highly chlorinated water, the officials began preparing the next race. The other swimmers had long finished, but realizing the clock was still ticking for me, I asked the officials if they would please hold and allow me to finish the race. I swam back out to mid pool, this time my goggles securely fastened over my eyeballs, and I finished my race. I exited the pool to thunderous applause, but I was so embarrassed. Making my way to my Dad, I said, “Dad, I’m sorry; I’m sorry I lost.” WIth a grin he chuckled and said, “Son, don’t you ever be sorry. That was your best race!” “But how could it be Dad? I came in last place” I replied. “You tried your best. You never gave up” he said. He gestured to the applauding crowd and said, “You inspired people. And you finished what you started”. He knelt down to my eye level, placed his hands on my shoulders and said, “Son, I love you and I am so proud of you”.


That was the day I became unafraid to fail. I formed a cyclical relationship with my father where he encouraged me to set my goals beyond the horizon, sending me out to chase those goals and being there to catch me when I failed. He allowed me to realize I am capable beyond my confidence.


This bond, this team we formed allowed us to achieve several of our dreams. At 15, I sat with my father and laid out my career goals. “I’m going to be a designer and work with the big players in the snowboard industry” I said. I enrolled in a college program while still in High School and he spent a year car pooling to work so that I could drive his car to my classes. I moved to Portland with a dream of working at Nemo Design. People would ask me, “What’s your plan B? You gotta have a plan B”. I didn’t have a Plan B. My Father never asked me what my Plan B was, not once.


I learned of my Father’s cancer diagnosis just after landing my dream internship at Nemo Design. I was 6 months from graduation. “I’m going to take a break from school and come home” I told him. “You are not.” He said. “Son, if I die in six months I am going to see you graduate”. Even facing death, he kept me on the course of chasing my dreams, and reminded me that we are together with a unified dream even when geographically apart.


This bond, we formed brought me here today, to tell you that the team that is My Father and I is not something I have lost, or something I ever say good bye to. I still share my dreams and passions with my Father, and still feel his encouragement and support.


This morning I said “Dad, we are going to remember you today. We will enter this building with our pain and through your love we will release it, allow it to be transformed and take it back as something anew. We will continue to love you, and allow you to continue to love us”.


Before my Father passed he wrote me a letter. In it he writes “I won’t meet your wife or children, that’ll be up to you, but I’m sure you’ll do fine. Talk to your kids about everything. Tell them you love them all the time. Tell them I love them.”


How unconditional to be able to love somebody who doesn’t even exist. It was then that I realized his love had become capable of transcending time and space. I was reminded of our core belief here at Unity, that there is only One Love, and that Love is God’s Love. Knowing that my Father’s love is God’s Love, I realized his final gift to me was making God’s love more familiar. As familiar as his.


On my Father’s last night, I stayed with him all night. as I observed him exert the last of his energy to make it to the other side with his dignity and pride, I couldn’t help but feel as though it were he in the pool and I were watching from the sides. He had long lost the ability to speak, but I could feel him come to me and say “Son, I’m sorry; I’m sorry I lost. I am physically defeated, and have nothing left to give.” I chuckled and said “Dad, don’t you ever be sorry! This was your best fight. You tried your best. You never gave up. You inspired people. And you finished what you started. I love you Dad, and I am so proud of you.”

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A Love Story

Feb 24 2012

Lisa’s thoughts on Tom

June 6, 1970. The last day of school. I was a freshman; Tom a sophomore. I was excused to the pool to celebrate the end of finals. The swim team was practicing. When I remember that day, I remember him bathed in golden light. He looked a Greek god on the starting blocks. We splashed around with some other kids and I think there was an immediate understanding between us this was the start of something big.


After a party later that night, we shared our first kiss. Tom wrote to me in a letter as he neared the end of his life that that kiss made his stomach jump like when he was on the starting blocks before a race. He said that feeling never diminished over the years. I was equally moved by that first kiss. I think even then I knew as soon as we touched that I was home. I felt so safe and protected and cherished by him for the rest of our lives.


We fell in love before I was even old enough to be allowed to date “in cars with boys”. He rode his bike to my house, we met at the park (my dog was in great shape that summer!) and we talked on the phone for hours. When we were finally allowed, we drove around in big old cars with no radios and Tom would play the blues on his harmonicas. He was always singing me some funny song I had never heard before.


Tom loved the blues, my Mom’s fried chicken, the mist on his face at the ocean, fresh squeezed apple juice, swimming, his family, his friends, his son to the ends of the earth, and his dog. But most of all, he loved me. He loved me with a capacity I have only seen once or twice in my life. To my great fortune, one of those examples of love was between my grandparents. Tom reminded me so much of my Paw-paw. Early in our relationship he began to take me to visit his grandmothers on Sunday afternoons. That was a pretty sure sign to me that he would be a wonderful family man. He sure proved my hunch to be correct.


We dated for 8 years before we got married. It wasn’t long before we knew we were ready for a family; we knew each other so well we were really ready to share our love with children of our own. Prior to that, we had borrowed the McCrary kids about as much as their parents would allow:)


It would be another 8 years before we would finally be blessed with John-Paul. Tom also wrote to me in that final letter that he could still taste the tears of happiness on my lips when he got home from work that wonderful day we found out we were expecting. I remember running to meet him in the street and him swinging me around in circles. John-Paul’s birth was the happiest day of our lives. A very close second was the day he graduated from college.


Tom reminded me in his letter that we always said we don’t remember anything from the mid-80‘s but John-Paul. We knew nothing of the music or events of those times. We soaked up every moment with John-Paul and each other.


Of course you all know Tom did work when he could and he always did work hard. People who would tell him to work less couldn’t have known his true nature. You might as well have told a race horse not to run. He loved to work. He loved his friends at work and he loved the satisfaction he got from a job well done. He loved helping young people at work in particular. He especially loved providing a good life for me and John-Paul.


Tom was a pretty simple guy. He didn’t need fancy cars or clothes or the newest phone. He just wanted to be with us. He’d call me if he was going to be 10 minutes late. There were a few things I knew he needed to be happy – a huge stack of new, clean underwear was one – well as a matter of fact, he just was pretty into clean laundry all together. I have been searching the house for his scent on his clothes, but he was so clean and so were his clothes, I’ve yet to find anything that smells like him. A common call around our house was, “Got any whites? I’m doin’ a load!”


Tom also loved to be prepared to keep us all comfortable. We could count on him to keep us warm, safe, fed and cozy no matter where we were going. He got up extra early before a road trip to pack with precision and tie everything down. It was adorable. One of the happiest days of his life was when John-Paul quoted his famous saying, “It’s better to have it and not want it than want it and not have it.”


What I miss the most about Tom and what I should never have taken for granted was the way he loved me. He loved every single molecule of me. He loved me even when I was unloveable and he made me feel beautiful every day of my life. Our values were so very similar and yet our personalities couldn’t have been much more different. He was unwaveringly solid, steady, calm – just like a rock. I am the driven one, the one that’s likely to fly around until everything gets done. We always said I am the kite and he is the string. I came to know I needed him there to keep me grounded. He had a necklace made for me for our last Christmas together out of one of our beach combed agates. It’s a lovely kite with a silver tail and I will treasure it forever.


Tom and I did just about everything together. Often he would say to me, “Go put on one of your pretty tops and let me take you somewhere.” We loved to go for drives in the Gold Country or for longer road trips. We held hands in the car and listened to 5 hours of Trisha Yearwood non-stop, winking at each other at the same lyrics time after time. We ate dinner out holding hands across the table and giggling. We were never going to be that old couple you see in a restaurant with nothing to say to each other.


Tom was so quick-witted and funny. I used to call my Mom all the time with quotes from him that had me in stitches. On the last night we would be able to speak with him before he went into the coma he said the funniest thing. He sprung awake with what we now know was that last burst of energy the hospice booklet talked about. He was ravenous and very thirsty. We couldn’t feed him fast enough and it would turn out to be the last time he would eat or drink. After eating, he said he wanted a cup of tea – with honey in it. I said, “Ok, honey, I’ll get that for you.” He replied, “No you don’t understand; I want a big scoop of honey.” Again, I assured him I would get it. He stopped me and said, “Listen, you are the love of my life but there are three things you never gave me enough of.” Imagine my concern at this point…What would he list? “Honey, salt and mustard!” I figure if those were the only things he was lacking, I guess I did pretty well. It’s fitting that the last time he was lucid he was very, very funny. John-Paul and I will remember it forever.


As most of you know, the next morning Tom slipped into a coma that lasted 10 days. There would be a couple of moments when he looked into our eyes and tried to speak, squeezing hands and kissing me, but we would never have a conversation with him again. He hung on to life like no one we had ever heard of. The care he required was complicated and oh so very difficult. I can never ever thank the people enough that came to my side to care for him with such devotion. John-Paul put his life on hold for a full three months. Our hospice team was so wonderful. My sister, Tracy, our niece, Olivia, my best friend, Becky and her daughter Alyssa rounded out the team of miracle workers. They took turns giving Tom his medication every two hours for 9 days and nights. Olivia didn’t go to bed at all for 4 nights. Alyssa slept a little on the couch. We bonded in a way we could never describe and I cannot express my gratitude enough. None of us will ever be the same and we know we can all count on each other for anything for the rest of our lives. Tom’s greatest wish for me and John-Paul would have been for us to have people like that in our lives if he had to leave us. God bless you, our angel crew; you have granted his wish.


I will not say goodbye because I know he is all around me and he is deep within my soul. I will not say we have lost him or that he has lost his battle. Let’s borrow from Elizabeth Edwards and say that he has won the battle of a life well-lived and that in that there is no losing. For now, I will simply say:


“Rest well, my darling. I promise you, it will seem like no time at all to you before you turn around and I will be there. I found you once and I know I will find you again. You’ll be the one bathed in golden light…”


3 responses so far

Remembering My One True Brother

Feb 24 2012

Tracy Monteforte’s thoughts

Several years ago I read a book called Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Bruchard. When the author found himself kicking his way out of his crashed car 200 feet down a cliff, not sure if he was alive, dead or dying, a question cried out, “Have I lived? Have I loved, have I mattered?” When faced with our own mortality it’s a fair question.

Looking now at all of you here who have come to show your love and pay your respect for our beloved Tom, it’s abundantly clear…Tom lived, Tom loved and Tom mattered! He loved his family, his friends and his work and he bent over backwards to help others.

In my eyes Tom was a champion.

Tom came into my life when I was 10. My big sister Lisa was 14 and fell head-over-heals for Tom. I remember how impressed I was by him. He was so huge and strong, yet gentle. I remember him carrying me on his shoulders, the big brother I’d always wanted but never had…

Tom, was my one true brother.

My favorite sport was swimming and I practically lived in my pool. To my delight, Tom was on a swim team and swam like champion. My friends and I used to stand back in awe as Tom dove in our pool and engulfed the entire length of the pool in just two of his beautiful butterfly strokes. We used to tease him and say he half emptied the pool when he dove in.

Tom was so strong. One time he actually lifted the entire front of his Carmingea sports car completely off the ground. I used to brag about him to all my friends. He was some kind of super hero!

When I was in Jr High School we had these teen canteen dances and sometimes we had live bands. On one such occasion, I was having the time of my life, dancing like crazy and I look up and there’s Tom on the stage playing his harmonica! I couldn’t believe it! What couldn’t this guy do?! I danced my way to the stage and beamed at him and he smiled and winked. He made me feel so special.

Tom always loved music and especially the blues. We had a lot of fun at Blues by the Bay in Eureka.  He was a great dancer too. We’d go on cruises and other fun trips and I always looked forward to a chance to dance with him . For such a big guy he was so darn graceful! He also danced with my daughter Olivia on her 16th birthday to 16 candles. They adored each other. It was a very sweet moment.

Olivia always said her Uncle Tom was the “teasiest”.  He was so funny,  really quick witted. He didn’t talk a lot but when he did it was worth hearing. And he was smart too. When we played games as a family Tom most often won.

For my 40th birthday Lisa & Tom had come up to help Pat give me a surprise birthday party. As part of the ruse Tom had told me he was coming to help Pat with our “gopher problem” and I actually believed him!

We had this little “House band” and at the party Tom took over Pat’s drums and was really getting into the groove for a long while. Our friend said, “Wow Tom. How long have you been playing the drums?” and totally deadpan Tom replies, “about two hours!” He was just like that…always so quick witted.

One of my funniest memories of Tom was when we were in Acapulco at the infamous Sr. Frogs. One of the traditions there is for patrons to dance on the table tops. I jumped up on our table of about 40  and danced my way down the middle. I was having the time of my life and I look back and there’s Tom dancing up on the wide window …a window with no screen or glass and a 20 foot drop to the sea below just grinning from   ear- to- ear wearing a multi-colored clown’s wig! It was hilarious and I felt like, yep, Tom’s got my back!

Lisa came out of the ladies room and saw Tom up there and about had a heart attack. Tom had no idea how far down that drop actually was!

The thing most precious and admirable thing about Tom was his love for Lisa. Eight years through adolescence and young adulthood and 41 years total he worshiped the ground she walked on and loved her unconditionally. His love will live far beyond the 41 years. It’s that eternal kind of love.

Together they were the best of parents to John-Paul and Aunt and Uncle to my children. Tom always had a great way with children. He could take a crying baby, drape it over his big shoulder and it would be asleep in minutes. Kids trusted him, they felt safe and protected. I always knew my kids would come home from at stay a Tom’s very cleaned, combed and clipped.  He was religious about the Sunday grooming session!

Tom was selfless. He was always the first to volunteer to go to the store. Seems like every holiday he’d have to run out for whipping cream. And often he didn’t get to enjoy dessert time because he’d get a call that the power was out and he had to go to work. He always went without complaint knowing that families were sitting in the dark and he could help. In recent years we used to tease him and ask which one of his work buddies was calling to get him out of another family dinner!

We live up in the redwoods on the Northern CA coast. Tom loved coming up to visit and to get out of the Sacramento summer heat. He would be disappointed if we had sunny days on his visit as he craved the cool fog on his face. He loved going to the beach and walking for miles maybe flying a kite, playing with his dog, Bonnie. When I look at the redwoods trees now I feel Tom there. The redwoods thrive on fog and so did Tom when he came to visit. He couldn’t get enough of it. The redwoods and Tom, both so strong and tall and vital. The gentle giants. I bet all of us can think of a symbol of Tom. Something you knew about him or shared with him. It’s a comfort knowing he is in all those things, that we are still connected.

Tom lived and died with the heart of a champion. In those final days Tom fought the hard fight. He endured 10 days without food or water but his strong heart kept on beating. Having been there with him I honestly believe he was selflessly hanging on for all of us…like a champion.   I’d like to share a few stanzas of a poem I sent had sent to Tom in a card. It’s called
The Champion

When you’re out there on the edge
and the odds you face are life and death
you’ve got to have the heart of a champion

When your time is running out
and everybody sees you’re going down
you’ve got to have a heart of a champion

When your back’s against the wall
and your rival thinks you’re gonna fall
you’ve got to have a heart of a champion

Come on now, listen,
I have been through thick and thin and every vice
standing in the winner’s circle has its price
I have learned to fight the good fight to the end
and if I had to I would do it all again
And when the sun goes down I won’t fear the night
I will keep my head towards the sky
knowing that the lord is on my side

When you’re out there on the edge
and the odds you face are life and death
you got to have a heart of a champion

Yes, Tom, you are a champion and you did live, you did love and you DO MATTER. Forever…

I love you, Tom, my one true brother…

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Uncle T’s Eulogy

Feb 24 2012

I’m Savoy, one of Tom’s nieces. My uncle Tom was still a teenager when I was born and I called him TT, which you can all understand the irony of a man of his stature being called TT.


My Uncle Tom grew up in Carmichael with his two sisters Penny and Vicki. His mom and dad, Ann and John met  and fell in love in England when John was in the service during World War II. After my Poppa John popped the question to his true love, they married in England and Ann came to the US as a war bride after the war ended. They lived with Poppa John’s family when they first arrived in Roseville.


The DeVries family was a big one. Nanna DeVries and her husband Willem had 9 children and 15 grandchildren. She was one tiny lady with a soft voice but a big heart and a big personality.  Nanna was from Hungary and her husband Willem from Holland.


When my Uncle Tom was born on April 17, 1954, his mother’s whole family moved from England to Roseville. The British side of the family included Nana Cilla, Dadda Tom – his grandfather and namesake – Auntie Ev, Uncle Albie and their daughter Sandra. When Tom was a toddler they moved to Carmichael where he lived until he married Lisa, his true love. Tom grew up in the middle of a large loving extended family who enjoyed spending time together playing sports, playing cards, enjoying good food, dancing and singing, and they were all full of laughter.


I’ve been looking at pictures of my Uncle Tom which range from dashing to silly. My favorite picture of him, with me and my mom, shows my mom on my Uncle’s shoulders and me on her’s and our arms outstretched.  We are all beaming, like we’ve been laughing up a storm. How strong was he to have an adult woman on his shoulders and a child on top? My Uncle Tom was strong beyond belief in body and spirit.


I remember wrestling with him when I was little which was no small feat since he wrestled in school and was able to palm my head and hold me out at arms length anytime he wanted to. However I learned that if I yanked his arm hair, he was pretty quick to let go. But besides being extremely strong, my Uncle Tom was extremely loving, gentle, and pretty darn funny. I remember being on an inter island flight going from Oahu to Maui and Tom’s big body was folded tightly into the very tiny seat on the very tiny plane and there was a lot of turbulence so the plane was really bobbing around in the sky and Tom was truly green. I’d never seen anyone green before, but he was cracking jokes the whole time. Takes a true wit to joke and laugh at yourself when you’re bright green.


When I saw my Uncle right after Christmas, his body wasn’t what it had been and I knew he was struggling with pain, but our visit was full of laughter, funny stories and his beautiful spirit shown brightly in his blue eyes. I’m truly grateful to have had such a wonderful Uncle and he is forever in my heart.

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I’m Still Here

Feb 21 2012

Friend, please don’t mourn for me

I’m still here, though you don’t see.

I’m right by your side each night and day

And within your heart I long to stay.


My body is gone but I’m always near.

I’m everything you feel, see or hear.

My spirit is free, but I’ll never depart

As long as you keep me alive in your heart.


I’ll never wander out of your sight-

I’m the brightest star on a summer night.

I’ll never be beyond your reach-

I’m the warm moist sand when you’re at the beach.


I’m the colorful leaves when Autumn’s around

And the pure white snow that blankets the ground.

I’m the beautiful flowers of which you’re so fond,

The clear cool water in a quiet pond.


I’m the first bright blossom you’ll see in the spring,

The first warm raindrop that April will bring.

I’m the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine,

And you’ll see that the face in the moon is mine.


When you start thinking there’s no one to love you,

You can talk to me through the Lord above you.

I’ll whisper my answer through the leaves on the trees,

And you’ll feel my presence in the soft summer breeze.


I’m the hot salty tears that flow when you weep

And the beautiful dreams that come while you sleep.

I’m the smile you see on a baby’s face.

Just look for me, friend, I’m every place!

Author Unknown

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John-Paul shares Tom’s message on Unity.FM radio

Feb 01 2012

On February 1 Tom’s son, John-Paul DeVries, joined Reverend Kevin Ross’ online radio show along with special guest Beatrice Toney Bailey. Listen to their inspiring stories of dealing with terminal diagnose of a loved one. John-Paul shares a story from his Father’s last letter, and how his love was able to defy the boundaries of time and space.

Listen on iTunes here, or directly download the mp3 file here.

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May I Have This Dance?

Sep 15 2006

Tom dances with his niece Olivia on her 16th Birthday. He always said she was the treasure of our family.

He Grew Fast!

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