Thomas Carson
(1950 - 2009)

Thomas Carson



Guest Book
I only wish I had more time to get to know Tom better. From the moment I entered the family and met Tom, he impressed me as the rare person who can be present with you and listen and experience the event, meal or anything else and just be kind and simply share stories and his joys and concerns in a real honest way. He was loved and loved his family very much. My heart is with everyone who is grieving.
Dara Wolochow (family)
March 13th, 2009
I first met Tom around 1985…I was still in college. I had just taken a job at Mirassou Vineyards working in the tasting room. As I recall, I started early in the week and, at the end of the first week, I’d met most of the staff except for this one guy “Tom”. Tom, I was told, had been working at the winery for a while and only worked Saturdays. But, I was told you could always count on him to help out, give tours, whatever you needed, etc.

I don’t remember exactly the moment I met Tom but I’m sure we hit it off immediately. I quickly learned that Tom’s special responsibility on Saturdays at the winery was to make COFFEE. And oh could Tom make a cup of coffee. It was truly one of his talents and unique gifts. He seemed to rely on some special recipe crammed into his brain somewhere. In retrospect, this was a bit odd as there are only two ingredients in coffee: coffee and water. But Tom made it seem so precise. The beans were ground just so…not too coarse, not too fine. Whatever he did, it was simply the best…and STRONG.

Typically, Saturday night’s at the winery meant some sort of winery dinner – six course meals with an executive chef for groups of up to 50 or 60. The tasting room staff had to set up the tables, chairs, etc. Typically this involved Tom, myself and the third member of our group Rob Knowlton. That is, the three guys who didn’t have dates on Saturday night. So, since we had nothing better to do, after we set things up, we’d sit in the manager’s office at the winery and open numerous bottles of wine and sample them. Near as I can remember, some nights this involved six to eight bottles opened – fortunately not all consumed. Sometimes we got free eats too, depending on who the chef was. Well, as you can imagine, this led to all sorts of conversation and laughter – and friendship.

I have to recount several Tom stories that involve the winery before I move on. There were probably a hundred of these but I remember a few in particular:

Did you forget something? As I mentioned, Tom worked Saturdays. I typically wouldn’t have seen him all week and I always looked forward to Saturdays so much because Tom was working and I knew it would be fun. I typically got to the winery at 9am and I usually had Tom start at 10am when the winery actually opened. It was a nice spring day and I had the two large tasting room doors propped open to let the fresh air in. Round about 10am, Tom pulls up in his little truck and parks it under the tree across the parking lot. I’m standing behind the counter inside the tasting room. The door to his truck opens, out he comes, with his first cup of coffee in hand. As he approaches the door, I start to laugh. He walks in, completely non chalant. I ask him “Tom, did you forget something?” “No, why?” he replies. “Look down” I say. He does. And there’s Tom, standing fully dressed but with his bath slippers on. “I guess I forgot to put on my shoes,” he says. Tom spent the day working behind the counter.

Calling all cars. Each of us had to give tours at the winery. For some it was one of our favorite things to do. But, what Rob and I really learned to like is finding ways to mess up and annoy Tom when he was giving a tour. The tour involved walking all over the winery including out in the back where the big stainless steel wine tanks were located. Several months after I started, we realized that the winery had a PA paging system with speakers out in the back. We’d wait until Tom was out back with his tour group and then get on the PA system. “Tom, your fly is down.” “Calling all cars. Calling all cars. Be on the lookout for a tall blond with curly hair.” “Now batting, number 20, Tom Carson.” “Somewhere, over the rainbow…” Sometimes we just played music to annoy him. I really don’t remember exactly what we said but we knew there was nothing Tom could do to stop us. Eventually he’d wander back in with his tour group in tow with a smirk on his face.

That was a big mistake. One of our other favorite things to do on the weekends at the winery was drive the fork lift. We couldn’t normally do this during the week because the winery was operating but, on the weekends, there was nobody around to “supervise” us. We had a fork lift with big cushy tires (called a “Phil-lift”). We used any excuse to drive the thing. One Saturday – I remember this like it was yesterday – we decided it was time to empty the garbage dumpster. We had these mini-dumpsters about six feet by four feet wide and three feet tall. They had little runners under them for the forklift blades to fit into and were on a dumper - I guess you’d call it. That is, it had a lever that you released and the dumper would tip over to empty out the trash. The idea was that you filled up this mini-dumpster and then put it on the fork lift and emptied into a big 15 foot dumpster. So, Tom and I get the fork lift and pick up the little dumpster and cruise around to the very back of the parking lot where the big dumpster was kept. I lift up the forks to raise the mini dumpster above the big one. Tom gets off the fork lift and releases the lever. The thing starts to tip a bit but nothing happens…it won’t empty. Well, I start to play with the levers, tilting the forks back and forth, raising them up and down. Tom’s off to the side “supervising”. “A little more angle. Move forward.” I’d seen the professional fork lift drivers do this. It can’t be that hard. Finally, I angle the forks very down and forward and put the fork lift in reverse and hit the gas. The mini-dumpster proceeds to slide off the forks and BAM, into the big dumpster. “OH SH*T” I say…what am I going to do! Well, I look for Tom. Tom, now fifteen feet behind me and walking away, is laughing his head off uncontrollably. He just keeps walking and laughing. I start laughing. I never laughed so hard in my life. I wasn’t laughing at the dumpster problem. I was laughing at the way Tom was laughing. It was such a completely unrestrained, complete, exhaustive laughter. I think he laughed for five minutes straight.

Well, another thing you need to know about Tom was that he was the consummate engineer. He figured out a way to a) get the little dumpster out of the big dumpster and b) save my job as this would have gotten me in big trouble had anyone found out. We found a piece of cable wire, hooked it to the big dumpster and tipped it on its side using the fork lift. We then drove the fork lift into the big dumpster and pulled out the little dumpster. We then used the forks to right the big dumpster. Problem solved.

Tom devised a variety of other engineering feats at the winery. He was our go-to-guy when we needed something built or designed. He created a way of shooting (via a wire) wine orders through the tasting room on festival days that the winery used for years afterwards. It was brilliant, simple and it worked!

All of these fun and frolics led to the foundation of something we called the “Sunday Night Social Club” (SNSC). Originally this was just Tom, Rob and me and we’d go out to dinner Sunday nights. (I started conning Tom into working the occasional Sunday.) This group later expanded to a larger group of friends and met for many years on most Sundays, typically at my apartment but sometimes at other places. We’d make dinner, drink wine, laugh, celebrate birthdays, holidays, pretty much whatever.

Around this time I met Carole and she joined the SNSC too. Shortly thereafter (Carole and I had just been dating a short while) Tom, Rob and I decided to go on a ski trip to Rob’s brother’s or uncle’s ski house up in the Sierras. We had a great time – the three bachelors, lotsa wine, cigars, etc. But my favorite story from this trip was about Tom’s cooking. Tom seemed to always have an oddball recipe to try. As I recall, it was never an entrée or anything really useful but always something odd that went with essentially nothing. This time, for some reason, it was a bread recipe. We were going to make bread of all things. Well, this was an herbed bread and (we may have had some wine) we started making it. Kneading the dough and then adding the secret ingredient “dill weed”. So, we throw in the dill and keep kneading it and then one of us said something like “so what do we do next with this dill dough?” That resulted in what seemed like hours of laughter. (Probably only about five minutes but a running joke that lasted for years…I had to call Carole (somewhat drunk (me, not her)) and tell her “we’re making dill dough honey!”. And yet, she still married me.

Tom was always there when you needed him. Carole needed to move into a new apartment and Tom and other members of the SNSC all pitched in to help. And, as fate had it, Tom had the only truck so he got the bulk of the work. The worst part was that Carole had this 12 ton hide-a-bed couch that we had to haul down 2 flights of stairs at her old place and up a flight of stairs into her new place. Thanks Tom for your help!

SNSCs came and went. Some great parties. Always lots of laughs and time spent with many a true friend. Tom (and his mom and dad) hosted my 30th birthday party at their place. Tom and I built a wine rack. It took us probably a year or so but we built it. Tom did most of the work. Tom let me store an old 10 speed bicycle in his folks’ garage (above the bomb shelter). We had planned to repair it but both of us knew we never were going to get around to it. I think he finally asked if he could give it away for me to someone who wanted it.

At some point around this time, Tom went to Mexico for a while to learn more Spanish. Then he lived in Reno for a while…I don’t recall why but I think it had something to do with his occupational therapy studies. Carole and I really missed him while he was gone and we looked forward to the occasional letter signed “from Tomas”. From that point on, he became “Tomas”. When we’d talk on the phone I’d ask “Is this Tomas speaking?” and he’d reply “Yes, this is Tomas speaking.” Sounds stupid but it was endearing.

I remember Tom lived in an apartment over near San Jose State for a while. It was around the corner from a really good, authentic Mexican restaurant. Nothing terribly fancy but we were all pretty poor then…we just didn’t know it. Then he moved into a place in Palo Alto - sort of a servants’ quarters or something. It had this massive living room…just huge…oak paneled or something. And it had the smallest kitchen I have ever seen. The SS Minnow’s kitchen must have been bigger. Heck, my current refrigerator is bigger. But it was a nice place as long as you didn’t have something complicated to cook.

Around that time Carole and I got married. The entire SNSC was there but Tom was the best dancer of the lot. We didn’t know Tom could dance. There were always so many things about Tom you didn’t know that you wondered if he did brain surgery too and just never mentioned it. I think it was one of the few times that Tom wore a tie.

Well, as time marched on, Tom continued to play a part in what was now our married life. Carole and I lived in a townhouse. Tom, no doubt, helped us move our stuff in. A few months after we got married we got a little puppy named Murphy – our practice child. Carole and I needed to go away for a weekend and needed a puppy sitter for Murphy. Tom and Murphy had always gotten along famously whenever he visited…he was a natural with pets. And, bless his heart, Tom agreed to puppysit Murphy for the weekend. We trusted Tom with our “baby”. So, off we went on our trip.

We got back and Tom told us that he and Murphy had the best time. Murphy went on a road trip with Tom to Tom’s parents’ house (as I recall) and some other errands. I can picture Murphy riding shotgun in Tom’s (then new) red Honda Civic. Murphy slept on the bed with Tom. They became best buds. To the day that Murphy lost her hearing (about 15 or 16 years later), all we had to do was say “Tom’s coming” or “where’s Tom?” and she would start running around in circles and barking. She knew who Tom was…well, she knew the meaning of the word “Tom” and that was “fun and friendship”. She always loved it when he came over to visit. He was her best friend. And Tom always loved her and scratched her belly.

What was nice about having Tom over for dinner was that you didn’t have to do anything…at least not anything fancy. You could be in your bathrobe and it wouldn’t faze him one bit. Of course, within two minutes of Tom’s arrival, after hugs were exchanged, we had opened a bottle of wine. (Tom always brought a bottle of wine…typically something odd he’d found someplace, occasionally something out of the bomb shelter…usually it was tasty.) So, we’d be standing around chatting and laughing and gesturing and having a great time. One time Tom pulled off a bit of a miracle, or at least a magic trick. He was standing in the kitchen emoting about something while holding a glass of wine. Well, he gestured a bit too hard and some of the wine splashed out of his glass and up into the air. Without missing a beat, Tom puts his hand in the air and catches the wine in his palm. He then wiped his hand on his leg and just kept on talking. Carole about fell on the floor laughing. I don’t think she was laughing so much because Tom was able to catch the wine in his hand but more because he never missed a beat, like it was as normal as breathing. He probably even looked at her with that quizzical expression of his and said “what?” like “what did I do?”

The other thing we found about having Tom over for dinner was that his timing was always impeccable. By this time, we had been living in our new house for a few years and had saved enough money to start fixing it up a bit. Well, Tom was “Mr. Handy” and it seemed that there was always something that I needed help with as I was “Mr. UnHandy.” At one point I think Tom may have started bringing his toolbox along…or maybe he always kept it in his car. He’d help hang pictures or fix a leak…whatever you needed fixed, Tom could fix it. Anyway, one night Tom comes over and we open the bottle of wine and sit down in our living room and started talking about window coverings. The window in our living room had been covered by an outdoor blind…one of those things you might use to cover a patio to keep the sun out. Carole said that she’d ordered a new shade for the window but it hadn’t arrived yet. Ding dong goes the doorbell. We open the door. It’s FedEx delivering the blind. This is something like seven at night. Since when does FedEx deliver anything at 7pm? Well, we got curious as to what it would look like and, sure enough, out come the tools – Tom got the measuring tape out and figured the center point and how it needed to be installed and sure enough, before dinner, we had a new window shade installed.

Tom also helped build the playhouse in the backyard for the kids. This was designed by another member of the SNSC named Andy and, over the course of several months, we built it – from scratch – from the ground up. We got lots of compliments on it and it still stands to this day, about 13 years later. We did quality work!

As we added our two kids to our family we got caught up in family things and work (I traveled a lot) so we didn’t see Tom as often as we used to…maybe 4-5 times a year. But Tom was always a welcomed guest and truly a member of our family.

There were a lot of fun things we did as we grew into our new house. BBQs, Christmas and the holidays. You never knew exactly what Tom was going to do!

As I reflect back on all these memories, I laugh (a lot), cry sometimes and then laugh some more. I smile a lot. It’s not often you have the chance to know a friend whom you can feel so free with to just have fun and be yourself. Tom was unassuming, humble, authentic, silly, sincere and, well, unique. I believe Tom knew we loved him. Always will.

Dedicated to the memory of my great friend Tom “Tomas” Carson.

Kevin Payne
February 2009

PS: I have a version of this with photos that go along with the story. If you'd like me to email you a copy, write me at
Kevin Payne (Friend)
March 6th, 2009
I've known Tom since before he was born. Our mothers were friends in high school & college, I'm 6 wks. older than Tom. We grew up together, sometimes in the same house. We're as close to "brothers" as we can have. We used to antagonize Ann to no end, just for fun. But I also remember us all getting a bath together in the tub at the cabin in Capitola (even though it wasn't the '60s... yet...,it was California, after all). We went to 8th grade together. Tom & I lived the summer of '72 in the Santa Cruz mts., working for the guy who owned the land on which we were camping. I think it was during that time that we went shopping at the mall for a pair of pants for Tom. We walked past a rack of bright plaid, extra-wide bell-bottom pants with extra-wide cuffs, & I suggested he might want to get a pair. With complete deadpan, matter-of-fact seriousness, Tom replied, "Nah, I don't smoke." I had to think about that for a second, then burst out with a guffaw that turned heads! I smoked, & if there were no ashtrays, I'd flick the ashes into the cuffs of my chinos or blue jeans, if I was in a place where it was worse etiquette to flick 'em on the floor. Tom had keyed into those 3" cuffs immediately! His neice, Shauna, is spot-on the mark when she says Tom had "the most witty, intellegent sense of humor". He came to OR to spend the summer of '79 with me, & built a banjo while he was there; when he returned to CA, he gave me the banjo. I still have it. I haven't spent much time with Tom in the last 30 yrs., but in the 30 yrs. before that, we became brothers for life. I always thought we'd spend some time in codgerhood together, telling jokes & swapping stories. Now, in the words of Dylan, he'll always be... Forever Young.
Greg Killingsworth (pseudo-sibling)
February 26th, 2009
Tom was my pseudo-sibling, my soul brother. I feel like my soul has been amputated on! Tom's sense of humor influenced me, in the way I look at life, in a huge way; may that influence live on in my daughter, in his neice & nephew, & in their children & their children's children to the 10th generation.
Greg Killingsworth (pseudo-sibling)
February 26th, 2009
My uncle Tom had the most witty, intelligent sense of humor. I remember so many family dinners where he had us laughing hysterically. He used to torture me at Easter with his egg hiding. I would be down to just one or two eggs left to find and those would be the TOM-eggs. It could take me well into the evening to find those eggs. One time he hid one in a hollowed out lemon ON THE LEMON TREE. One Christmas, while I was in college, he gave me some deer hunter soap with a picture of a deer on it, touting that it "Attracts Bucks". This was apparently his attempt at helping me find a man. Apparently it worked. I just am going to miss him so much at our family dinners.
Shauna Buck (Family)
February 24th, 2009
I have known Tom for 8 years as a co-worker from Stanford Hospital. His caring and laid back nature were his distinguishing traits. No matter how difficult my day or how stressed i would become, Tom would always make me see the humor in the situation. I always knew that if he joined us for lunch, the topics would never remain too heavy (something very needed with a bunch of PTs/OTs and Speech Therapists hanging around together). I admired his sense of humor, ability to find peace in any situation and of course his beautiful smile. I hope to carry a bit of Tom in every patient i see. I will miss you very much Tom.
Nicole Jensen PT
Nicole Jensen (co-worker)
February 20th, 2009
I will always remember Tom for his quiet wit and his compassionate soul. I will always admire his great love for his mom, Jean, his sister, Ann and brother-in-law, David, and his love for his Caroline and all the dogs that were around him - Django, Bijou, Tallula, Bella and others. My heartfelt love for his family is greater than ever and my wish is for strength to carry you all through this loss. He will be so missed.

Linda Watkins (Neighbor and Frien)
February 19th, 2009
We are all devastated at losing Tom.
Tom was a listener. He was just there in his quiet way to be available to one and all. To say he will be missed is an understatement. We are grateful for having had him in our lives, as a part of our extended family, to be remembered always. My prayer is for you to have strength to carry you through these very difficult days, and for your memories to comfort you as time goes along. He was the best.
Phyllis Weber (Weber family)
February 19th, 2009
I will miss Tom's kind and gentle nature...his smile and keen sense of humor. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. I send love. David Jr.
David Crowther (Family)
February 19th, 2009
Our sincere condolences for your loss. We're here for you if you have any questions about using our service.
iLasting Staff
February 13th, 2009
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"Tom always made me laugh."
Gordon Hurst
February 27th, 2009
"My heart is with Tom's family and loved ones. Sending lots of love."
Dara Wolochow
February 20th, 2009
"Thank you for sharing Tom with us - even though I never met him, I feel like I knew him through you."
Renee Barnes
February 17th, 2009


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