Thomas Andrew Claus was born at home in New Hyde Park, NY, on March 7, 1923. His parents Joseph Jacob Claus and Agatha Kollmer Claus had eight surviving children. Sister Elizabeth died at the age of five from “dropsy.” The other siblings in birth order were: Agatha (Mutzie), Joseph (Sonny), Andrew, Thomas, Charles, Theresa, Raymond and George. Tom was the last surviving sibling and passed away at home on April 15, 2015. His mother Agatha lived to 101. Tom outlived his siblings by reaching age 94,
Growing up, his close knit family called him Thomas. Most of us called him Tom or Tommy. Some of his nicknames are not appropriate to share here, but good natured as he was, he enjoyed being mercilessly teased throughout his life.
As a child the Claus clan attended parochial school. It was taught in German. This February he mentioned that school started at age 8 back then. This caused him to graduate later than his peers. This information was new and has not been verified.
The family was poor growing up during the Depression. Tom decided he could help out by working and living on his Uncle George Kollmer’s farm in summer. His love of farm life and organic grown food started at age 13 on the farm in Dix Hills, NY. He fell in love with horses. Tom herded cows and worked the fields on horseback until he was 20 years old. Later in life at age 75 he went to Dude Ranches in AZ and herded cattle in tough terrain.
During the start of WWII, Tom’s two older brothers Joseph and Andrew volunteered to serve when America went to war. Tom stayed at home to help the family. He was drafted into the Army at age 20. He chose the Cavalry, falsely believing he would be on horseback! After a very long training in the United States in New Jersey, Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana, he learned that the Cavalry was a bit different than his fantasy. He was assigned to the 8th Armored Division and trained to operate tanks.
Sent to Europe on a troop ship, Tom’s fear of the water was pronounced. He could not swim and was frightened the entire time. Near England the ship broke down and needed assistance to make it to shore. He stated that the cliffs of Dover were, “dirty.”
Tom fought valiantly in the Battle of the Bulge. He was at Dachau three days after its liberation. He witnessed horrendous, inhuman and horrific things.
Tom was discharged in 1946. Like most WWII Vets he was eager to find a girl and get married. He met the love of his life Irene Louise DeVoe in a Sweet Shop in their home town of New Hyde Park. They were married in the Rectory at his Catholic Church on November 16, 1947. A reception followed with German frivolity at the New Hyde Park Inn.
Tom’s siblings were very prolific and had many children by the time Tom wed Irene. Due to ovarian cancer, Irene could not have children and they adopted their daughter Cindy in October, 1956.
Tom got a job as a Lineman at LILCO, the electric utility company in Hicksville, NY. They bought a home and lived comfortably until Tom retired after 38 years on the job. He had started as a Lineman. Due to heart issues, he moved inside and became a Dispatcher and Shop Steward for the union. Whenever Long Island had severe weather or hurricanes it was not uncommon for him to work 16 hour shifts for two weeks straight.
After retiring, Tom and Irene chose to pack up and move to San Diego, CA, to be near their daughter Cindy and her husband George. In 1987 Cindy found them a home in Poway, CA. Tom did not want to see it so Irene flew to CA and purchased it. When they arrived on September 16, 1987, Tom had his gun shooting ear mufflers on. He said that was the only way he could drive 3,000 miles with his “bride.” He was thrilled with the house and property.
In Poway Tom made many friends. He and his son-in-law George built a beautiful 30’ span redwood bridge across the creek out back, on the half acre. They laid sod, planted trees, shrubs, and a lovely English garden. His vegetable garden was outstanding.
Tom and Irene learned they could not be retired together. At age 60 Irene went back to work. She found Tom volunteer work. He loved being a volunteer California Park Ranger. He became immersed in refurbishing a 19th century San Francisco trolley car at the Train Barn in Old Poway Park. To drive the steam engine train in the park, Tom had to learn to drive a train and drove to Los Angeles; a dream come true!
Tom won an award as did Irene for their volunteer time at the Train Barn. Tom had dedicated over 5,000 hours to the cause of restoration. His favorite time was spent driving the train with the attached coal cars. Children came in flocks from local schools to enjoy the free ride.
Tom and Irene were married 50 years. He lost his beloved wife to a fourth round of cancer on September 16, 1997. It was ten years to the day they arrived in California.
Deeply grieving, Tom met Cathy Glenn in a Grief Support Church circa 2001. They wed in 2005. He became a family man again, deeply dedicated to Cathy’s clan. In February he told me he was very happy with Cathy. He had been having nightmares about the atrocities in WWII and Irene was visiting in his dreams. He knew his time was short and after the loss of his last sibling, Raymond, he stated that he was lonely all the time.
Luckily Tom died at home and hopefully did not suffer. He is now in heaven united with everyone he loved and those who loved him. He is no longer blind! And no longer weak, frail, and in pain. If he can get his brothers Raymond and Charles on horseback with him, they are all riding off into beautiful sunsets.
Thomas Andrew Claus, a man of faith, a loving father and husband; may he finally rest in peace.