Thomas W. Needham (Tom) went to be with his Lord and Savior on July 13, 2017, after a short but valiant war against Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia. A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, July 29th at 2:30 p.m. Deer Flat Free Methodist Church, Caldwell, under the direction of Dakan Funeral Chapel, Caldwell. Condolences may be shared at www.dakanfuneralchapel.com.
Tom was born to Margaret Josephine Foote Needham and Harold Berry Needham on May 30, 1940 in Stockton, California. He grew up in Antioch and Linden California. He received his formal education at General Motors Training School and Universities of California.
Tom was a Mechanic, pilot, Captain of the Linden Volunteer Fire Department and EMTs; managed the first cross bred cow herd with UC Davis Extension Service; ran a 10,000 -18,000 head private, then commercial feedlot, and farmed 3-400 acres. He developed a special fuel injected racing engine that would be used in dragsters for years. Tom built his own super modified race car, competed at Fire Bird, and continued building racing engines no matter what else he did. He also started, Master Repair, a business in his own shop. He put a Chevy engine in his ’27 T Bucket and went to the drag races. He also put a Chevy engine in Tommy’s ’49 Ford truck and they both raced it.
Tom was a natural and accomplished Master Mechanic. He loved to fly and was the only pilot his wife, Sharon, would fly with in little planes. He was constantly listening to the engine so she felt safe. When Tom was 18, he joined the Linden Volunteer Fire Department and eventually earned his Gold Badge as Captain of the Volunteers and EMT’s. He joined Valley Lodge #135 and became a 32?, Scottish Rite Mason.
He met Sharon on a dare, they stayed best friends for life, proving that opposites do attract. She never asked him to do anything he didn’t want to do, so folks didn’t see them out too often. Tom loved his home, his business and his family.
Tom was California All Stars Football Player, had scholarship offers from many universities including Stanford and USC. Scholarships then didn’t involve all college expenses but Tom knew he could make money as a mechanic then go to school so he chose that route. In 1962 UOP offered him a scholarship to finish his senior then super senior years, to play football, but scholarship money didn’t start until fall and they needed him for spring semester. Finances didn’t allow this.
When Tom’s High School coach retired from coaching at Stanford, Tom and Sharon went to the dinner. Coach Phillips said a few things, then explained the best football player he ever coached was Tom Needham, and would Tom please stand. Sharon knew he was good but Tom was so humble, he never told her exactly what had gone on before she met him. This humility defined him.
Sharon’s father and uncle, Howard and Wes Kent, wanted to start the first cross breeding cattle program with UC Davis Extension Service but didn’t have anyone to take care of 500 mother cows and calves over 6 sections of land, keep detailed records, and farm 400 acres of rose clover. Howard made a deal with Tom to stop working in a local garage and work for him and Wes. First Tom had to switch his major from engineering to Animal Husbandry and Agriculture. This was easy for a farm boy. He attended UOP and UC Turlock to finish his studies as he worked. As calves were born, each calf had to be tagged at birth for the research records no matter what time of day or night. Managing 3,200 acres of cows and calves was a one man, one horse, one dog, one jeep operation under Tom. It was fun to see him run with a rope to lasso a calf that had dried out, stood up and gotten away before Tom reached it-they run like little deer soon after they’re born. Tom was a leftie roper and could also run very fast. This all epitomized Tom’s work ethic. He was, at this time, still saving lives as an EMT and fighting fires.
In 1969, Howard bought land outside of Caldwell, Idaho, and the family moved from the Northern California ranch to Idaho. Howard had the land leveled. Then with Tom’s help built/engineered a feedlot/farm that was visited by folks from all over the world including Soviet Satellite countries, France, Germany, Brazil and Argentina. Everything on it was perfectly engineered. Everyone that saw it, that understood the business, appreciated this.
When the Farm Feedlot was sold Tom went back to being a Mechanic. However, he owned the title of ‘lowest death loss in USA’ for that size feedlot until 15 years after he quit feeding. In the last few years, when he was supposed to be semi-retired, he got up at 4 every morning, went to work at 5:00; worked on buses then drove special needs kids to school and home again. The children loved him, felt safe and knew he loved them back. Tom also grew grass hay.
Tom lived the Golden Rule. His dear family and friends remember him as quiet, kind, generous, brilliant, humble, helpful, and a Great Listener. Everyone that asked for help or professional advice got it…!
The lights of Tom’s life were his son, Tommy (Tom H.) and grandson Jake. Tom followed Tommy’s every move as a top Idaho Athlete and then as top Salesman for Larry Miller Group, USA. Tom and Tommy were great friends as only a father and son can be. The best present Tom ever received was the Harley Tommy gave him for Christmas a few years ago. They shared a love for rare classic cars, pickups and motorcycles.
Tom also loved watching Jake grow up and coached his little league football team at Greenleaf Friends Academy, years ago. He and Jake were extremely close-same quiet personality, and sense of humor. Tom was so pleased to follow him as a dedicated, disciplined, power lifter, NASM Trainer and a USAPL Champion. As a youngster Jake studied Kenpo Karate with Mike Winchester, American Karate, so Tom took the nunchaku course and loved it. Like everything else he tried, he was really good with the nunchakus.
Tommy was his dad’s caregiver at the end of life and was grateful for the opportunity. Jake and Sharon helped also with Tom’s transition. We kept him home with us.
Tom leaves his wife Sharon, their son, Tom H. and Natalie, his wife. His much loved grandchildren, Jake, Katie and Charlie, who will miss him very much. His older sister, Laura Ridge passed years ago but his adored younger sister, Donna Westing Masters, husband Joe and their daughters live on to remember him.
If you wish to donate in his honor we suggest: St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Shriner's Children's Hospital, or MSTY.
Cancer is a cunning thief. It steals ones health, well being, life’s work and dignity; but the Lord Restores all at Passing as his Child goes to Live with Him in his Eternal Home.
Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, Rage, Rage, against the Dying of the Light.
Tom fought the good fight; he finished his course; he kept his Faith.
God speed dear Loved One, enjoy Heaven until we meet again.