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You could easily spot Tommy at an Allen family event—he’d be the one holding a baby, grilling brats and burgers, or doing both. As the sixth of eleven children, Tommy had a lot of practice wrangling little kids. He was both protector and protagonist for his sisters Rita, Mary, Kathy, Barbara, and Jean, chasing off bullies and boyfriends with equal enthusiasm.
He admired his older brothers Jim, Dick, and Steve. He was older brother and mentor to Norm, advisor and secret-keeper for his nephews and nieces and life-long best friend to his brother Bob.
Tommy could easily have been Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World. He was handsome, he sailed a yacht through the Panama Canal, earned a degree from Evergreen State College, picked berries and beans in the fields with his brothers and sisters, worked on crab and salmon boats in the Gulf of Alaska, logged forests in Whatcom County, started an East-Indian import business, tended bar at Shenanigan’s in San Diego and managed Chaps’ in Stockton, was a broker for Frasier Yachts selling 80-120 foot boats to the rich and famous in California, Washington State, and Europe, held a 1,600-ton Master Oceans license from the U.S. Coast Guard, captained charter boats through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Gulf of Mexico, manned booths in boat shows from Los Angeles to Monaco, and was proprietor/grease monkey at the Green Light Garage on Bainbridge Island with Ali, Nick, and Baxter.
He rebuilt a burned-out catamaran in Port Townsend, played team basketball at Lompoc and matched jump shots with the young guns in his backyard, coached Little League baseball, could play a mean game of Hold ‘em or Chutes N Ladders, climbed mountains in Kuala Lampur, knew how to operate a road grader, loved Stan Getz’s saxophone, could bake a birthday cake, drove a ‘32 Ford on the 1960s Bellingham drag-race circuit, constructed a boat-shaped treehouse for his boys, bought his dad a twenty-foot bass boat, planted dahlias with Ali, cooked regularly for his family, washed and folded the laundry, helped Bob hand-build a quilt rack for Marla, built a 2,000 square foot shop behind his house, logged his acreage on Bainbridge, turning the trees into lumber at a local mill, drying the planks for two years in his garage, and bossing his family every weekend until beautiful hardwood floors were installed throughout the house.
Tommy kissed his first girl at nine, bought his first car at fifteen, joined the Navy Reserve at sixteen, married his first wife at twenty, served in Viet Nam at twenty-one, found his best and final wife, Ali, at forty, became the proud father of Nick and Baxter at fifty, met his beautiful daughter, Inger, at fifty-seven, bought a run-down garage at sixty-five, turned a profit on that run-down garage at sixty-eight, and sold his last million-dollar yacht at seventy. Tommy functioned as the family banker, employer, confessor, and confidant. He charmed the woman, impressed the men, played with the kids, changed the babies, patted the dogs, ignored the cats, disobeyed the rules, and told everyone the best stories.
Tommy protected those who were younger and smaller, sometimes to their dismay. He and Bob were once driving down the streets in Bellingham when they saw a young woman being dragged out of her car and slapped around by her male partner. Tom pulled the car over, got out, grabbed the male assailant by his shirt, and bounced him up and down on the sidewalk a few times. “There! How do you like being slapped around by someone twice your size?” The young woman leapt on Tommy, shrieking, “Leave him alone! I love him, I love him!”
Family was all-important to Tommy. Ali was the love of his life, Tommy thought she was beautiful, spunky, courageous, and smart. He was proud of her career as a nurse, the way she embraced motherhood, her nightly 45-minute jog on the treadmill, her delicious muffins, cookies, and bread—especially the bread. He dearly loved his boys, Nick and Bax, and taught them how to fly fish, shingle a roof, fix a carburetor, make a grilled cheese sandwich, set a pick, swear, row a boat, be polite, respect their mother, and work hard.
Over the years we weave a tapestry consisting of threads from friends, family, pets, work buddies, and loved ones. Some patches are colorful; other patches more subdued. Tommy’s portion was big, bold, and bright. He will leave a huge hole in the fabric of our lives.