Thomas Victor Pence, age 74, passed away February 15, 2023, in Longview, Washington, of heart failure. He was born on June 22, 1948, in Manhattan, Kansas, to Royce Owen Pence, Jr. and Shirley Jane Pence. He graduated from Minnetonka High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota, in 1966. He received his BA degree (1970) and his MD degree (1973) from the University of Minnesota. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine (1977) and his fellowship in Nephrology (1979) at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
After practicing in Tucson, Arizona, for five years he returned to Hennepin County Medical Center. He cared for patients and taught physician residents and fellows in training. During this time he set up and then traveled to serve patients at dialysis units on several Native American reservations in the upper Midwest, including Pine Ridge and Rosebud in South Dakota and Red Lake Nation in Minnesota. Several times monthly he worked all day at the county hospital in Minneapolis and then drove all night to see patients the next morning in South Dakota. It was work dear to his heart. As part of his Hennepin County job, he was also the administrator and physician for several dialysis units in communities throughout Minnesota. He loved teaching his patients as much as the doctors in training. After the earthquake in Armenia in 1988 he solicited donations then set up a dialysis unit in Yerevan to treat survivors.
His working life was one of service. He typically worked 80 plus hour weeks in spite of a heart attack and triple bypass surgery at age 41, as well as significant health challenges over the years.
Tom had fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest during a family trip to the Seattle World’s Fair. His parents moved to Seattle while he was in college. He always wanted to live in Washington so he moved to Longview in 1999 to join PeaceHealth. He believed in their mission to treat “all people in the community in a loving and caring way.” He practiced Internal Medicine, Nephrology and Critical Care. He retired at age 59. Tom strongly felt that universal healthcare was a basic human right.
Tom married his wife Jane (nee Finnerty) in 1970. They have one son, Benton, born in 1976. Tom was immensely proud of his son, daughter-in-law Alison and his three grandsons, Aaron, Elliot, and Wyatt. Boy Scouts was an important part of Tom’s life. He was an Eagle Scout and a Scoutmaster for Ben’s troop. They camped year-round, even in sub-zero Minnesota winters. One of Tom’s life highlights was presenting his son Ben his Eagle award. Unfortunately, Tom died the week before a scheduled journey to participate in his grandson Aaron’s Eagle award ceremony.
Tom was deeply passionate about many topics, with history and geology foremost among them. He started collecting fossils and rocks as a young boy in South Dakota, a hobby he continued for a lifetime.
His memory was legendary. As a friend remarked, “you don’t need Wikipedia when Tom is around.” His wife did need to remind him at times that his memory wasn’t infallible.
Tom felt blessed to live as long as he did. He and Jane traveled to some fifty countries. He had an insatiable thirst for knowledge about the world. He found great joy documenting his adventures with photography.
Even though COVID lockdown and increasing health problems limited his quests, he continued to seek knowledge. He spent his days reading and listening to music on his 20,000-piece playlist, with his devoted Havanese pup Che by his side. He spent his nights drinking Canadian and streaming a bazillion favorite shows.
(Dear God, could you please take his 3,000 volume library and his one ton of rocks along with his soul? His daughter-in-law Alison would be particularly grateful.)
Tom often apologized to his wife for being “high maintenance,” but to her it was an honor to share a lifetime of love with him. He worked so very hard in part because he never felt good enough, even though he was loved by many. Tom’s kind, struggling heart is now at rest. “May his memory be a blessing.”
Tom was pre-deceased by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Jane, of 52 years, his son, Benton Pence (Alison) and his grandsons Aaron, Elliot, and Wyatt of Edina, Minnesota, his beloved sister, Mary Ann Egbert (Hal) of Eagle River, Alaska, his sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Lori and Marc Basanez of Boca Raton, Florida, and several nieces and nephews. The love of his nephews, Hunter Thomson (Amy) and Blake Thomson has been a true gift in recent years.
The library was both a refuge and an inspiration for Tom. If you wish, make a donation to the Longview Library Foundation (Longview Public Library, 1600 Louisiana Street, Longview, WA 98632), another suggestion is the Peacehealth St. John’s Foundation, (1615 Delaware St., Longview, WA 98632). At the time of his passing, he was serving their board.
A third suggestion: designate yourself as a donor on your driver’s license. Even Tom’s battered body yielded precious parts for patients in need.
A celebration of life is being considered for later this summer. Arrangements are by Steele Chapel.