Fraser resident remembered for activism, humanity
Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “the only certain happiness in life is to live for others.”
One can observe the truth of that statement in those rare people who inspire us with their devotion to improving the world while warming our hearts with their affability.
Thomas “Tom” Waldow was one such person.
A former bouncer, trucker, roofer, activist and devoted family man, Waldow touched many lives in his native Wisconsin and Colorado, as well as countless others farther afield.
Waldow died on April 7, 2014.
This month, friends, family and colleagues gathered at the Old Historic Church in Fraser to dedicate a tree to Waldow’s memory.
The tree is a humble reminder of Waldow’s huge contributions to sustainability efforts in Grand County, but his life had an impact felt far beyond the ridgeline of the Continental Divide.
Born in Milwaukee in 1946, Waldow learned to value civil disobedience at a young age.
Eileen Waldow, his wife and Fraser town trustee, recalled that Waldow started reading the New Yorker in grade school, falling in love with it after getting sent to the school library for misbehaving.
“He would get in trouble and get sent to the library, which was apparently a punishment, but he looked forward to it,” Eileen said.
It was a love affair that he would pass down to his children.
“One of my daughters said, ‘a lot of my friends were raised by the Bible, but I was raised by the New Yorker,’” Eileen said.
The New Yorker’s more serious, socially conscious side seemed to make an impression on Waldow.
As a young activist in Milwaukee, Waldow fought for change on a number of fronts, from local social issues like open housing to national issues like women’s rights.
In the late 1970s, he participated in 300 straight nights of marching against housing discrimination against African-Americans in Milwaukee, and “probably got arrested 10 percent of those nights,” Eileen said.
He was also an avid anti-war activist and championed the Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1968, Waldow and Eileen met while working on Thomas Jacobson’s campaign for attorney general.
Eileen recalled her first impression of Waldow as “big, gentle and philosophical.”
As their daughter Christina Prothero said in Waldow’s eulogy, “his heart was as big as his hands.”
The two married in 1971, moving to Fort Collins in 1973 where Waldow worked on earning a degree in social work from Colorado State University.
While there, Waldow again took up the cause of open housing and antidiscrimination, this time with Eileen.
Eventually, they settled down in Fraser.
Waldow was a lifelong environmentalist, even helping Sen. Gaylord Nelson organize the very first Earth Day.
His passion for environmental stewardship left an indelible mark on Grand County. In 2009, Waldow helped found Infinite West, which promotes a number of environmental initiatives across Grand County.
Timothy Hodsdon came up with the idea for Infinite West. He first met Waldow in 2009.
It was Waldow who taught Hodsdon the meaning of being “part of a community, as opposed to just living in one.
“He was compassionate and dedicated to making the world a better place for future generations,” Hodsdon wrote. “To him that meant preserving and conserving our natural world for our grandchildren and beyond. He saw great beauty in people’s unique and individual contributions to the world.”
In Grand County, Waldow helped start the Ace Hardware recycling program and advocated for the use of beetle-kill pine.
He promoted biodiesel, which is used in the trucks at Waldow & Daughter Trucking.
Outside of the county, he and Eileen advocated for single-payer health care and home-school reform in Colorado.
Notwithstanding his activism on the behalf of millions of people, Waldow was completely devoted to his family.
“What I remember of Tom was he really loved his grandkids,” said Thomas Harris, president of Infinite West. “He was always playing with them, and he was a witty, sharp fella, but he always had a big, big smile”
Friend Sam Brewer of Fraser called Waldow, “a man who made an impression on you.
“His generosity in the Fraser area is legendary,” Brewer added. “He was always willing to help people and went out of his way to make life better for people and make Fraser a better place.”
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