Thomas John Nimlos, 89, of Missoula, passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, at the Village Healthcare Center, of natural causes.
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Tom was born on October 31, 1929, in Milwaukee, WI, to Johnson and Blanch Nimlos. Tom grew up in the Milwaukee area and after serving in the U.S. Army in the Korean War, he attended the University of Wisconsin earning a BS and MS in Soil Science and a PhD in Soils and Chemistry. It was at UW that Tom met the love of his life, Carlene Sauer. Tom was fascinated by Carlene’s father’s dairy farm and loved to spend time there. The two were married on Dec. 18, 1954, while still students, and later became parents to three sons.
After graduation, the family moved to Ogden, UT, where Tom worked for the U.S. Forest Service for a short period. But in 1961, Tom’s true calling came when he was offered a position at the University of Montana Forestry School as the Soils professor. Tom was beloved by his students who thought fondly of him as “Dr. Dirt” and he was famous for his old black bicycle with his name painted on the fender that he rode to school every day. He had a special place in his heart for his graduate students and tried to help them by giving them wild meat and his homemade wine. He taught in the Forestry School until his retirement in 1993.
Tom and family lived across the street from Bonner Park, and Tom became Dad for many of the “Bonner Boys”. He loved taking his sons and their friends out to the woods to go camping, fishing and hunting or just to build a camp fire and learn about nature.
Tom traveled extensively during his lifetime as he loved meeting people from different cultures and learning about their world. In 1971, the whole family signed up as Peace Corps volunteers and spent two years in Columbia and Chile where Tom worked with farmers to help them improve soil conditions. Tom later did educational work at the University of Mexico and University of Guadalajara. In 1991, Tom was named a Faculty Fulbright Scholar for his work in Mexico.
After retirement, Tom and Carlene traveled extensively including trips to India, Turkey, China, Egypt, Germany and the Netherlands. They also took their sons and families on several vacations to Mexico, Hawaii and Belize. Tom and Carlene spent winters in Tucson, AZ, and belonged to an RV group from Missoula that took many trips together during the summer.
Tom read extensively, especially about WWII, was an avid bird watcher and enjoyed hunting with his sons, genealogy research, gardening and hiking. He loved spending time with his grandchildren, especially at the cherished family cabin at Big Sky Lake. He truly played with his grandchildren at whatever game they chose, whether it was beating the bad guys out of the bushes in the “magical forest”, letting them paint his toenails, or taking a bike ride to Dairy Queen.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, sister Naomi, and brother John. Survivors include his wife, Carlene, Missoula; sons Peter, Missoula, Mark (Sheila), Golden, CO, and Michael (Tracey), Missoula; grandchildren Claire, Danika, Jake (Kari) and Nicole; and great-grandchildren Kaitlyn, Giselle, and his namesake Thomas.
A Celebration of Life will be held on July 14, 2019, at 11 am at Lubrecht Experimental Forest. Memories of Tom may be posted at www.gardencityfh.com. The family is requesting donations in lieu of flowers be made to the University of Montana Foundation in memory of Tom Nimlos or the Missoula Food Bank. In addition, the family would like to thank the staff at Village Healthcare for the caring and support they gave to Tom during his last year of life.