Thomas Bezdeka died Feb. 28, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz.
He was born at home on a dirt road in downtown Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 11, 1923. Tom was a devoted son and only child of a Hungarian immigrant father and a second-generation German-American mother. He spent his early years on his parents’ upper Mojave Desert homestead in Phelan, Calif., living a largely self-sufficient lifestyle. Eight-year-old Tommy threw a fit when he came home from the one-room schoolhouse to find that a then rare-to-see plane had landed on their back 40 and his mother didn’t make the pilot wait to take off until he was back home to see it.
After he moved back to L.A., his close knit peer group in high school was racially inclusive and was characteristic of his lifelong appreciation of diversity. Tom left college to serve in World War II, joining the Merchant Marine and circumnavigated the globe twice supplying armaments. After the war, he married Phyllis Jacobsen, the mother of his three sons. Phyllis was the youngest of 11 and Tom was an only child—he was embraced by her large family throughout his life.
He was a loving and actively involved father, introducing his family to camping and the outdoors, especially his beloved Yosemite, where the family spent many summers. He and Phyllis were competitive amateur roller skate dancers. Socially conscientious, together they worked to help the Coalition for Fair Housing overturn the notoriously unfair restrictions of home sales to African-Americans in 1960s Torrance, Calif. Tom went on to be one of the core working members in the early formation of the Torrance YMCA.
He lost Phyllis to cancer after 25 years of marriage. He remarried a few years later and moved to Ketchum in 1977 with Minnie Doke, becoming a stepfather to her young son and her three adult children. He lost Minnie to cancer as well, and after grieving losing his second spouse, he married Carol Miley and spent 34 wonderful years together with her, camping around the West. Tom would tell everyone that Carol was his “miracle.”
Tom loved getting out with his “hiking buddies,’’ daughter-in-law Jane Rosen Miley and his dear friend and sister-in-law, Glenna Doke, and skate skiing with them as well. Tom stayed active, rollerblading the bike path into his late 80s and trying standup paddling on Perkins Lake at age 89. Perpetually warm and open to friends and family alike, he would easily strike up conversations with strangers.
Tom is survived by his wife, Carol; sons, Steve Bezdeka of Hailey, Ken Bezdeka of Shoshone and Jeff Bezdeka of Valley Center, Calif.; Minnie’s four children, Elaine, Rick, Diana and Joe; Carol’s sons, Scott, Steven and George Miley; and his many grandchildren.
His happy presence, ready smile and loving nature will be missed. A celebration of his life will be held sometime this summer. Donations in his name can be made to the Sun Club, Box 1982, Ketchum, ID 83340.