- December 20, 1940 - August 4, 2012
- Davenport, Iowa
of Thomas' Passing
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Memories & CandlesPrevious
“I just learned of Tom's passing today. Tom was SUCH a great friend to my family when I taught at Wolcott. My husband was going through Palmer and he ...Read More »
1 of 20 | Posted by: Lisa Soapes - Albuquerque, NM
“I was saddened to hear of Tom's death, we were high school classmates. We were reacquainted at a high school reunion after several decades and kept...Read More »
2 of 20 | Posted by: Roberta Dever - Bryant, IA
“Like so many others, I was a student of Mr.Wolfe. He was one of the greatest teachers I've ever had. He was excited about lessons and people like I...Read More »
3 of 20 | Posted by: Emily Stohlmeyer - Cedar Rapids, IA
“Thank You Mr. Wolfe for the great memories and all that you brought to the class room. You were one of the reasons that one of my degrees is in...Read More »
4 of 20 | Posted by: Barbara Boettcher-Schroeder - FL
“I was in "Mr. Wolfe's" 1st class he taught at Blue Grass. He was a great teacher right from the beginning! Here I am 62 years old and still...Read More »
5 of 20 | Posted by: Karen (Kuhrt) Lambert - Davenport, IA
“Tom was one of the most good-natured men I have had the pleasure of knowing. I can't think of a time where I wasn't laughing within the first 5...Read More »
6 of 20 | Posted by: Dave O'Connor - Des Moines, IA
“Tom and I attended all 12 grades at Delmar School, graduating from Delmar High School in 1958. Some of our classmates became reacquainted with each...Read More »
7 of 20 | Posted by: Alyce (Ward) Jenkins - IA
There was never a dull moment in the classroom or teachers lounge when Tom was around. He was wit, a politician, a wonderful teacher...Read More »
8 of 20 | Posted by: Ted and Louise Burson - MI
“So very sorry to hear of Tom's passing. I always enjoyed seeing him at the Delmar Reunions.
My sympathy to the whole family.
9 of 20 | Posted by: Margo Powers Shouse - Maquoketa, IA
“Margie, so sorry to hear about Tom. The obituary sounds like "Tommy Wolfe" remained a delightful person. It seemed he was always full of it as...Read More »
10 of 20 | Posted by: Carole (Andersen) Rodriguez - TX
“Tom was one of those rare individuals, which we meet on life's journey, who was "REAL". I do not believe there was a pretentious bone in his body. ...Read More »
11 of 20 | Posted by: Chuck Williams - Davenport , IA
“I have so many fond memories of working with Tom for many years at Walcott School. I will especially remember when Tom's chair was "hostaged" by the ...Read More »
12 of 20 | Posted by: Terri Toppler - Davenport, IA
“I am so sorry to hear about Tom. Although I only knew him for a short time-I feel very privileged that I had an opportunity to work with him through...Read More »
13 of 20 | Posted by: Carol Kula - Iowa City, IA
“I was so sorry to hear of Tom’s death. Although he was a bit younger than me (Margie was a year behind me) I came to look forward to seeing him...Read More »
14 of 20 | Posted by: Barbara (Clark) Mayberry - IA
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family.. i was a student of Mr Wolfe at walcott about 17 yrs ago.. He was and always has been my favorite...Read More »
15 of 20 | Posted by: nikki kengott - blue grass, IA
“I was lucky enough to have been taught history by Mr. Wolfe at Walcott Jr. High. He was the on ramp to the history highway for me and part of the...Read More »
16 of 20 | Posted by: Jeff "Herm" Hermiston - IA
“Mr. Wolfe was one of those teachers that either drove you nuts or inspired you. He was the latter for me. He inspired me to think deeper and dream...Read More »
17 of 20 | Posted by: Sarah (Macomber) Detjens - Blair, NE
“To the family of Tom Wolfe
I have had the privilege of knowing Tom through ISEA. His humor and eloquence in speaking his thoughts made him loved...Read More »
18 of 20 | Posted by: Jim Young - Cedar Falls, IA
“I have only known Tom for a few years but he left a lasting impression on me. I will remember him fondly. You have my deepest sympathy. God bless.
19 of 20 | Posted by: Sandi Cannon - Sioux city - Isea
“You are all in our hearts. Never easy to loose a loved one.
20 of 20 | Posted by: Jordan Family - Iowa City, IA
Memorial funeral services to celebrate the life of Thomas A. Wolfe, 71, a resident of Davenport will be 6:00 p.m. Monday August 13, 2012 at the Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Davenport. His family will greet friends at the funeral home prior to the service from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Honoring Tom's wish the rite of cremation has been accorded and his cremains will be buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Delmar, Iowa. Tom passed away unexpectedly Saturday August 4, 2012 at his home in Davenport. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Café on Vine.
Thomas Anthony Wolfe was born in Maquoketa, Iowa, on December 20, 1940. The son of Raymond Bernard Wolfe (1896–1941) and Gladys McGinn Wolfe (1903–1966), he was the great-grandson of Irish immigrants. The youngest of four, Tommy—as his sisters insisted on calling him—found himself deprived of a father as an infant and set free on not quite two hundred acres of Clinton County farmland. As a result, he lived inside his imagination. He became his hero, Jackie Robinson, by throwing balls against the barn and scooping up grounders. He found stacks of freshly mown hay to be occasions for an intense kind of dreaming. "What I remember most about farm life," he once wrote, "was an aching feeling of loneliness."
Wolfe graduated from Delmar High School in 1958 and then, with support from an uncle, from St. Ambrose College, in nearby Davenport. He later earned a master's degree in American history from Western Illinois University. Having decided to forego farm life, Wolfe began his teaching career in Blue Grass, Iowa, before moving down the road to Wolcott, where he taught across the hall from Frances Cupp Wolfe, whom he married on August 1, 1964. The couple—a sometimes uneasy mixture of Irish and French ancestry—raised three children in Davenport: Bridget Colleen (b. 1967), Brendan Martin (b. 1971), and Sara Elizabeth (b. 1973). As the names suggest, Wolfe's Irish side often prevailed, although he lovingly called his wife Françoise. She called him "the old goat," only sometimes lovingly, and they managed until 1993, when they separated. Divorce followed soon after.
Until his retirement in 1997, Wolfe held court in a room at Wolcott Junior High School (later Middle School), mostly teaching American history. His great passion was for teaching, which took him back to the farm he never quite left: it was an exercise in imagination. A colleague remembers his closet full of hats. "He would put on a hat and act out various historical characters," she recalled, and if on one occasion he actually tumbled from a windowsill during a performance—that made it only more memorable for his audience.
Wolfe's other great passion was the teacher's union. His wife Fran beat him to it, voting to strike on an occasion when he didn't, and her zeal rubbed off on him. He served two terms as president of the Davenport Education Association, and was a near-annual delegate to assemblies of the state and national unions. For at least a decade he served as Midwest regional director of the NEA's Peace and Justice Caucus, and in 2012 the Iowa State Education Association presented him with its highest honor, the Charles F. Martin Award for Association Leadership. He accepted with a generous and very funny speech calling for an end to the bitter and unthinking partisanship of American politics.
Tom is survived by his sister Margery; his former wife; his close friend Nancy Porter, of Iowa City; his three children; and his three grandchildren. One imagines he has finally returned to the old Wolfe homestead in Clinton County, to the hay bales and reveries. "As long as I live," he wrote, "I'll associate freshly mown hay with those dreams and yearnings, and I won't know whether to be happy or sad."
Online remembrances and condolences may be expressed to the family by visiting Wolfe's obituary at www.hmdfuneralhome.com.