Thomas William Potter of Pleasant Hill, Ore. passed away on April 15, 2022 at the young age of 74.
Tom was fearless, intimidating but also generous and gregarious. Tom would never hesitate to give you the shirt off his back, offer you a meal or lend a helping hand. In fact, anyone that knew Tom knew his devotion to trustworthiness and being a mentor to all. That’s just the kind of man he was. The first time you met him, he was so welcoming, it felt like you had known him forever (at that point, the intimidating characteristic was out the door).
That said, though Tom had a bigger-than-life personality, he lived a very black-and-white life; there was either a wrong or a right, no other way about it. Tom also believed the only way an individual would ever amount to anything was by being honest and a hard worker. In fact, if you were to look up “straight shooter” in the dictionary, the definition would simply read “Tom Potter.”
Tom’s life would’ve made for a great book, and if you listen closely you can still hear the stories that would’ve filled those pages, as told by Tom in the most captivating manner, which most times also included his contagious laugh.
Born in Cottage Grove, Ore. to Thomas Calvin Potter and Joyce Clark, Tom (or as his granddaughter Naudia always called him, “Papa”) graduated from Cottage Grove High School in 1965. After high school, he enlisted in the Army and was honorably discharged in 1967 after a short stint in Vietnam.
Over the years, Tom was a police officer, a logger, a salesman, a business owner and a foster parent. And, if being a real-life encyclopedia was a job, then Tom did that too, as he knew everything about everything, especially livestock and dogs.
What Tom will forever be known for, though, was his incomparable skills as a mountain guide and horse breeder and trainer. Some would say only the animals that rest their heads in Oregon’s forests knew the mountains better than Tom, but even that may be a stretch.
Tom’s favorite place on earth was the mountains. He knew the territory like the back of his hand and, many times, he used those mountains to help people, to change them for the better and set them on a path to a better life. Simply being in the mountains may have made Tom happy, but that joy paled in comparison to the bliss he felt with each opportunity he got to pack into the mountains with his family and his pack string in tow. One can only imagine Tom’s smile being wider than the brim of his cowboy hat.
Tom’s other passion was horse breeding, training and riding. He was always so patient and gentle with horses and was consistent and deliberate in every step of his training. Tom had an incredible sense and a deep understanding of what a horse’s needs were, at all times. And though the mountains and horses meant a lot to Tom, the only thing he loved more than livestock and the mountains was his family.
Tom is survived by the love of his life for more than 50 years, his beautiful wife MaryAnn, who he married on Sept. 3, 1972. Tom is also survived by his children Jeffery Thomas (Chandra) of Madras, Ore., Lisa Ann Cole (Ruddy) of Prineville, Scott Thomas Potter (Traci) of Cottage Grove, Jennifer Lynn Carroll (Ryan) of Halsey and Tyrone William Potter (Natasha) of Spokane, Wash.
Tom loved all 11 of his grandchildren, as well as his three great-grandchildren, but the special bond that he had with his grandchildren Tyler, Lane and Naudia (seen as the perfect little girl in his eyes) was peerless and undeniable. Tom also had many nieces and nephews, and brothers and sisters-in-law, that meant the world to him. Lastly, Tom is survived by his three furbabies Magnum, Tate and Sissy (man, he loved those dogs!).
Tom was preceded in death by his mother and father and his brothers Terry, Ralph and Donnie.
Tom, dad, grandpa, Papa … it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you were taken from us way too soon. The only reason we can think of is that someone needed you more than we did. But don’t worry, your personality, your teachings, your stories, most importantly, your memory will forever live on in all of us. So, with that, we won’t say “goodbye.” No! Just simply, “We love you and we’ll see you down the road!”
A Celebration of Life will be held June 11 at 1 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge, 33322 Row River Road in Cottage Grove.