1924 – 2016
Orville Thomas Tomky was born in 1924 to Herman and Thecla Tomky near Brush, Colorado. His family's prairie homestead had no electricity or indoor plumbing, and Orville, his parents and five siblings worked hard to keep the farm running during the Dust Bowl days. During his senior year of high school, he rented a nearby farm and paid off the mortgage on the homestead. He graduated in May 1942 from Brush High School.
Orville enlisted in the Army in May 1943 and was sent to train with the Tenth Mountain Division at Camp Hale, where he handled the pack mules and learned to ski. Arriving in Italy on Jan. 18, 1945, he was soon on the front lines north of Bagni di Lucca. One of Orville's main duties in the B Company of the 126th Mountain Engineers was locating and disabling enemy land mines so that Allied tanks and troops could safely pass. Orville also fought with the infantry on several occasions.
After discharge from the Army, Orville married Loretta Daehn in 1948 and later bought a farm near Olney Springs, Colorado, in 1951 where they raised four children. Orville farmed and ranched for 62 years in Crowley County.
Orville was a member of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board for seventeen years, from 1988-2005, and was a constant voice for agricultural interests. He was a director of Twin Lakes and Reservoir Canal Company 1965 to 1970. He was a director of Colorado Canal Company and Lake Meredith Canal Company from 1970 to 2012. Orville was also on the board of The Arkansas Valley Research Center for a number of years.
Orville also had a great love and respect for his community. He was a leader and supporter of Crowley County civic activities. He was a founding member of the Olney Springs Lions Club in 1952 and a member for 60+ years. He was also a 4-H Leader, Boy Scout Leader with two sons and four grandsons who are Eagle Scouts. He received the Crowley County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award, and the West-Otero Soil Conservation award.
Orville's passions in life included his family, farming, snow and water skiing, dancing, arrowhead hunting and hunting game and generously donated his farm produce to many local and state events. He loved sharing his passions and enabled many youth to learn snow and water skiing, camping and square dancing skills.
In 1986, he began growing pumpkins and giving them to Crowley County Elementary School students for their Halloween festivities. In a few years it became a tradition to invite the CC Elementary and Fowler Elementary students out to the farm to pick their own pumpkins. He loved seeing excited faces and sharing the farm experience with the children as they rolled their pumpkins away. This tradition has continued for 30 years and will continue on by his son, John and grandson, David Tomky. In 2010 John started the Orville Tomky Pumpkin Game which is played during basketball season between Crowley County and Fowler. It was started to honor Orville's generosity and foster friendly rivalry.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Loretta, his parents and four siblings. He is survived by his brother Wilford (Gen) Tomky of Lamar, Nebraska; his four children, Tom (Linda) Tomky of Rocky Ford, Colorado, Donna Tomky (Bob Geer) of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Karen Tomky (Matt Heimerich) and John (Michelle) Tomky of Olney Springs, Colorado; his five grandchildren, Laura (Bob) Cassiday of Hudson, Colorado, Christopher (Jodi) Tomky and Luke (Erin) Tomky of Rocky Ford, Colorado, Mark (Tara) Tomky of Fowler, Colorado, David Tomky of Olney Springs, Colorado. He is also survived by nine great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services will be held Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, at 10 a.m. at the Ordway United Methodist Church, 403 Main Street, with Pastor Mark Cloer officiating. Memorials can be made to Crowley Heritage Center or the Ordway United Methodist Church.