On behalf of the many people from Houston who knew Thom, I want to thank "y'all" for sharing one of Fredericton's sons with us in Texas for a while.
Thom Washburn touched many hearts and lives "Deep in the Heart of Texas". He will always be remembered by his colleagues, his friends, his fellow golfers, his hockey mates, Team ABB cyclists, and so many others who were blessed to have known Thom.
I met Thom on his first project at our company. We were both Project Engineers responsible for different aspects of the design work. I recognized right away that Thom had all the qualities of a great leader. He was able to completely understand the full scope of the project while at the same time work on critical details to ensure nothing would fall between the cracks. He was assertive while maintaining the respect of the engineers under him. He always kept a positive attitude even in the midst of, at times, utter turmoil. You could count of Thom to always get the job done and get it done correctly.
After completing our assignments on the project we shared, Thom headed off to Brno in the Czech Republic for a year and a half to coordinate the design being done by our Czech office for another project. As he had done in Houston, Thom made many friends in Brno. His adventurous spirit took him all over Europe while he was there. During his stay, he beautifully chronicled his outings complete with pictures of the sights he went to see, the famous Czech beers he conquered, and the many friends he made. I looked forward to receiving my copy of Thom's "Brno Chronicles" and yearned to be there with him.
Once he returned to Houston, Thom quickly assumed the role of Project Engineering Manager for a small local environmental project. He received top marks for his efforts and was rewarded with the role of Project Engineering Manager on a large revamp project in Saudi Arabia. This project was a significant challenge because as so often happens, not enough time was allotted to possibly get all the work done before the start of construction. To further complicate things, more and more additional changes were added to expand the project. Thom, however, did not see this as a complication but instead as a challenge. He managed his engineering team superbly and completed the work in record time. Before the engineering portion of the project was completed, the Project Manager left the company and with his departure left a void that needed to be filled. Having witnessed his great successes with the engineering effort, the company's senior management handed the reins for the complete project to Thom. Thom was thrilled at the opportunity and very proud to be give such a responsibility. I was extremely happy for my friend to see him progress within the company to this level.
Thom was not only focused on work, however. As he did while in the Czech Republic, Thom kept plenty busy outside of work, in Houston as well. Staying true to his Canadian roots, Thom regularly played hockey, a sport which, that far south, is quite foreign to most Houstonians.
© 2005 Sheila Washburn
Thom also took up bicycling a couple of years ago. He trained for a charity bike ride from Houston to Austin benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Thom was one of 10,000 cyclists making the 250-km trek over the two-day period. After completing his first ride in 2003, Thom planned to make it an annual event. He rode again this year with an upgraded bike and in even stronger shape than the previous year. In fact, Thom was so strong that while powering up a hill, he pushed into the pedals so hard that he managed to spin the tire against the inner tube causing the two to melt together. This was not at first apparent. It looked to be a simple flat. However, when he, Leslie, and Mike took the tire off the wheel, they discovered what had actually happened. This certainly will be one of several stories about Thom that will become part of Team ABB's cycling history.
Ever the all-around athlete, Thom succeeded on the golf course, as well. Golf is not a past-time I shared with Thom. I have been told from friends, however, that Thom would really drive the ball down the fairways. Apparently, Thom was also very meticulous about keeping score and would know exactly how many strokes everyone had on each hole and could recite the play-by-play from each hole weeks later.
This competitive yet friendly spirit carried over on Thursday night outings after work to bowl a few frames, shoot pool, or play laser tag. He would never back down from a challenge. When a friend of ours laid a $5 bill on the pool table to challenge Thom to a game, Thom upped the stakes by placing a twenty on top. Instead of playing to keep the money, however, Thom raised the bar even further and challenged us to give the winnings to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the local charity for which we were cycling.
Having been involved in these and so many more activities in Houston, Thom touched many lives and made many friends. Even though I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and colleague, I am very grateful for the time we were able to spend together. Thom was taken away from us too soon. We are reminded by his tragic death, that we need to treasure life every day, every hour, and every minute. We need to live life to the fullest as Thom has done. We need to spend the time with our friends, take some days off, live life and not worry about work all the time. I will endeavor to be more like my friend Thom in that regard.
I will always remember Thom's warm smile, his magnificently blue eyes, his great sense of humor, his drive and determination, the friendships he had with us all.
The Washburn family raised a wonderful son. Fredericton sent out a great man into the world. He touched many lives and hearts and will be remembered by all that have ever met him from across the globe. The world is a better place because Thom, our friend and colleague, was in it.
ABB Lummus Global