Final Gift – Always Giving

A tribute from Lisa Umholtz, Thomas' wife

My husband Tom Umholtz died on October 8, 2022. I met Tom in the spring of 1985 and we were married on June 28, 1986.

My best friend (his cousin) conveniently asked me if I wanted to stop by the Toy Store with her daughter. Tom worked at Children’s Palace Toy Store at that time. He was building a swing set when we stopped by. She introduced us. The next day she called me and asked if I would go out with him if he asked me. I said sure. Fast forward several months he hadn’t called me, but I saw him at her daughters birthday party. He didn’t even speak to me. Then in July he finally got the courage up called me and asked me out. (He was painfully shy when we first met. That changed as the years went on.) We went to the fair to the tractor pulls for our first date. We were inseparable from that point on.

We were married a year later in June of 1986 and moved to Phoenix, AZ for 6 years. We then moved back to Illinois in 1992 to be closer to family again.

We were never able to have kids so we had made it our mission to raise every kind of four legged furry animal imaginable. (Plus turtles at one point.)

He was a kind, generous, funny and giving man. We were so happy and had a wonderful life. He worked in the HVAC/Refrigeration industry. He worked on Taylor Ice Cream machines for over 14 years earning the nickname of Dr. Freezer! He then made it to a Field Support Specialist for Casey’s General Stores where he had been for 26 years.

He loved riding his Harley motorcycle, deer hunting, and looking for morel mushrooms. He was always ready to do anything he could for his nieces and nephews. He loved life in general.

He was very respected and well liked by everyone who met him. He didn’t know a stranger and would do anything at anytime, day or night, to help anyone.

Two years ago Tom was diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. They did a Y-90 procedure and the results were very good. However, we found out months later that they missed a small tumor that was being blocked by a larger one. The cancer was still there. The cirrhosis started getting worse and the cancer came back with a vengeance. Unfortunately, you can’t qualify for a liver transplant as long as you have active cancer.

The cirrhosis started rearing its ugly head and he was having to have his abdomen drained starting in May every few weeks. (It was anywhere from 4 to 10 liters of fluid each time.) It was getting to where it was every few days it needed to be drained.

He fought this battle so hard but this September he ended up in the hospital for 10 days and was septic due to an infection in the fluid in his abdomen. He was released on 9/30 and ended back in the hospital on the 10/3. The cirrhosis had caused an issue with his kidneys as well. He became non-responsive on the evening of the 3rd. I had to make the decision to start palliative care on the 4th. (We had discussed this many times, and he said he didn’t want life saving measures to bring him back to his current health status.) That was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life. He passed away at 2:40 pm on Saturday the 8th.

I didn’t think he would be able to donate any of his organs due to the cancer and all of the other health issues he had at his time of death. I received the call from Eversight shortly after he passed and they asked about his eyes. I of course said yes. Two woman in Illinois were gifted sight from the tissue he was able to donate. I would love to be able to contact them, as I feel like a small fraction of him is still alive.

Always selfless always giving even in the end.

Image of donor, Thomas UmholtzImage of donor, Thomas UmholtzImage of donor, Thomas Umholtz

Image of donor, Thomas Umholtz