In Memory

Thomas A. Tolen VIEW PROFILE

9/1/1928 - 10/4/2014

Thomas A. Tolen, 86, of Ord died Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, at Valley County Health System in Ord.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Ord First United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Trever Rook officiating. Burial will be in the Ord City Cemetery. Military honors will be presented by the Ord VFW Post 7029 and American Legion Post 38. Ord Memorial Chapel is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Tolen was born Sept. 1, 1928, at Ord to Mark and Lucile (George) Tolen.

Survivors include his wife, Rita of Ord; three stepsons and two stepdaughters-in-law, Marty Barnes of Hebron, Md., Verlon and Cindy Barnes of Bellevue and Russ and Jill Barnes of Ord; two stepdaughters and stepsons-in-law, Debbi and Scott Osler of Elsie and Roxann and Rick Bredthauer of Hampton; and 19 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

He grew up and received his education in Ord. After graduating with the Class of 1946, he served three years in the United States Navy. He attended the University of Nebraska, receiving his bachelor’s degree in education in 1954 and his master’s degree in 1965. Tom worked as a teacher and counselor in the Omaha Public Schools from 1954 to 1963. As an administrator he served as assistant principal at George W. Norris in 1965, was principal of Florence Elementary from 1966 to 1971, and principal of William J. Bryan Junior High from 1971 to 1979.

Following his retirement in 1979, Tom moved back to Ord. He married Rita (Sevenker) Barnes on Sept. 21, 1981, at Fort Collins, Colo. The couple continued to make their home in Ord. Tom enjoyed being a father and grandfather and sharing his knowledge of sports and nature with them. He was employed with Drake-Williams Steel Co. as a salesman and also was a substitute rural mail carrier for 14 years.

Tom was a member of the Ord United Methodist Church. He served on the Ord School Board from 1983 to 1990, and was a member of Ord Golf Club, Ord Park Board, N Club, VFW, Elks, Ducks Unlimited, OEA and NSEA. He was instrumental in originating the Ord Alumni Scholarship Association. He received the Ak-Sar-Ben Good Neighbor Award and the ExtraORDinary Award. He was a member of Raptor Recovery of Nebraska.

Tom was an avid hunter, golfer and raptor lover, and was responsible for planting hundreds of trees at the golf course, park, school, hospital and around the city of Ord.

Thomas was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Ronald and Richard Tolen.

'Very giving' former OPS counselor, principal dies at 86

By Betsie Freeman / World-Herald staff writer

Posted: Tuesday, October 7

Educator Thomas Tolen loved kids, his family, his community and golf.

Throughout his 86-year life, those passions often converged. He met his wife Rita on the golf course in Ord, Nebraska, where he taught lessons after retiring as a counselor and principal in the Omaha Public Schools. They married on Sept. 21, 1981, and he frequently golfed and offered advice on the game to his three stepsons.

Tolen, who died this week, also planted trees on the Ord course and at various other spots in his hometown — hundreds in all.

“He was just a very giving person,” Rita Tolen said.

She offered other examples of his generous spirit: He was on the Ord School Board from 1983 to 1990 and served on the Ord Park Board as well. He also was instrumental in the creation of the Ord Alumni Scholarship Association, which raised funds to help local students. He was the group’s president until last year.

And, his wife said, “I had five children when he married me. He was a brave guy.”

Tolen, who had never been married, found joy in his new family.

“He got to walk one of the daughters down the aisle,” Rita said. “He was very much a grandfather and great-grandfather.”

Tolen graduated from Ord High School in 1946 and served in the Navy before attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he lettered on the golf team. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1954 and a master’s degree in 1965. In the Omaha district, he was the assistant principal of Norris Junior High and the principal of Florence Elementary and Bryan Junior High.

He loved the outdoors as a hunter and as a volunteer with Raptor Recovery of Nebraska. He received the Ord Extraordinary Award and the Ak-Sar-Ben Good Neighbor Award.

He also shot five holes-in-one over his lifetime — one on a course in Iowa as a member of the NU Golf Team, and four in Ord.

Tolen had suffered from cancer 12 years ago and it came back in July. He died Saturday at Valley County Health System in Ord.

Other survivors include stepsons Marty Barnes of Hebron, Maryland; Verlon Barnes of Bellevue and Russ Barnes of Ord; two stepdaughters, Debbi Osler of Elsie, Nebraska, and Roxann Bredthauer of Hampton, Nebraska; 19 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

A funeral service is set for 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Ord First United Methodist Church



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