Oct. 20, 1954-Feb. 2, 2018
Thomas Michael Elich passed away on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 following a decades-long battle with Scleroderma. He was born Oct. 20, 1954 in Butte, Montana to John and Rosemarie (Tomich) Elich.
Tom was proud to have attended Whittier Elementary, East Junior High and Butte High School. He graduated in 1973 and was an outstanding athlete, particularly in football, starting on the varsity team for three years. After graduation, Tom worked various jobs, and after a brief move to California, he returned to Butte in 1980, where he dedicated his life to managing the 4 Mile Bar. His hard work and attention to detail, combined with his sincere love for his lifelong friends and regulars, helped to create a beloved watering hole full of many great memories.
In 1991 at the young age of 36, Tom developed Scleroderma -- a rare, painful disease that made his life terribly difficult. However, Tom always maintained an incredibly positive outlook on life and faced this diagnosis with strength and perseverance. He made the most of each day, and built close relationships with his family and network of loyal friends. He never became bitter or cynical about the hand he was dealt; instead, his positive attitude, mental toughness and refusal to complain while battling a debilitating chronic illness were an inspiration to all who knew and loved him.
He was very close with his children Marc and Jen; his son-in-law, Leo; and his grandchildren, Ella and Jack. He took great pride in the many accomplishments and adventures of his children, and especially his two grandchildren, who were the light of his life and brought him constant joy. “Grandpa T-Bone”, as they called him, always had a blast with his grandkids. He relished attending their sporting events and music recitals and loved to take them for ice cream, swimming, and plenty of other, often secret, escapades. He was the best grandpa a kid could ever wish for. He also had a very special relationship with his Uncle Joe, who lives in New York and spoke nearly daily with Tom over the phone. Often while watching a Yankee game, they would talk dozens of times, either in celebration or outrage, but always with humor and laughter.
Tom turned his youth success in athletics into lifelong sports fandom. He was first and foremost a die-hard New York Yankee fan. He attended his first Yankee game in Seattle in 1969, and made many more trips to Seattle for Yankee games with Marc. In 2001, Uncle Joe hosted Tom and Marc in New York City, where they attended a game in Yankee Stadium, toured the stadium and had many other memorable shenanigans.
He loved the Butte High Bulldogs and was honored to be a member of the Silver B’s. Perhaps his favorite night of the year was the annual Silver B’s game. He loved catching up with his past teammates and coaches and meeting the new class each year. Tom was an avid college football fan and would spend Saturdays in the fall watching games, along with the NFL on Sundays and college basketball in the spring. He enjoyed camping and fishing, but mostly just enjoyed spending time with his friends and family. He was lucky to have great companions over the years with his dogs Harley and Archie.
Tom was very proud of his Croatian and Butte heritage. He loved attending the festivals in the summer, listening to great music and especially catching up with old friends -- which was a favorite pastime of his. Tom had a green thumb and was a fantastic gardener who tended many interesting plants in his home, which was also frequently filled with loud rock and roll music.
Tom and his family would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. John Pullman and everyone at Mercury Street Medical for their tremendous care over the past 30 years. Tom also especially wanted to thank the following medical professionals whom he felt were very special people and took exceptional care of him: Dr. John Pickens, Erin Williams-Leber, Krista Bryson, Dr. Florian Cortese, Karen Marshall, Elaine Whitley, Rita Rodoni, Kim Merritt, Sherri Maloney, Judy Steiner, Steve Graham, and all of the staff in the St. James scope department. Tom was always so grateful for the kindness he was shown by the Butte medical community.
Tom was preceded in death by his mother and father, Rosemarie and John Elich; his grandparents, John and Agatha Tomich and Joe and Martha Elich; his brother, John Elich; and his uncles and aunts, John (Junior) and Diane Tomich, Jim Ronco, Charlie and Maggie Neilson, David Tomich, and Annie and Gary Janikula. Tom was also preceded in death by dear friends Rick Nadeau, Bob Pavlovich, Barry Rademacher, Joe Leskovar, Rudy Sayatovic, Rod Farren, and Joe Faroni.
Tom is survived by his daughter Jen (Leo) Prigge, and son Marc (Amanda LaBelle); grandchildren, Ella and Jack Prigge; sisters, JoAnn (Charlie) Lewis and Rosemary (Ron) Granberg; uncle, Joe Elich and aunt, Helen Ronco; nieces and nephews, Dave (Cori) Hulverson, Dan Hulverson, Brandon Lewis (Jodi Amundson), Natalie Lewis, Nathon Lewis (Kayla Vyleta), Jason Elich, Amy (Robby) Gunderson, and Melissa (Brian) Demarais, as well as numerous great-nieces and nephews; cousins, John and Maureen Tomich, Lisa and Dan McGree, Maryanne Tomich, Julie Tomich and Roger Sparks, Jimmy and Faye Ronco, Geri and Jake Hart, and Jill and Mike Clay; as well as special friends, Rick Prigge and Marnie Prigge, Mike Habich, Bob and Joe Quilici, Mark Sanderson, Bob Lisac, Dan Serich, Kirk Boulet, Bob Frasier, Bill Tresidder, Steve Edwards, Shawn Maloney, Rocky Maricich, Brian Walsh, Denis Gardella, Northey Tretheway and Rick O’Brien.
A celebration of Tom’s life will be held at the Hotel Finlen Ballroom on Friday, Feb. 9, from 3-6 p.m., with remarks from Tom’s family and friends starting at 4 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Tom’s beloved Butte High School Silver B’s, P.O. Box 4655, Butte, Montana 59702.