News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Work Hard, Play Harder: Thomas Harrer FAITH, FAMILY, AND FUN July 2, 1961 – April 26, 2021

“It’s 7 a.m. on an ordinary fall day in Sisters. I slowly open my eyes and realize that my husband, Tom, has already been up for a while. He has raked the entire property of pine needles and is now stretching next to the woodstove where he is stoking the fire. In addition to all that, he excitedly makes his famous breakfast egg scramble with bacon and sautéed breakfast potatoes. He’s excited to start the day and pour his love over our family. He knows that it will be a long day at work so he wants to be the one to drive and drop the kids off at school, allowing a few minutes to connect on the drive.

“He would schedule date nights with all 3 of our children. He would say to each during their date: ‘I’ll ask you 3 questions and you can ask me 3 questions; anything you want to know!,’” Janice recalls.

Oftentimes after someone leaves earth it’s easy to remember only the good things about them, and none of the bad.

In this case, Tom — my dad — had so much goodness it’s hard to even think of anything negative.

He lived a life that was jam-packed with fun, hard work, and faith; instilling a “work hard, play harder” mindset in each of his children — Hannah (27), Justin (24), and Hawley (21). He had 30 amazing years of marriage with his wife — his one and only, Janice.

Tom was the epitome of an involved father.

He always made the time, always showed up, and was always present.

There never was a time where we would ask “where’s dad?” He was always there; with a flexible physical therapy schedule that he designed to be able to be there with his family.

Tom was the best physical therapist, and his patients loved him.

He had great expertise, compassion, and was very relational.

He specialized in orthopedic, “return to sport,” and had a keen interest in knee rehabilitation.

He was also an incredible sales rep for Hely & Weber; representing the Hawaii and Oregon territories.

He even helped design one of their knee braces.

Dad orchestrated my rehab from a horrible anterior cruciate ligament tear in high school which allowed me to go on to play collegiate volleyball.

Tom helped so many people in the community through his craft, and was a beloved physical therapist.

Thomas James Harrer (July 2, 1961 – April 26, 2021) was born in Dallas, Texas to parents John Raymond Harrer and Mary Ann Wenzel Harrer.

His family moved to Barrington, Illinois in the suburbs of Chicago before they moved to Palos Verdes, California when Tom was in first grade.

It was in Palos Verdes (PV) where he gained his love of surfing and playing hard.

Tom was the youngest of four and has three surviving siblings — David Harrer, Jane Richards, and Patti Cuenin.

Dad fondly remembered surfing in PV at Malaga Cove, and playing with his siblings.

In high school, the family relocated again to Quincy, California, which dad often compared to Sisters.

There, he got to excel in high school sports, and got his first car — a ’71 Mustang.

But his athletic career did not end in high school, as anyone who knew him knows what an incredible athlete he was.

Before beginning college, he took a gap year in Australia.

He had the fondest memories of his time there and gained lifelong friends with his host families.

In 2016, for Tom and Janice’s 25th wedding anniversary, Dad took the whole family back to Australia for two weeks.

Dad was so excited to show us all where he spent his days on beautiful beaches and meet his beloved Aussie friends.

After the gap year in Australia, Tom spent a year honing his volleyball skills before earning a spot on the University of Hawaii (UH) men’s volleyball team.

Fully embracing the Hawaiian people, culture, and lifestyle, Tom had an amazing time at UH and built lifelong friendships with people who we cherish and love to this day.

After graduate school at Northwestern University in Chicago, he returned to the islands and spent 25 years there.

His dream of returning to the Hawaiian Islands and starting his own physical therapy practice came to fruition during his time there.

Tom started working as a physical therapist after grad school and shortly thereafter married his kuuipo, Janny O. Their lifestyles matched perfectly, whether they were in Hawaii or touring around the world during Janice’s professional beach volleyball career.

Tom supported Janice in her career, not only as a loving husband but also as a physical therapist and coach.

Starting a family was the most incredible joy for both Tom and Janice, and they gave birth to all three of their children in Hawaii and raised them there before moving the family to Sisters in 2007.

Just as Tom worked hard and played hard throughout his life, he fought hard against the metastatic melanoma cancer that he was diagnosed with in March 2020.

While it was a magnificent fight for over a year, he was welcomed into the heavenly arms of Jesus on April 26, 2021.

Tom was such an encourager to every person he interacted with in life; positivity was one of his many strengths.

Whether it was his children, wife, patients, or his players as a coach in youth sports, he made an impact.

Tom was a man of integrity, honor, and great faith who was always willing to admit his own faults and continue on his journey of being a lifelong learner.

His commitment to his marriage and life was incredibly passionate and consistent.

Tom Harrer will be greatly missed by many.

One of our lifelong friends sums it up perfectly: “Tom, your life was dependent upon being kingdom focused. Not job focused or financially focused, but KINGDOM focused. It was about doing life strategically to leave your imprint with your fingerprint on your relationships and your resources that would outlast you and because of you, the kingdom of God is advanced here on earth. I will forever remember you as a dad and husband who SHOWED up. Whether it was a tournament, an award, or just an ear piercing, you were the man. Thank you, Thomas Harrer, for a life well lived.”

In lieu of sending flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Vast Church’s Tom Harrer Benevolence Fund. You can visit vastchurch.com/give to help families with future medical hardships. Under fund, choose ‘Local Community Care/Benevolence,’ then sub-fund: ‘Tom Harrer Benevolence Fund.’ His Celebration of Life will be held at Wellhouse Church on June 5, 2021. Please contact the family for details or visit Tom’s CaringBridge site: caringbridge.org/visit/tomharrer.

 

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