Tom Doornbos

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Tom Doornbos

    Tom Doornbos, 69, of Brasstown, died peacefully on the morning of Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
    Tom was a loving husband of 41 years, a proud father to his only daughter, a caring brother to three siblings, the “fun” uncle to eight nieces and nephews, and a dear friend to many.
    Tom was raised in Grand Rapids, Mich., but moved to the South in 1980 and
never looked back. He was an avid gardener, a voracious reader, a talented craft-maker and an admirer of the beauty of all living things.
    He had traveled extensively during his life, and enjoyed exploring new places and learning from new cultures.
    He had a diverse work life but was most recently the gardener at John C. Campbell Folk School, where from he retired in 2007 due to his health. He leaves a legacy of prolific vegetable and herb gardens, and breathtaking flower gardens, which bring joy to thousands of people annually at the folk school.
    In his retirement, he enjoyed working in his extensive home gardens, selling flowers at the local farmers market, volunteering for the Clay County Food Pantry, traveling to visit friends and family, and making many beautiful, lasting handcrafts, including Windsor chairs, rag rugs, wood carvings and nature-inspired abstract pieces.
    Tom was a mentor to many. Work studies at the folk school once deemed him the “zen master.” He had the uncanny ability to cultivate the good in many young people who worked for him – many credit his positive influence in their life.
    He was the type of man who would give flowers to a stranger to brighten their day, who would buy food for someone in need sitting outside a restaurant or gas station, who would rescue and nurture animals of all sizes, and who was quick to lend a helping hand to those in need.
    He struggled with complicated health but was always the first to laugh at himself. His humored humility was one of his greatest strengths.
    Tom’s final act of selflessness will be serving as a silent professor emeritus at the Duke University Medical School through its Anatomical Gift Program. His family is so proud that his health challenges will help to train a new generation of medical professionals.
    Tom is survived by his wife, Mary Doornbos; his daughter, Kathryn (Katy) Doornbos, PhD; his three siblings, Pat Rodenhouse, Rick (and Sandy) Doornbos, Bob (and Sharon)
Doornbos; and his best friend Dennis Botting. He leaves behind many other beloved family members and innumerable dear friends.
    In lieu of flowers (he planted plenty for us!), monetary donations can be made in his memory to the Clay County Food Pantry, P.O. Box 853, Hayesville NC 28904. Please note his name (and yours) so that we can thank you. No gift is too small and will directly help those in need in our community.
    A celebration of Tom’s extraordinary life will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 17, at Crane Creek Vineyards – please plan to share happy memories and laughter. To help us plan, please RSVP at