Few individuals fight forest fires in their teens then go on to practice orthopedic surgery in adulthood. Thomas James Miskovsky was that person. Tom was born into a tightly knit Czech family on June 25,1934, in Chicago, Illinois. He was the son of Jaroslav Miskovsky and Ruth Patera Miskovsky. Tom proudly carried his Czech heritage with him throughout his life and enjoyed sharing it with others. Christmas season always began when Tom baked and shared his plum and apricot kolache, which he dutifully made from his mother's original recipe card. Tom's favorite meal was roasted duck with dumplings, a Czech comfort food from his early childhood. Some of the best memories of Tom are of his laughter and lively discussions over a good meal. Tom spent his early summers with his family in Trout Lake, Wisconsin. Tom recalled stories of his grandfather taking the train from Chicago, followed by a trip on horseback to upper Wisconsin in the early 1900's, where he discovered the lakefront plot of land that would become the family's summer retreat. There, surrounded by his large extended family, Tom and his sister Ruth and brother Milan learned that work always preceded the pleasures of swimming in the lake. Tom excelled academically. He graduated first in his class from Harrison High School, in Chicago. He rarely caused trouble or grief for his teachers or parents. Tom loved to joke about an exception to this, when he described a singular teenage "confrontation" with his father. After his high school exposure to different musical genre, Tom announced to his father (a lover of Czech composers) that he no longer considered Antonín Dvorák to be the world's greatest composer. Tom would laugh and shake his head at this memory, declaring it as the world's shortest adolescent rebellion. While still in his teens, Tom took the train to California for a summer job with the United States Forest Service, and engaged in fighting forest fires. There, he was assigned as a cook, and prepared and served his mother's Czech dishes to the fire crew between calls to the fire line. Thus began his lifelong love of the West. In college, Tom received an NROTC scholarship from the University of Michigan. As a member of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, he was expected to drill and march, all while maintaining his academics and working daily shifts serving meals at various campus fraternity houses. Upon graduation, Tom received his commission as Midshipman, in the United States Navy. He served aboard the destroyer USS William R Rush, as Paymaster. It was on these trans-Atlantic cruises in conversations with the ship's doctor that Tom reconsidered life as a forester and turned his attention to pursuing a career in medicine. After graduating from the University of Michigan School of Medicine, in 1963, Tom completed an internship at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. After completing his residency in orthopedic surgery at the University of Michigan, he returned to the West Coast, with his then wife Anna Marie (Mimi) Thomassen Miskovsky, their young son Jerry and baby daughter Susan in tow. Another daughter, Kathryn (Katie) was born in Tacoma. Tom was a partner at Tacoma Orthopedics, in Tacoma Washington for 35 years. He was respected and admired by colleagues and patients as a talented surgeon with a keen clinical mind, who was always available to treat those who needed his expert care. Tom was a member of the North Pacific Orthopedic Society and the Western Orthopedic Society. His wise counsel served him well as President of the St Joseph Hospital Medical Staff. When Tom was asked if he was ever bothered by the rainy Northwest climate he would always say, "That's what skiing is for". And ski he did. With his capacity for hard work and determination, Tom learned the joys of downhill skiing in mid life. During ski season, Tom took a weekly ski bus with friends and colleagues to ski in the Washington Mountains and he enjoyed yearly ski trips to the expert slopes in the United States, Canada and Europe, all while successfully balancinga busy surgical practice. Tom also found great enjoyment in activities outside medicine, including the fine arts. He was a founding member of the Second City Chamber Music Society, a patron of the Seattle Opera, a member of both the Seattle Reparatory Theater and Tacoma Actors Guild, and a member of the Czech Society of Arts and Sciences. From undergraduate days on, Tom was a member of the Society of Les Voyageurs. He was an accomplished carpenter and woodworker, forming his own construction company, ívio. From childhood, Tom could fix, repair or rebuild just about anything. In his mid-fifties, Tom reacquainted himself with an old friend from his medical school days. Tom and Marilynn Simpson first met in 1959, as part of a small group of married couples. The young men were first year medical students at the University of Michigan. Thirty-one years later, their friendship renewed and blossomed, and Tom and Marilynn were married in Ann Arbor. The couple traveled throughout the world- Bhutan, Egypt, Israel and did volunteer work in China, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. A special joy for both Tom and Marilynn were the many summer road trips they made throughout the United States driving in Tom's 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser, which clocked over 300,000 miles on its odometer. Tom was diagnosed with leukemia seventeen years ago. With courage and dispassion, Tom learned to live his life with cancer trailing behind him, glimpsed at times through the rear view mirror. Throughout these years, he maintained his curiosity and interest in the world, with continued travels and finally, quiet activities, including the daily NYT crossword puzzles and feeding his beloved birds through the summer and winter months. He had confidence that the cancer did not have to sentence the end of his life. He lived his life, day by day, not dwelling too far ahead or behind. As he used to say "We always worry about the wrong things". It was not until the very end that this disease caught up with him. Tom attributed his prolonged good health to the excellent medical care that he received at the University of Michigan Medical School and the Ohio State School of Medicine. Tom leaves his cherished wife of nearly 30 years, Marilynn Simpson of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Tom was the loving father of Jerry Miskovsky, Susan Miskovsky (Mike Johnson), grandchildren Milan and Ruby; daughter Kathryn (Douglas McDorman), grandchildren Emily and Ted, and their mother Mimi Miskovsky, all of Washington. Tom was the much loved stepfather and step grandfather to Julie Simpson, James, Olivia and Isabella, of Ann Arbor; Jennifer Simpson, MD (Ron Kurtz, MD), Jack and Ava, of Irvine, California; and Stephen Simpson, of Saline, Michigan. He leaves his sister Ruth Mahr, of Ithaca, New York, his nieces Andrea and Emily and Katlyn, nephew Peter Mahr, MD (Linda Peel, MD) Jordan and Philip, of Portland, Oregon; Thomas (Karen Nelson) Nicholas and Aaron, of Washington, DC; his cousin Ramona Widick of Wisconsin, his late brother Milan (Mike) Miskovsky and late sister-in-law Anne, of Washington DC, their children Peter, Anne, Ellen, Mark, Michael and Thomas, and their spouses and families. Those who knew and loved Tom valued his quiet strength, warmth, patience, and his great capacity for forgiveness and for being forgiven. Tom placed great faith in education, whether in the larger world of academics or as individual personal growth. You may consider a remembrance to following organizations: The Dr. Thomas J Miskovsky Scholarship Fund, Tacoma Washington Community Foundation Doctor Without Borders A memorial for Tom will be on Puget Sound, Washington at a later date. Tom and his family would always sing a Czech toast whenever they celebrated together: "ívio" roughly translates "to life"; a wish that Tom shared with everyone.
Reprinted from The News Triburne (Tacoma), March 29, 2020