Tom was born to Donald R. and Clara E. Ehlers on Aug. 11, 1936, in Walthill, Neb., on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in the Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital, a hospital founded by the first Native American female doctor.
Tom was raised in Blair, Neb., where he graduated from Blair High School in 1954.
Tom was fortunate to enjoy moderate success in athletics, especially football. His athletic prowess was enough that he was given a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska. Unfortunately he was not prepared for the scholastic side of university life, so after a trying first semester he transferred to Dana College in Blair, Neb., where he spent the next semester.
But alas, having fun was on his plate before academics even at Dana College, so with his parents urging, he was “selected” to serve in the United States Army, which he did for a two-year enlistment. During Tom’s enlistment he was stationed in Japan where he played football for a U.S. Army team.
After his discharge from the Army, he enrolled in classes at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Neb., where he finally got his act together academically. While at Nebraska Wesleyan University he continued playing football and played two years before giving it up for academics and his love, Carolyn E. Lindberg. In 1960 he graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University with his bachelor’s degree.
On Dec. 27, 1959, in O’Neill, Neb., Tom married Carolyn and together they established a family in the northeast area of Lincoln, Neb.
Tom’s work career was entirely in the health insurance claims field. He worked for four firms, but primarily Woodmen Accident and Life of Lincoln, Neb.
The highlight of Tom’s “part time” working career was officiating football. He started with working eight-man high school games in southeast Nebraska, ascended to small college games in Nebraska and surrounding states, and culminated with working for 21 years in the Big 8 Conference from 1972 to 1993. During his time in the Big 8 Conference, he was selected to officiate in seven college football bowl games.
After retirement, Tom and Carolyn moved to Cody, where their oldest son had previously moved with his family.
In retirement Tom and Carolyn enjoyed traveling and socializing with their many friends.
Tom is survived by his wife Carolyn E. (Lindberg) Ehlers; son Thomas, Jr. (Deborah) of Cody; son Tobin (Julie) of Omaha, Neb.; son Tim (Lisa) of Salem, Ore. He is also survived by his sister Arlene Ehlers of Beatrice, Neb., and grandchildren Landon, Jedediah, Anna, and Emma.
He was preceded in death by his parents Dr. Donald. R. Ehlers, DDS, Clara E. Ehlers, and brother Donald R. Ehlers, Jr., all of Blair, Neb.
Memorial services will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 4 p.m. at The CMA Church in Cody. Memorials may be sent to The Mosaic House, 722 S. 12th Street, Beatrice, NE 68310, or the The American Cancer Society.
An online memorial is available at www.ballardfh.com.