Obituary: Thomas A. LeProwse

Posted at 12:32 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 14:32:22-04

We sadly announce the passing of our beloved father, Thomas A. LeProwse, an exceptional man who loved life and treated people with respect. He passed away peacefully on May 12, 2022, at the age of 94.

Tom is survived by his children, Sandy (George) Wright, and children, Kristine Ann and Travis (Kristie); Sheryl (Kim) Christophersen, and children, Bill and Lindsay and her significant other Rory Grinde; Sheila (David) Pestcoe; Scott (Teresa) LeProwse; Stacey (Stephanie) LeProwse, and children, Terry (Whitney) (their son, Eli), Tessa, Aaron, and Johanna. He is also survived by his brother, Jim (Barbara) LeProwse; sister, Bev LeProwse; sister, Margaret (Jim) Strauss; sister-in-law, Lola Mae LeProwse; two godchildren, Jeremiah and Kristopher; as well as numerous nephews, nieces, and many special friends of the family.

Tom was born in Butte, MT (“Butte America”) on December 4, 1927, to Oliver “Archie” & Sophie (Maier) LeProwse where they lived close to his grandparents’ dairy, Miners Dairy. With the passing of his mother when Tom was just 10, he quickly became an independent “cuss” enabling him to make the streets of Butte his playground. Oh, the stories Tom could share about growing up in Butte! Tom’s father later married Helen Taylor.

Tom attended Butte High School, graduating in 1947. He became active in football playing for Swede Dahlberg from 1943 to 1946. Tom only missed one quarter and three plays, lettering three years for the Bulldogs. Tom helped them advance to the championship game in 1945. Ever since his high school days he was very active in the coveted Butte High Silver B’s Football Organization. Tom never missed the annual banquet and finally realized his dream of becoming the 13th “Diamond B” in 2019 when he reached his 75th year as a member.

No surprise that Tom was selected to the first East-West Shrine Game where he kicked off and then ran downfield to register the first tackle of the game. His passion for the East-West Shrine Game never faltered and he attended every year. He was looking forward to going again this year where he will be in spirit.

Following the East-West Shrine Game Tom eloped with the love of his life, Joan Kumor, on August 23, 1947. Tom and Joan decided to begin their life together in Fort Benton where Tom had spent most of his summers. The plan was that Tom would work with his best friend from high school, Kenny Scott, at Kenny’s grandmother’s farm. Tom & Joan’s plans changed quickly when he was offered a football scholarship at Montana State College.

At Montana State, Tom continued his success as a star football player before starting his legendary coaching career at Bozeman Senior High School. As the football coach for the Hawks, Tom gave Sonny Holland his first coaching job and always joked that he taught Sonny everything he knew about football.

He was a legend in coaching and instrumental in the development of football, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, and track programs at Bozeman Sr. High. Tom also promoted the wrestling program throughout the state of Montana. Rightfully earned, Tom has been referred to as the “Godfather of Bozeman Sr. High Athletics.”

At Bozeman High School, Tom is still the winningest all-time football coach for the Hawks. He led the Hawks from Class A to Class AA, laying the foundation for a program that almost always ranks among the best in the state. LeProwse led the Hawks to three state titles in swimming and one in wrestling. Overall, his football, wrestling, and track teams won 30 divisional titles. After retiring from coaching, Tom was a wrestling official for 20 years. Bozeman’s invitational wrestling tournament is one of the best in the state. It is named in honor of Tom. This past January, Tom was there to watch the tournament and congratulate the winners.

Tom is a founding member of the Montana Coaches Association where he served as President, the Montana Wrestling Referees Association, and was an avid Hawk and Bobcat Booster. He was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame, Butte High Hall of Fame, and Montana Coaches Hall of Fame. He was a part of the M Letterman Club as well as the MSU Steer-a-Year Club from which he proudly sported his Steer-a-Year belt buckle most every day. In addition, Tom was a member of the Breakfast Optimist Club and, along with his late friend Earl Bradford, they were fundamental in building the Bozeman Ponds that everyone enjoys to this day.

Tom and Joan enjoyed college and NFL football and attended 15 Super Bowls. Let’s not forget that even up to age 93 he rarely missed a Hawk or MSU football game. While in the hospital during his final days, he watched the livestream of the MSU 2022 football scrimmage and Good News Bobcat Nation, Coach says the Cats look good! He loved visiting and fishing in Alaska with family. He even caught a 42 lb. king salmon which he proudly displayed at his home. Tom’s love for golf was unwavering. He spent most of his summers on the links at Valley View Golf Club where he played until he was 93. He also made annual treks to Arizona in the winter months to spend time with family where he played golf every day meeting new friends.

Tom loved to hunt with his sons, sons-in-law, grandson Bill, brothers, nephews, and numerous friends. Over the last few years, the guys managed to include Tom on all the hunting trips until in 2019, at age 90, he rode his horse for the last time before he finally decided it was time to pack it up.

Tom and Joan purchased their ranch north of Bozeman in 1964. His love of ranching from his days in Fort Benton made this an easy transition, where he raised cattle and did custom haying. He enjoyed his horses and loved to take anyone who asked to ride up his mountain behind the ranch to the delight of many people. Tom was grateful he was able to live in his house where he enjoyed the views of the valley and visits from friends and family alike until his passing.

Tom is preceded in death by his wife; his parents; granddaughter, Shelby Rae Christophersen; Joan’s father, Raymond Kumor (stepmother Mary Lou), mother, Mae Scollard; brothers, Albert, William (wife, Lois), Bob, sister Ruth; sisters-in-law Barbara Fischer (husband Jim) and Norma LeProwse.

The family would like to sincerely thank Dr. Mike Herring for his many years of caring for Tom as well as the staff at Bozeman Health for making him comfortable during his last days.

Donations can be made to Bozeman Sr. High Booster Club Scholarship Fund, c/o BSHS Athletic Dept, 205 N. 11th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59715; “M Club” or “Bobcat Club Annual Scholarship Fund”, c/o MSU Alumni Foundation, P.O. Box 172750, Bozeman, MT 59717-2750; Butte Silver B’s Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. 4655 Butte, MT 59702; or the local high school athletic program of your choice.

The celebration of Tom’s life will be held at the Montana State University Strand Union Ballroom at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 16. A link to the livestream can be found on the Dokken-Nelson website in Tom’s obituary.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. []