Thomas Gerrard Easterly, 50, died Thursday, February 20, 2014. Tom was born to Robert John “Bob” and Constance Anne Stephany “Connie” Easterly on October 16, 1963 in Pierre, SD. Tom grew up in a large family and was the fifth of eight children.
In 1981, Tom graduated from Raymond Central High School in Valparaiso, NE. Following his graduation, he attended South Dakota State University, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Wildlife Science. After completing his post-secondary education in 1989, Tom began his career as a biologist working in both Western South Dakota and Southern Wyoming.
In 1992, Tom moved to Greybull and assumed the position of Wildlife Biologist for the Department of Game and Fish. Throughout his career, Tom focused his efforts on ensuring that the area’s native wildlife species were able to live in a sustainable habitat.
Because of his commitment to the maintenance of the county’s wildlife populations, Tom served as a key figure in negotiations between landowners, private groups, and governmental agencies. Tom played an integral role in several Game and Fish projects in the area, including the release and reestablishment of the Big Horn sheep population in Shell Canyon and on Little Mountain, and the introduction of Rio Grande wild turkeys in river drainages throughout the Big Horn Basin; Tom’s leadership was also a critical element in investigations surrounding the management and sustainment of the basin’s sage-grouse numbers. Tom was the Chair of the Bighorn Basin Sage-grouse Local Working Group, one of seven statewide public working groups initiated by the Governor, that is a collaborative effort of public citizens, conservation groups, industry, and agricultural members working together to conserve sage-grouse. He was also a liaison with University of Wyoming sage-grouse researchers in the Bighorn Basin. Tom served as a member of Paintrock Basin’s Coordinated Resource Management Group to improve forestry management throughout the county and on the Big Horn National Forest Resource Advisory Council, which allocated federal funds for area forest improvement. Tom also worked closely with local chapters of Pheasants Forever, and the National Wild Turkey Federation to improve habitat for both species; he was one of two biologists in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department that were on the National Wild Turkey Federation’s State Technical Committee.
Tom was a true outdoorsman, and his passion and enthusiasm reached far beyond his career. He contributed to both community and regional outdoor education efforts by teaching annual hunter’s safety programs, led community forums to reinforce the need for habitat management, and volunteered on both Greybull and Shell fire departments. Tom was active in the Paintrock Hunter Mentor Program and the Worland Outdoor Education Day, meeting annually with high school seniors answering their questions about the wildlife biologist vocation. Each spring and summer, Tom directed several youth mountain biking clinics, performed regular maintenance on bike trails throughout the region as a member of the Wyoming State Trails Council, and as the former Wyoming representative for the International Mountain Biking Association, promoted the sport’s accessibility throughout the state. Tom was also a long-time member of the Greybull Elks Club, and held many offices in the organization. As part of the Greybull City Council, Tom was instrumental in the revitalization of the City Park’s recreational facilities and athletic fields, and the addition of the skate park. Additionally, Tom’s expertise and spirit of volunteerism was vital in developing and writing the county’s Wildfire Protection Plan.
There is no doubt that Tom, a friend to so many, led a full life in his fifty short years. Tom’s friendship was, at its very essence, selfless, encouraging, and unwavering. He was adventurous and always ready for a day spent outdoors with his buddies – -whether it was filled with mountain biking, skiing, hunting, or hiking, it mattered not. Tom Easterly was soft-spoken, yet stubborn; an independent spirit, yet fiercely loyal to his friends. For the many who are fortunate enough to call Thomas Gerrard Easterly a friend, may they find comfort and solace in the fond memories of Tom that will allow his legacy to live on.
Tom is survived his parents, Bob and Connie Easterly of Haxtun, CO; his sisters Debra Easterly of Pocatello, ID, Diane Easterly Molloy of Lincoln, NE, Cathy Easterly Josephson of Firestone, CO, and Sue Easterly Johnson of Oak Harbor, WA; his brothers Bill Easterly of Loveland, CO, Jim Easterly of Arvada, CO, and Steve Easterly of Appleton, WI; as well as his many nephews and nieces.
Services celebrating Tom’s life will be held at 2 pm on Wednesday, February 26, at the Elks BPOE Lodge #1431 in Greybull. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Tom Easterly Memorial and Scholarship Fund at Big Horn Federal Savings Bank in Greybull.