Pull up a chair and meet Tom Weaver
“Growing up in Jefferson (now Brooklyn) was absolutely wonderful for me. We would spend our summer days roaming the fields and woods and hunt and fish in Goose Creek by the old Jefferson dam.” –Tom Weaver
Editor’s note: We originally ran this hometown feature last October, and we thought that some people would like a second look.
By Mike Coughlin
Exponent/Irish Hills Live
Tom Weaver’s roots here are deep. Very deep. And these roots tell the story of a man well known, respected and loved in this small village.
Tom’s strength belies his age. His wit and knowledge belie his humble beginnings. He has that twinkle in his eyes that at once disarms and draws people into a sense of trust – as if we have known him for years. If you meet Tom Weaver once you will remember him.
Indeed you will know him. He is an open book. But you’d better pull up a chair because if there is one thing that Tom is – is a story teller. This is a conversation with Tom Weaver.
Tom was born back in 1940 near the corner of Hewitt and Jefferson Road in a home that his great Grandfather built and lived in. Weaver still refers to this area, as many in this area still do, as Jefferson, the village that passed away into the history books when the railroad company chose Brooklyn over Jefferson back in the late 1800’s. His Grandfather had a 150 acre farm just across Jefferson Road from where Tom lived.
With six other siblings there was no shortage of kids to play with, Tom said. One of his favorite places to escape with his brothers to play at was the old village of Jefferson, right by his home. The dam and mills were long gone but hiking over the old sleuth run, hunting in the woods and swimming in the creek by the dam were stuff children’s dreams were made of.
“Growing up in Jefferson was absolutely wonderful for me. We would spend our summer days roaming the fields and woods and hunt and fish in Goose Creek by the old Jefferson dam. My brothers and I would make rafts and float them from the old dam, under the Jefferson road bridge and all the way to my Grandpa’s farm,” says Tom. “Back then there used to be a lot more homes in the area. Seems like they just fell into disrepair and had to be knocked down.”
Tom’s Dad worked for a while at the telephone company and his home became the gathering place for his extended family. This is where Tom may have learned early the blessings of giving to others. His cousins lived close by, but would spend most of their time at Tom’s home, mainly because his Mom would feed everyone. Apples and berries were readily available for the fruit pies she made. “If it hadn’t been for your Mother, Tom, we would likely have starved to death’” his cousin recently told him.
It was in the year 1955 when tragedy struck the Weaver family. After a day of hunting ducks with his brothers, they all came home for dinner. His Mom did not have dinner ready, so they all headed out with their cousins over to the ridge above the Jefferson dam to see if they could locate any ducks. After a while, Tom started heading home for dinner and told his cousins to not go any further into the ridge above the dam. Tom didn’t get more then 20 steps away when he heard a loud bang. His cousin had slipped and was falling into the ravine, and Tom’s brother slipped, stumbled and his gun discharged – killing his cousin instantly. To this day Tom has never carried a loaded gun. He carries the shell in his hand until he stops walking and it is safe to load.
Jefferson had it’s own one-room school house that taught all the children in the area from kindergarten up to 8th grade. Tom, his mother, his grandmother and even his great grandmother all attended school here. There was one teacher who taught all the different grade levels to the students. Tom transferred to Brooklyn’s school near sixth grade and dropped out in the tenth to work, a decision that Tom says he has always regretted.
Tom met and fell in love with a girl named Helen. She was a Brooklyn girl and at the tender age of 18 they were married. They were blessed with four children: two boys, Tracy and Tim, and two girls, Sue and Toni. They were married for over 50 years.
Later in life, Tom and Helen used to invite the grandchildren and their friends over and offer them use of his barn to build their Homecoming floats.
“I felt the kids needed a place to build their floats – and I had a place where they could do it,” says Tom. “I would move all my tractors out of the barn so the kids had enough room to build. I miss that now.”
Perhaps one reason Tom is so well known is that he is always doing something – always working.
“As my kids were growing up in school, they wanted to do things. I always wanted to make sure I had enough money that my kids could go on the trips and events with their school,” said Tom. “Every kid needed money to go and I didn’t want my kids left out.”
Back in the late 50’s Tom worked at Clark Equipment. When the workers went on strike in 1961, Tom didn’t miss a beat – he hired on with the crew building a new man-made lake called Lake Columbia, as a tree cutter clearing the land for the lake bottom. He learned the skill of cutting trees when, as a 17 year old, he lied about his age and got a tree cutting job at Wamplers State Park in a state run project trying to save the dying elm trees from Dutch elm disease. After the strike ended, Tom continued working both jobs. To this day he is active as a tree cutter in the area.
Tom’s sons tell of his strong work ethic and how it was passed down to his children.
“Years ago he worked at the Clark Equipment hammer shop and had a die fall on his foot. Next day his foot was too swelled to get his boot on so he simply pulled the felt liner out of his snowmobile boot and never missed a day of work’” says son Tracy. “I always thought of that when I didn’t feel like going to work, and figured if he could do that, I better go in.”
Son Tim Weaver tells of his Dad’s generosity.
“I remember going out on tree jobs with my Dad. If he met someone having a hard time or out of money, he would put his cash in an envelope and hide it in the man’s house where he wouldn’t find it until he was gone so that nobody ever knew that it was him that provided the money,” says Tim. “I always remember that about my Dad.”
Tom is also a man of character. He never drank nor smoked. He has worked two jobs most of his life to provide for his family – yet he is generous with those less fortunate. He is a die-hard Ford fan who routinely drinks six Coca Cola’s per day. He is a life member of the Brooklyn Masonic and volunteers as a Shriner’s child transport – transporting needy children to Chicago for medical help.
An Old Ford Truck and dog named Kaylee: Tom has a passion for some things in life – especially the Ford Motor Company, and his ever present side kick, Kaylee.
Kaylee, a Yorkshire terrier, was supposed to be his wife’s dog but every time Tom went to get in his car to run an errand, Kaylee insisted on going along. Now it’s not even questioned – no matter where Tom is headed Kaylee is a welcome guest. They have been partners for over eight years now and are quite inseparable.
Tom’s other passion is for the Ford Motor Company. He worked at the Brooklyn Ford plant for a while, making radio control knobs or running an injection molding press for tail lights for Ford cars and trucks. When he found an old Ford farm truck needing restoring he jumped on it. He paid $750 for it – a price he says was too high – but he really wanted it. Tom worked with a buddy and restored it to be a gorgeous green classic that he loves to take out for rides in the summer time – with Kaylee of course. Tom’s passion for Ford’s runs deep.
“I wouldn’t drive anything but a Ford,” Tom says, “even if it was nothing more than a wheelbarrow with an outboard engine and a Ford label on it.”
Tom also enjoys his pranks. One he loves to tell is that, as a young man, he built a small, fully functional cannon pretty much from scratch. He loved shooting its charge into an old anvil that increased the sound considerably. He would rise early on the 4th of July, around 4 a.m., and sneak up to a friend’s place and set off a charge. One time he went to the home of his friend, Brooklyn Exponent owner Matt Schepeler’s parents, the Mayor of Brooklyn at the time, and set off a 4 a.m. round.
The cannon pictured above may be small, but it makes a big boom!
“Most people would be coming out of the house quite angry with me,” says Tom. “But the Mayor and his wife came out laughing, Then they insisted on shooting off an additional round by themselves.”
This is Tom Weaver, an integral part of the history of the Brooklyn and Jefferson area for near 80 years now.
He has seen more, done more and told more stories than most.
He grew up here, raised his family, played in and even helped build our lakes.
His first hand experiences make him one of our finest historians, and when he is not spending time with his grandchildren or driving Kaylee around in his old Ford truck – he is still working trimming our trees. If you see Tom say hi, pull up a chair and ask him what he’s been up to.
Just don’t forget that chair.
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The joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh. 8:10