Tom Gutzke, a resident of Lincoln Nebraska, was born on Saint Nicholas Day in 1944 (Wednesday, December 6, 1944) in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. He reached the age of 78 years & died on Sunday, January 15, 2023 at Tabitha’s Journey House Hospice in Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska.
Tom grew up in Neenah-Menasha, Wisconsin where his father worked in the paper mills & his mother was an educator. His father took him to Alaska on the back of an Indian motorcycle, built a steam engine in the basement of their home, told his young son that he shot the ‘jolly old elf’ on Christmas Eve & pretended that his car was fueled by water. His mother painted still life compositions, enjoyed traveling, loved “West Side Story” & had a beautiful opal ring. At age 3, his father was called to the jail to pick up little Tommy after he was caught peddling his tricyle wearing a straw hat, corncob pipe & just a smile. Tom was a life-long Catholic, attended Catholic Parochial Schools, studied mechanical engineering in college & graduated from truck driving school. Because of his Wisconsin upbringing, Tom always appreciated roads that curved & cold weather, saying that you can dress for the cold. Before moving to Lincoln, Tom had also wintered in Mexico, lived in California & resided in Seward, Utica, Waverly, Greenwood, Hastings & Dunning in Nebraska.
His first job was being a car hop, except he could not roller skate! So, after obtaining his drivers license a bit prematurely, he delivered flowers. After an all expenses paid, government sponsored trip to Vietnam, Tom returned stateside & decided he wanted to see America. He first became a traveling church photographer & then became a professional driver. He frequently reminded others that they were amateurs driving their four-wheelers on the same roads as the professionals. He much enjoyed 18 wheeler “trailer trucking” & driving other CDL vehicles. After retiring from trucking in 2015, he had fun delivering charcuterie in Lincoln.
Tom volunteered with Jack Russell Terrier (JRT) Rescue helping save 125+ dogs through fostering & transport. He would don a red fur trimmed suit accessorized with the very best antique sleigh bells to fundraise for animal rescue. He was often seen doing event check-ins at regional JRT Trials. He also served as the Sunday morning Eastern Nebraska Gun Club range officer.
Although Tom found no joy in his first trip to Vietnam with the Third Marine Division as a recon/sniper at the Khe Sanh fire base, had tossed his Purple Heart immediately & was displeased that he wasted his R&R by going to Hawaii (although he purchased a beautiful watch & his first garnet ring there); he truly enjoyed his second & third trips to Vietnam in 2000. The joke was that he could pack to go there again in just 15 minutes – although remembering to pack tee shirts was a problem for him. He was able to return to Khe Sanh, which he had not seen since just prior to the Tet Offensive in 1968; while there a multi-national tour group asked him to replace the young Communist tour guide as he obviously had vast personal & actual accurate knowledge to share. While there he also visited Saigon, the Chu Chi tunnels (enlarged for the big, fat Americans & where the giant fruit bat taught everyone that men from all nations laugh in the same language), My Tho, Dalat, Hai Van Pass, Hue, Nha Trang, Monkey Island (“don’t look at the monkeys!”), Quang Tri, Hoi An, saw some Cham ruins, swam in the China Sea & met his cyclo driver’s family in their home. After eating at The Rex Hotel in downtown Saigon on the very last night of vacation, he went down to the lobby & had the privilege to shake hands with John McCain. The Senator thanked Tom for his service, which brought tears to Tom’s eyes.
Tom was always considered a Ford guy. He owned multiple Ford pickups – two ’68’s & a ’75 & generally drove a somewhat newer Ford. He drove the ’68 “Mr. Green” to Hyder, Alaska in 1996; during the trip, he had to install a mis-labeled fuel pump & had to find a welder after a tire blew in Canada. The ’75 “Brownie” had been stolen as he slept, so he had to retrieve it from Colorado; later, he had to ‘repo’ the truck from the painter. He loved the quality & engineering of sports cars, the Flying Scot one-design dingy, his hand built saddle, guns, accurate hand loads & fine watches. Tom said that as a young man, he never bought a vehicle that he could actually drive home, so spent a lot of time wrenching on his cars. Some of his first foreign cars were Triumphs & then Puegeots, which Enzo Ferrari described as “a thoroughbred on the legs of a dachshund.” He often would repeat that a Viper, according to many professional race car drivers, is the only car that actively tries to kill you – he first said that after he had “swapped ends” in the middle of an intersection. He was totally convinced that his BMW 850i had been owned by actor Pierce Brosnan. Called the Porsche 911 “little St. Nick,” although it still said “pasta” on the rear. And he had wanted an E-type (Jaguar XKE) since they were introduced, noting Enzo said they were “the most beautiful car ever made.” Tom agreed.
Tom belonged to many groups including the Great Plains BMW Club, Great Plains Region Porsche Club of America (where he was honored as the 2018 Family of the Year & was interviewed for the ‘Der Skooner’ publication October 2020 issue), Viper Owners of America – Crossroads Region, Flatwater British Car Club, Nebraska Rescue Council, NRA (lifetime member), Lincoln Izaak Walton League – Chapter 65 & the Eastern Nebraska Gun Club. He had previously been a member of the Flying Scot Sailing Association (he got his first Scot after his boat was rammed during the Olympic pre-trials), Lincoln Sailing Club, Spring Creek Saddle Club (disbanded) & the Viper Club of America – KC Region.
He was preceded by his parents Blanche G. (Meyer, 10/20/1905 – 01/27/1967) & George J. Gutzke (a WWI veteran, about 1894 – 11/14/1959), who are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Menasha, Winnebago County, WI.; “Daddy,” Elisa’s father; and his beloved dogs & animals: pet ducks, pet racoon, the German Shorthair Pointers, Bucky (buckskin quarter horse), Smokey (grey quarter horse), Puppy (Panzer), Coach (Cochise), Widget, Freckles (the first JRT), Chester (Ricky), Daisy Mae, Mauser (the foster failure), Tazzy Beth, Ginger Rogers (17 hand tall mule), Jimmy, Connor, Gertie Rose, Mickie, Roscoe, Joey, Beau Beau, Max, Bugsy (the indoor wild rabbit) and many foster dogs. This is probably not a complete list!
He is survived by Elisa Stutheit, his companion for 31 years; his “pups” – Buddy (Memphis) & Burt; & numerous friends. He was proud of his younger friends especially Emily, Barrett, Ethan, Cindy, Father Alan, Craig & Dom.
A “retirement from this earth” celebration of life event for Tubby Tommy Trucker will be held Saturday, February 11, 2023, from 1-3pm at Troy’s Automotive, 1329 Dawes Avenue, Lincoln, NE 68521. This is in northwest Lincoln, just a block south of Cornhusker Hwy/Hwy 6, to the west of the intersection of North 14th Street/Antelope Valley Parkway & Dawes Avenue. Park at Troy’s Automotive, on the street or next door at the Mechanix Garage. Stop by as you are able. Photos, memorabilia & tales are encouraged. Please dress casually, possibly wearing Tom’s favorite color – green, a dog shirt, a car shirt, a hat honoring your military service, western wear or your work clothes & definitely denim jeans. No need to dress exactly like Tom & look homeless; Tom has already done that & had the $5.00 to prove it. We will be sure to have some Fritos scoops!
In Tom’s memory, you might pet your companion animals; watch a nature or history show or “Jeopardy;” take a car drive especially in a sports car & especially through the Loess Hills; go target shooting; have some Fritos scoops or lobster or pork chops or corned beef & cabbage or corn on the cob or Chinese food or a macaron; drink a diet Cherry Pepsi (always pop, never soda); listen to classical music or opera or Gregorian chants or Buddy Holly or Peter, Paul & Mary or “Amarillo by Morning” or “Sukiyaki” or “Ashoken Farewell;” watch “Blazing Saddles” or “The Great Race” or “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” or “Rebel Without a Cause” or “American Graffiti;” see a Riverdance performance; saddle up your horse; display luminarias for Christmas Eve; smell the lilacs in the spring; or adopt your next pet. Tom would especially encourage everyone to adopt their next companion animal from a rescue organization. If you would like to complete Tom’s bucket list: see the gaboon viper at the St. Louis Zoo, visit the Buddy Holly Memorial at Clear Lake IA (he always wished he had not returned the ticket for that fateful concert), drive the Nürburgring in Germany or travel to Wisconsin.
If you would like to make a donation in Tom’s name, memorials may be given to Hearts United for Animals, Box 286, (73418 – 638 Avenue), Auburn, NE 68305; 402.274.3679 or at hua.org using the donor button. Please note that your donation is in memory of Tom.
Huge thank yous to Dr. Julie Hamann & Dr. Aaron Ward for laughing with Tom & keeping him as healthy as possible. Special thanks to Dr. Robert Oakes for doing Tom’s triple by-pass on 4.10.2017, which added nearly six years to Tom’s life.
“Oh God of Grace and Glory, we remember before You today our brother, Tom. We thank You for giving him to us to know & to love as a companion in our pilgrimage on Earth. In Your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us Your aid, so that we may see in death the gate to eternal life, that we may continue our course on Earth in confidence until, by Your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before us, through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.”
– from the Lutheran Book of Worship
To leave a condolence please use the form below.