Obituary: Thomas Allen Erwin

Thomas Allen Erwin, 63, died on August 5, 2018 from surgery complications in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. He was born in Wichita, Kan., on October 9, 1954.

Those who knew Tom described him as a kind, gentle and loving spirit, who put others before himself. His family was his priority and he loved spending quality time with them. He married his wife and best friend, Kathie after she proposed to him following a brief two-month courtship. They were married for 41 years and still held hands, every day. Together they raised their daughters, Sasha and Karis to be strong, independent women. He always supported their dreams and crazy adventures. Tom, aka Poppy, loved spending time with his grandchildren and watching them grow in their activities.

Tom enjoyed riding his bicycle with his buddies. He completed Bike Across Kansas and Bike Across Missouri several times. He liked woodworking, exploring new places and fly-fishing, although he only caught one tiny fish. Learning was a passion of Tom’s and he poured himself into nonfiction books. 

After years of dreaming and research, Tom and Kathie traveled North America full time in their fifth wheel home during the past year. He enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing local cultures, history and food, including craft beers. 

Tom graduated from Heights High School in Wichita, Kan. He earned his Bachelor’s in Science degree in Social Work, with a minor in Psychology from Pittsburg State University. He earned a Master’s degree in Counseling at Wichita State University and completed many courses toward a Ph.D. in Informational Technology at Kansas State University. He started his career as a school social worker for Wichita Public Schools. He retired as Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., in May 2017, after 32 years of service. Tom loved his time at Butler, where he met so many people who positively impacted his life and the life of his family.

Tom was traveling in Newfoundland for two months prior to his death in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It is hard to describe the compassion and kindness of the Newfoundland culture. His family feels comforted by the support from thousands of Newfies who have offered lodging, food, transportation and encouraging words to his family. Tom was humbled by the outpouring of love and his wish would be that others mirror the kindness to strangers that his family has been shown. His family would like to thank the extremely competent and compassionate hospital staff at Health Sciences Centre. 

Tom is preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Vilma Erwin. He is survived by his wife Kathie (Schairbaum); daughter Sasha Kalis and son-in-law Ryan; daughter Karisa Erwin; foster daughter Anne Paton; grandchildren Haley, Drew and Parker; foster grandson Jacob; sister Cheryl Roy (Dave); brother Bob Erwin (Karen); mother-in-law Marilou Schairbaum; brother-in-law Herb Schairbaum (Liz); nieces and nephews; and many loving friends.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Tom on September 15 at 1 p.m. in the Hubbard Welcome Center, Clifford/Stone Community Room, at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. 

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