Everyone at Cowsmo would like to send our deepest condolence’s to the family and friends of Tom.
Thomas (Tom) Howard Sawyer was born August 22, 1934 in Modesto, CA, and moved with his parents to the Diamond S Ranch in Roberts Ferry, east of Waterford, when he entered 8th grade at Roberts Ferry Elementary School. He attended Oakdale High School and the University of California, Davis. After graduating from U.C. Davis, he returned to the ranch where he and his wife Linda (Gordon) joined his mother and father Wesley and Maida Sawyer in a business that would eventually become one of the premier purebred Holstein dairies in America. Having a strong desire to give back to the industry, and to support young people who were interested in farming and livestock, Tom was well known for providing local 4-H youth with project animals to be shown at the fair.
Throughout his life, he was recognized many times for outstanding service and accomplishments, including being named California State Chamber of Commerce Livestock Man of the Year in 1988. He also received the U.C. Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Award of Distinction in 1992. The Dairy Council of California was a board he served on for nearly twenty years because he believed in the importance of nutrition education, and the value of dairy products in a healthy diet. Tom lived a full life on and off of the farm. He loved jazz. In fact, it was jazz that brought Tom and Linda together, as they first met in “Rec Hall” on the campus of U.C. Davis, where Tom and his dance band practiced. The band played around the Yolo County area. Throughout their 66 year marriage, family meals were not complete without the radio tuned to KFAT, or jazz music from his extensive record collection playing on his always state of the art stereo system.
There was a tendency for the family to linger at the table long after the meal listening to music and sharing the day’s events. Tom used to say that Linda introduced him to the arts and gave him an appreciation for art history, and Linda said that Tom gave her an appreciation for the farm and the value that caring for animals and the land brings to a life. His love of technology, and unusual ability to teach himself anything related to computer coding, networking, and hardware opened opportunities both at home and through his dairy operation that were ahead of his time. He saved Linda a thousand times when she was lost at the computer. He happily fixed whatever had gone wrong. In 1977, the Diamond S was the first dairy in the nation to go on-line with the Dairy Herd Improvement computing center, in Provo Utah. He was instrumental in developing computerization for the dairy industry nationwide. Tom took up photography in the 70’s, at which time he installed a darkroom in the house. It turned out that he was more interested in the complexity of the photographic process, than he was about taking the perfect photo. Because of his scientific mind, and ability to teach himself almost anything, he became an excellent baker. His specialty was Christmas Stollen, the German bread studded with dried fruit and nuts. For exercise, and with Linda’s support, Tom took up tennis in mid-life. Not especially athletic, he worked hard on his game and soon became good enough to enjoy being on the court.
Tom and Linda raised their four boys on the dairy, teaching them how to be responsible, and helping them to build a strong work ethic. The boys were always supported whether their interests led them to sports, music, art, and of course, farming. Although he had no daughters, Tom’s daughters-in-law say that they feel they have been treated like daughters. Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Wesley and Maida Sawyer. He is survived by the love of his life, Linda, his sister-in-law Suzie Gordon (Mark), four sons Wes (Susan), Bruce (Jeanette), Chris (Agnes), and Michael (Anne), nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
Remembrances and donations can be made to Modesto Salvation Army, P.O. Box 580480, Modesto, California 95358. A Celebration of Life will be held at a future date.