Whether it was teaching his wife how to shoot at the old Rod & Gun Club by Sabino Canyon, taking the family camping at Rucker Lake in the Chiricahua Mountains or picking up his grandson after school, Thomas Hoyt was always thinking about and doing for others.
“You could always call and depend on him,” said Helen, his wife of 66 years. “If you called for Tom, he’d just say ‘What do you want? I’ll be right over.’”
As the 84-year-old neared the end of his life, it was only fitting that others would do something for him.
Last year, TMC Hospice learned of his veteran status. Providing care to some 300 U.S. veterans each year with the need only growing, TMC Hospice joined with national partners We Honor Veterans and the Hospice Veterans Partnership to better reach out to, care for and honor veterans needing end-of-life care.
Hoyt had served in the Marine and Army Reserves before being called up to active duty in 1950 during the Korean War. He returned home in 1953. During that time, Helen and the first of their three sons had moved back home with her parents who lived near his. After the Marine Corps, Tom became a Tucson Police Department officer. After a few years, and needing a better income to take care of his family, he joined and later retired from Coors Beer Distributors.
He and Helen spent their lives collecting Native American artwork and artifacts, making many friends with artists and tribal members. During their three decades of retirement, they started making lamps out of saguaro ribs and ladders recalling Hopi pueblos. The couple began growing gourds to make rattles and other decorative items. Before long, their Native American friends were collecting the Hoyts’ creations.
As the years went on, Hoyt started to lose his vision and slow down. Then one summer, he fell in the garage and broke one hip; during his stay to recover at a rehabilitation facility, he fell and broke the other hip. He would not recover. Instead he was referred to hospice care.
While at Peppi’s House, the inpatient facility, he was asked if he would want to have a ceremony to recognize him for his service to the country. Helen thought the ceremony would be one person making the gesture.
“Instead, four Marines show up, their brass is shiny, one gives a nice speech and then they recite The Marine’s Prayer,” she said.
The Marine Corps has a long history of tradition, customs and courtesies from the Marines who came before, explained Staff Sgt. Jim Quintero, who coordinated the Marines for the ceremony. “We want to uphold the same type of mentality and carry on the traditions of the Marines, especially for the men of his generation who fought in World War II and the Korean War.”
The Marines honored Hoyt with a certificate of appreciation, a lapel pin and American flag as gratitude for his service. Helen has them all, along with a patriotic pillow cover sewn by TMC Hospice volunteers, lain out in his room at home.
“Everyone was teary eyed,” said his son, Michael. “We weren’t expecting it to be so moving. They were showing a lot of respect for Dad.”
Quintero acknowledged the emotion. “The ceremony has a special place in our hearts,” he said. “You do get choked up, but as a Marine, you maintain your military bearing and composure.”
Helen, too, knows her husband appreciated the ceremony. “In one of the photos, I can see he has a little smile on his face.”