Thomas was born and raised in Victoria. Known by his friends as Tom, he was the fourth of five children: three boys and two girls. He lived in the same family home all his life until he moved out. His siblings remember Tom as a bit of a wild child, who had trouble in school. Today, he would probably be diagnosed with dyslexia and offered extra help. He quit school at 16 and apprenticed as an automobile mechanic. Over the years, he overhauled a number of cars—and he loved working on them.
For a while, Tom worked out-of-town at a mine near Kamloops. He later joined the Operating Engineers’ Union and became a heavy duty equipment operator. He worked extensively on highway construction, notably Dempster Highway and the Coquihalla Highway.
In his youth, says his sister Lucy, Tom had a drinking problem. “He is very proud of the fact that he’s been sober since 1983,” she says. “It was a major turning point in his life.”
A new interest in travel led Tom to renovate a house in Chemainus into a hostel. He ran it for about 10 years, meeting visitors from across the globe. As a member of the Youth Hostel Organization, he travelled the world.
In 2004, Tom sold the hostel and moved to Sooke, where he managed a small resort owned by a friend. Tom soon began showing signs that something was changing in his personality. He wasn’t able to perform his duties properly and ended up leaving the job. The owner of the resort, a friend of many years, reached out to one of Tom’s brothers to voice concerns about Tom’s health.