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Thomas Edward Zajicek

1950 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Thomas Edward Zajicek Obituary
Thomas Edward Zajicek, age 66, died on Sunday, August 6, 2017. Tom was most at home in the wild. He loved the mountains, and he spent his life exploring them and climbing them, challenging himself, and teaching others to experience the beauty he felt there. He suffered a fatal fall while descending Starlight Peak in the High Sierra above Bishop, CA.

Tom was born in Hutchinson, Minnesota, on August 13, 1950, to Roger and Lorraine (Presley) Zajicek. He grew up on the Crow River, swimming and canoeing with his brother and sister, and learned to love the outdoors on hunting trips to Bear Lake with his father and uncle. He was an athlete in high school, setting records in the high hurdles at Hutchinson High School. He earned a BA in Wildlife Biology from the University of Minnesota, and a Teaching Certificate in Biology and Earth Science from the University of Wisconsin River Falls. A backpacking trip to the Brooks Range in Alaska changed his life, opening his eyes to the beauty of wilderness. After that he knew his calling. Backpacking, mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, skiing: Tom did it all, and he loved it. He built his life around these pursuits, finding jobs that allowed him to teach others the love of the outdoors and the skills needed to thrive there, most notably at the Environmental Learning Center in Red Wing, Minnesota. He was patient, kind, and generous.

Tom married twice, to Diane Millner and Linda Heyne. Ever an idealist and a romantic, Tom participated in the back-to-the-land movement in the 1970s, renovating an old farmstead with Diane near Pepin, Wisconsin. The carpentry skills that he learned from his father were always on display, and he was forever planning and building cabins in the woods. While living in Ithaca, New York, in the early 2000s, he put his building skills together with his climbing skills and became a roped-access technician, rappelling from skyscrapers and churches throughout the country. For the last ten years of his life he lived in Durango, Colorado, where he was embraced by a community of climbers, canyoneers and hikers. He was semi-retired, but he loved working part-time at the Backcountry Experience equipment store, helping other adventurers and trying out new gear. Tom had two children by his first marriage, and he was a devoted and loving father. His children cannot remember a time before they first went camping with their dad. He was overwhelmed with pride when his daughter became a guide on Mount Rainier.

He is survived by his children, Anna Zajicek of Pepin, WI, and Benjamin Zajicek of Towson, MD; his siblings, Barb Daggett and husband Tom of Hutchinson, MN, and William Zajicek and his wife Romi Slowiak of St Paul, MN; and by his granddaughters, Katherine and Eleanor Zajicek of Towson, MD. Tom was preceded in death by his parents Roger and Lorraine Zajicek. We love and miss Tom terribly, and there can be no real solace for this loss, but we know that he was doing what he loved, and that he was happy. A memorial service will be held in Pepin, Wisconsin, on Saturday, September 16, at 3 pm. Memorial services are also tentatively planned for Durango, Colorado, on October 14, and in Ithaca, New York, date yet to be determined. Friends should check www.facebook.com/rememberingtomz/ for updates.
Published in The Durango Herald on Aug. 23, 2017
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