Thomas Nelson Zbyszewski, 20, was born and raised in the Methow Valley, only a few miles from the location of the Twisp River Fire, where he lost his life trying to protect homes from the Twisp River Fire.
Tom loved academics. He was an exceptional student and had close relationships with his teachers. He was salutatorian of his 2013 high school graduating class. He was involved in math competitions, Knowledge Bowl, and Speech and Debate. He was the first runner-up for the Washington State Poetry Out Loud competition in 2013.
Tom had a close group of friends, many of whom he knew all of his life. For many years he practiced Taekwon Do, was a downhill skier, and was a member of the Methow Valley swim team.
He was very involved in the theater, performing in many plays at the local theaters and school. He truly enjoyed encouraging and supporting younger kids in theater productions.
After graduating from high school, Tom entered Whitman College in the fall of 2013. He was about to start his junior year as a physics major, with a minor in Chinese. He loved Whitman and had many friends there. From his first day of college, it became his new home, and he was excited about his classes and the academic challenges of that school. His interest in theater continued there, where he was in several productions during his freshman and sophomore years.
Tom loved his family and his friends, was happy and enjoyed life. He had an “old soul” and was kind and big-hearted. He saw value in every person that he met and always stuck up for the underdog. He had kind words for everyone.
Tom was in his second summer of being a firefighter, working for the Methow Valley Ranger District, a job that he loved. He was interested in the firefighting job because he grew up with the Forest Service, where his mother, Jennifer, has worked for 37 years, and his father, Richard, worked for many years. He liked the arduous physical work required for the job, but what he really loved was the camaraderie of the crew and being involved in the firefighting effort.
Tom loved the Methow Valley where he grew up and the people who live there. Everyone he was associated with enriched his life.
In his honor, his parents ask you to carry on his legacy: be kind, be happy, try new things, love with all your heart, and truly value everyone you meet.