FIT FOR DUTY – Thirty-seven recruits graduating from the Alaska Department of Public Safety Training Academy's Law Enforcement Training Session 1802 take the oath of office this afternoon at the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi. The audience was told that during the rigorous 16-week session recruits lost a combined 200 pounds of body fat. The graduates will be taking law enforcement positions around the state from the North Slope Borough Police Department to statewide Alaska Wildlife Troopers to the Ketchikan Police Department. Speaker at the ceremony was DPS Deputy Commissioner William Comer, who graduated from the academy in 1985. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Tom True

Tom True

Longtime U.S. border agent Tom True died March 21 at the Sitka Pioneers Home, following a long decline due to dementia, and more recently Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). His wife of 42 years, Shelley McLaughlin-True, was with him.

A celebration of his life will be held 1:30 p.m. April 21 at the Pioneers Home chapel.

Thomas Jesse True was born in 1949 in Portland, Ore., to Gail and Charles True. His father worked for a phone company and his mother was a homemaker who played violin. True began playing the piano at four, and played on the same piano his entire life. He attended Willamette University as a National Merit Scholar, and earned his master’s degree from Idaho State University in 1974.

He met Shelley McLaughlin in 1974 when she enrolled in a summer field course in which he was teacher’s assistant. As a practical joke, he asked her to carry a large stick for two miles, saying it was for the professor. They married on May 24, 1975, in her hometown of Rocklin, Calif. His pranks continued throughout their married life. He would steal jigsaw puzzle pieces from her, and “either hide it or swoop in to complete the puzzle,” his son Micah said. When their sons were four and seven, True convinced them shoveling snow was fun by presenting them kid-sized snow shovels as if they were “the keys to new motorcycles.”

For more than 30 years, True served as an inspector for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, beginning in 1975 in Eastport, Idaho. He moved to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., in 1976 and then to Haines in 1978, where the family lived first in the former custom’s house at Main Street and Old Haines Highway, and the next year moved to the new border station at Dalton’s Cache. He retired from Customs and Border Protection in 2008.

True was a longtime Haines Borough Public Library board member, and a devoted father to sons Nick and Micah. He was deeply introverted, and few outside of the family knew him well, family members said.

He was a supporter of the Arbor Day Foundation, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Association and the World Wildlife Fund.

Micah True said his father had “quiet humility” and did not draw attention to his achievements that included gifted piano playing and a master’s degree in zoology. His thesis was “The Behavior and Ecology of the Pika.” While working at the border, True collected butterflies for University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Ken Phillips, and after retiring, conducted his own experiments to learn if butterflies are attracted to some colors more than others.

True is survived by wife Shelley Mc Laughlin-True of Juneau; sons Nick of Juneau and Micah of Edmonton, Alberta; granddaughter Alex True of Edmonton; mother Gail Taylor and brother Glenn True of Portland, and two nieces. A brother, Scott True, and his father, Charles True, preceded him in death.

Tom True especially adored his toddler granddaughter. “He wrote her letters until he was no longer able to write, and spent a lot of time watching a slide show of her pictures on his TV,” Micah said. They skyped several times a week, and she wall-papered the room of her “Babu” with her artwork.

Cards may sent to the Trues c/o Sitka Pioneer Home, 120 Katlian St., Sitka, AK 99835.

 

In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial donations to the Arbor Day Foundation, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Association or the World Wildlife Fund.

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