Thomas Willenborg, 63 | Obituary


Thomas August Joseph Willenborg “Tommy” returned home on August 19, 2022, with his sister, JoAnn, by his side. Tommy was born to John and Loretta Willenborg on January 10, 1959. He was their youngest child. Tommy embodied all things good, kind and holy. His parents knew Tommy was special, but he wasn’t diagnosed with Down syndrome until he was 7 when his parents and sister, JoAnn, checked into Seattle Children’s Hospital. He attended school in Cottonwood, Idaho, for several years; he then went to school for a brief period in Lewiston, Idaho. When he was young, he participated in the Special Olympics and enjoyed running with total abandon.

After John and Loretta died in 1982, Tommy went to live with his sister, JoAnn McHugh, and her family. JoAnn and her husband, Eugene, then moved to the family farm outside Cottonwood, along with Tommy and their seven children. Tommy lived in their family home until his death. For 40 years Tommy has thrived living under the caring, dedicated and loving hands of JoAnn and Eugene, his surrogate parents. Tommy had a childlike innocence, an infectious laugh, and an almost limitless capacity for shenanigans. Tommy brought immense joy to JoAnn, Eugene, their children and grandchildren.

Tommy loved Pink Panther, played his records and Hee Haw. He enjoyed every Christmas with JoAnn and Eugene’s family and never failed to put his stocking on his foot and laugh like it was the funniest joke. Tommy was blessed with undying childlike faith, said his prayers every day, and always had a smile for those around him.

Tommy was predeceased by his parents, John and Loretta Willenborg, and his sister, Arlene Willenborg.

He is survived by his devoted and loving sister-mother JoAnn (Willenborg) McHugh; her husband and Tommy’s devoted and loving caregiver father, Eugene McHugh; his sisters, Barbara Meyers of Weippe, Idaho and Laura Johnson of Lewiston; and his brother, Terry Willenborg of Lewiston. Tommy is also survived by seven nieces and nephews who grew up with him as a brother: Susie Keating of Cottonwood, Ryan McHugh of Ferdinand, Idaho, Cathleen McHugh of Boise, Idaho, Tara Klapprich of Cottonwood, Morna Lustig of Cottonwood, John McHugh of Denver, Colorado, and Colleen Bennett of Greencreek, Idaho. Tommy is also survived by many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews.

Tommy ended each day with a prayer and asked God’s blessing for each brother, in-law, niece and nephew by name. He always assured God that “Tommy is a good boy”. And Tommy was. In her later years, her nighttime ritual began by putting on her pajamas and then jogging through the living room to proclaim “Gene! Embarrassed! I put on my pajamas.

His gentleness, kindness, gentle and kind nature will be missed by all and serve as a true example of the best way to live. “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as they are. Tommy, enjoy the golden streets and the singing and dancing with the angels. You were such a blessing to us.

A rosary will be recited on Friday, August 26 at 9:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cottonwood followed by the Mass of the Angels at 10 a.m. Interment will be in Cottonwood Catholic Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Blackmer Funeral Home, Grangeville, Idaho. You can offer your condolences to the family online at


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