Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

Ellis 'Tom' Urist


Ellis "Tom" Urist, 82, passed away at the home of his daughter in Billings, Mont. on May 16, 2016, as a result of end stage COPD.

Born in the family home on December 1, 1933, to William and Marie Urist in Bridger, Mont., he was one of five children. They moved to Gebo, Wyo., where he would graduate in Thermopolis from Hot Springs County High School in 1951. He enlisted in the Air Force in December of 1951 and five years later met and married Ann Mae Beck before re-enlisting.

They were stationed in Germany where their first son was born, prompting a return to the U.S. due to health issues, dying at 8 months old. He spent time in Newfoundland but was stationed most of his time in Colorado Springs working at/in NORAD Mountain. A Vietnam veteran, he served two tours there. In 1972, Tom would refuse a promotion when he realized it would mean a third tour to Vietnam, deciding to retire from the Air Force after 21+ years of service.

He worked in Casper and Recluse, Wyo. before moving back to Thermopolis in 1974 where he spent the next 18 years owning/operating the Big T Drive In with his wife. He was a wise and successful businessman and a father figure and mentor to many of the teens who worked for him over the years. He partnered with his brother-in-law, John Dorman, to buy and operate Owl lumber, successfully orchestrating a plan to get family closer. He was a big supporter of 4-H, attending the sales and often continuing to bid to get the price up. That's not to say he didn't end up getting "stuck" with many of those animals and he frequently gave the animal back to the 4-Her to re-sell at market.

After his wife's death in 2002, he eventually moved to Billings to be close to his daughter's family and most importantly his two grandchildren, Chris and Megan. They were a source of much pride and bragging and were the driving force behind his will to live. He hoped to be here long enough to see them graduate from high school, and missed Megan's graduation by two weeks. His 'job' was to spoil his grandkids, and he did so with enthusiasm. He was philanthropic and gave generously to numerous community support agencies in Billings.

He is survived by son, Cory Austin of Antioch, Tenn.; daughter, Susan (Mike) Dillon; two grandchildren, Chris and Megan of Billings; sisters, JoAnn (Marvin), Patty (Art), Patsy (John) and Sandee; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents; wife; and infant son.

Cremation has taken place and honoring his wish of no services, the family will perform a graveside Committal service at Monument Hill cemetery on Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 10 a.m., and anyone is welcome to attend. A celebration of life gathering will be held at noon with a light lunch at John & Patsy's home at 230 Amoretti St, #1.


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