Thomas Bradford Ulappa

Thomas Bradford UlappaThomas Bradford Ulappa,75, Westside Road, Bonners Ferry, woke up deceased in the early hours of June 12, 2024, in Hospice amid loved ones in Boise, never again to hear the clarion horn of Friday. “Piteous Christ, it is cheerless,” he thought quietly. In lieu of a post-living event on his behalf, which he refuses to attend anyway, Thos. humbly requests you talk loudly among yourselves and express what you think of his presence in your life.

He was born in the Portland Sanitarium and Benevolent Association Hospital, Portland, Oregon, on June 22, 1948, with a full head of white hair, a beard and a slightly used engineer’s scale that he treasured for life. His mother, Margaret Colleen (Dougan) Ulappa expressed her shock, and Tom’s father, Alvar Kosti Ulappa, gave her comfort, whispering to her softly, “you should be happy it wasn’t a T-square, darling.”

“I was referring to his beard,” mom said. “It’s so distinguished.”

He graduated from David Douglas High School, Portland, named after David Douglas, in 1966, and he worked and sloughed off for a year before entering Portland State College, scale in hand, only to be shanghaied by General Hershey and his Selective Service System in February 1968.

He kept that beard through to the end, but only by enlisting in the United States Navy, where he served four years active duty, to include a year at sea, and two years in the Navy Reserve before being honorably discharged as a E-5 Hospital Corpsman (the “s” would remain silent for Tom for another 50 years) on St. Patrick’s Day, 1974. So profound was his relief that he became an Irishman that day, though he never lost his love for his Finnish heritage.

Piteous Christ, he’s beardless!

He loved all things naval, except his belly button. Wait, that’s navel … belay that.

Tom married Janis Jean Cogley in Spokane in April 1971, and began his domestication with her in Annapolis, Maryland (named after Anna Polis) where they were both stationed. They later moved to Bremerton, Washington, where he dug deep in his seabag and retrieved his scale, dusted it off and enrolled again in college, where he began taking classes in Earnest.

Earnest never said how he felt about that, but he must have been okay with it as he never complained about his “personal space” or filed suit, and Tom graduated from the University of Washington in March 1976 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. Despite his penchant for writing strongly worded letters and his strict lifelong adherence to his creed, “It’s all about me,” friends say that the few times Tom slipped as a civil engineer, at worst he was always cordial.

He and Janis bought and moved into the “ol’ Seaman Place” in District 3 on the West Side Road in Boundary County in the fall of 1979. In September 1982 his reason for being was revealed to him with the birth of his daughter, Amy Colleen Ulappa. The two shared the closest of bonds, and he took great pride in her achievements and successes.

His domestication came to an end in November 2000, and in the ensuing years, he created for himself a true seaman’s shanty on his half of the old Seaman place, a cabin with a berth instead of a bedroom, a galley in lieu of a kitchen and a true brass ship’s binnacle in case he ever had need to know if he was true to his course.

He always was, without err.

Early on in Boundary County, Tom worked many part time occupations that filled his time but not his billfold. After contracting with the county assessor’s office for several years, he was hired by the county full time in 1996, reducing the time he devoted to laboring for his family to 40 hours per week but showing little improvement in the pocketbook situation, though he did have insurance!

He spent the next 17 years scrutinizing all conveyance documents memorializing real property transactions in Boundary County for validity and to assure himself as much as the property owner that nobody paid taxes on more acreage than they owned according to the record.

He was true to the high-falutin’ job title he insisted on in lieu of the higher compensation he so richly deserved “Cadastral Cartographic Analyst,” even though no one quite knew just what in hell it meant … to most everyone, he was simply “the Napper,” him having altered the sign on his door that said, “Mapper” with a small strip of tape.

He was fastidious in his work, finding and clearing up countless errors in property descriptions that went back decades, grudgingly throwing the more problematic in his “rotten fish” pile so he could go back to them for a deeper dive as time allowed.

A confirmed disbeliever in ghosts and gods, he became an ordained minister not long after Y2K, even  officiating one or two weddings before reaching the limits of his hypocrisy and tucking his blessed mail-order credentials away alongside his trusty old scale.

He spent years as a member of the Bonners Ferry Lions Club, ranking several members among his best friends. Never one to seek the spotlight or prestigious position, he was always a steady hand below deck; directing traffic at Grandview Cemetery on many Memorial Days, helping out each year with the Lions Club Easter Egg Hunt. pitching in whenever and wherever an engineer of civil demeanor was needed, almost always accompanied by his boon companion, Sean, also known as Snagglewarp, a big, beautiful Irish wolfhound almost as imperturbable as Tom.

Sean never caught a wolf, but was known for going after a skunk about every other year or so … about all the excitement either could abide. The loss of Sean to old age broke Tom’s heart.

He greatly enjoyed time shared with friends at the Sportin’ House or Jack’s Club, where he was just as good at listening as he was talking, but even more he loved looking out over the Kootenai River Valley of an evening, hearing the far-away song of the railroads, reminiscing a simple but good life, of times shared with the best of his best friends, the girl he cherished from infancy to adulthood, she becoming a doctor along the way, and a mother.

With his passing, Tom will miss himself most of all, his beloved daughter, Amy, her husband Shannon and children Silas and Lena, brothers Michael James Ulappa and John Alvar the Good (enough) Ulappa and his wife Monica and nieces and nephews Kristina, Pamela and Eric.

He was preceded in death by everyone who died before he did. He leaves all his worldly possessions behind, except his scale, which he took with him. Oh, and this ashtray. “I might need that,” he opined.

5 thoughts on “Thomas Bradford Ulappa

  1. Well Done Mike, Tom would approve. Will miss my chats with Tommy. He truly was one of a kind.

  2. Tom had an old trailer in his back yard were he would work at his drafting table. We hung out drink some, BBQ some. I live in said trailer. On his last visit he brought me the keys. I love that man.

  3. Nice Job Mike! Tom is laughing and enjoying your writing his life story!! He will be missed. And sorry for ur loss Mike I know he was a dear friend of yours!

    1. Thank you, John … one of the very best! A lot of that was Tom’s own writing, written years ago as a gag! Amy was gracious enough to send it to me and tell me to run with it. It was an honor. To get in the spirit of it, I tried to write something he’d get a laugh reading aloud to the Sportin’ House gang. I’m glad so many liked it.

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