“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, and gaze on the beauty of the LORD and seek Him in His temple.” – Psalm 27:4
Thomas Carl Emerling was born to Jerome & Helen Emerling on June 18, 1951. The Lord ushered Tom home on December 19, 2017. Tom is now gazing upon the Lord’s beauty firsthand.
Tom grew up on a dairy farm near the rural village of Perry, in upstate New York. Surrounded by corn fields and forests, he grew up learning the value of hard work, the importance of sincerity, and how to pull a floundering calf from a birthing cow with his bare hands. Tom left home after graduating high school, eventually receiving a master’s degree in counseling from Marietta College.
While working as a licensed Counselor in a state prison in Illinois, Tom lived on a country road with a couple of friends. The nearest neighbors were Arnold and Marie Korth, who had five daughters. The youngest, Val Jean, encouraged Tom’s dog to run away so that she might “rescue it” and have an excuse to meet the handsome young man living down the road from her family’s farm. Tom and Val Jean were married on July 9, 1977. The newlyweds transplanted to Montana, eventually settling in Billings. On October 28, 1978, their only child, Jeromy, was born. Sadly, Val Jean would pass away unexpectedly of an asthma attack on October 8, 1980.
As the single father of an infant son, Tom turned his attention to his career and parenting. Tom spent nearly 25 years in residential real estate and then transitioned to business brokerage and appraisal. Tom owned and operated Yellowstone Business Acquisitions in Billings for over 15 years. In business, Tom was respected for his integrity and fairness. As a parent, Tom was both sacrificial and wise. Tom often forfeited his own desires to see that his son was cared for and nurtured.
When Jeromy asked Tom as an adult why he had never remarried, Tom simply said, “Son, women my age are either divorced with baggage or single for a reason.” One woman would eventually prove Tom’s theory wrong. On October 12, 2008, Tom married Margaret Sawyer. Margie was a natural fit in the Emerling family and quickly became the grandkids’ favorite. For nearly a decade Margie has been the biggest evidence of God’s grace in Tom’s life.
One of Tom’s favorite writers, Thomas Aquinas, said that “the things that we love tell us who we are.” It wasn’t hard to know what Tom loved because he seldom tried to hide his opinions, and when he did he became so fidgety that everybody knew something was amiss. Of the lesser things in life, Tom enjoyed the satisfaction of a solid day’s work, the Buffalo Bills, hiking the Beartooths, and provoking his more liberal friends and family into a political tantrum. For Tom, however, those hobbies and habits paled in comparison to the weightier things in life. Above all, Tom had a deep and abiding love for his Maker and Redeemer. Tom’s heart was also given to his wife, family, friends, and church family. At times Tom fronted a firm demeanor, but under the curmudgeon was a generous, humble, steadfast follower of Jesus.
Tom is preceded in death by his parents, Jerome and Helen; first wife, Val Jean; and sister, Martha. He is survived by his wife, Margaret; brother, John (Elisabeth) Emerling; sister Mary Jo (Dale) Hewitt; son Jeromy (Deborah) Emerling; five grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at First Christian Church, 522 N 29th Street, at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, January 5th, with a reception to follow. Memorials may be sent to First Christian Church or Community Leadership Development, Inc.