Thomas “Tommy” Brooks Sudduth, an islander whose well-known family has lived on Vashon since the 1920s, died on Dec. 7. He was 64 years old.
His death, at the Seattle VA Hospital, was caused by acute respiratory distress syndrome with pneumonia and COVID-19 as a contributing factor.
With his death, Sudduth became Vashon’s first confirmed fatality linked to the coronavirus — a sad milestone that is also reported in this week’s Beachcomber on page 1, as part of Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center’s weekly situation report.
His brother, Mike Sudduth, who is also an islander, shared the news more personally on his Facebook page on Dec. 12.
“Brother Tom fell victim this week to the invisible enemy that the world has been battling for the past year,” Mike wrote. “He was just one of the hundreds of thousands who have died in this awful plague.”
In the post, Mike said there was a light at the end of the tunnel in the course of the pandemic, with vaccines on the way. But he also noted that it was months before the majority of the population could receive inoculations.
He urged readers, in memory of his brother and the many others whose deaths have been attributed to the disease, to comply with measures to fight the spread of the disease: masking, distancing and practicing good hygiene.
Mike also quoted from a newspaper column, written by his grandmother, Agnes Smock, and published in the Vashon Island News-Record on Dec. 11, 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In the column, Smock urged islanders to stay home and avoid public gatherings in the wake of that disaster — advice Mike said was applicable in the current time.
“There are still lots of good books to read,” she wrote. “There is popcorn to pop. Candy can be made, even if there is a blackout. We can gather about the piano and sing some of the songs we’ve been hearing over the radio. Morale? Well, it functions just as well in a family as it does in the army, and it’s something you can’t go to the store and buy by the quart or yard. There are still tried and true methods for developing it, and mothers and fathers are particularly adapted to that job.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,“ she continued. “And that goes for the peace and harmony of a community in trying times like this.”
Tommy Sudduth was born on Feb. 4, 1956, and raised on Vashon. He was the last of six children born to Frances Smock Sudduth Shattuck and George Sudduth.
His grandparents moved to Vashon in 1920. His grandmother, quoted above, owned and edited the Vashon Island New Record from 1928 to 1942. Before that, his grandfather, P. Monroe Smock, owned and edited the same newspaper from 1920 to 1928.
Tommy’s father, George Sudduth, Sr. was also well-known on Vashon, where he worked on the road crew for thirty years as a heavy equipment operator.
Other than during an eight-year stint in the Army, when he served in Korea, Leavenworth, Kansas, and Fort Collins, Colorado, Tommy lived most of his life on Vashon.
He worked at Todd’s Shipyard, in Seattle, as a ship fitter.
But after becoming disabled due to a back injury, he enjoyed working to help others, and taught himself locksmithing through a mail-order course, his brother said.
Calling Tommy a “regular Mr. Fix-it,” Mike said his brother “was always tinkering with cars, locks and a wide variety of other items needing his attention. He freely offered his repair skills to anyone who needed help.”
Mike urged donations in Tommy’s memory to the Vashon Makerspace Fix-It Cafe, a nonprofit that offers free repairs to islanders. Visit vashontools.org to make a donation or send a check to Vashon Fix-It Cafe, PO Box 1235, Vashon 98070.
Tommy was preceded in death by his brothers, William Sudduth and George (Pete) Sudduth, Jr., and his parents. He is survived by his brothers Mike and David and his sister Robin, as well as numerous cousins, nephews and nieces.
A gathering to remember Tommy’s life will be planned after the pandemic is over, Mike said.