Thomas Nelson Zbyszewski — Tom — died tragically in the Twisp River Fire while attempting to save homes from a wildfire on Aug.19, 2015.
Tom was a local boy born and raised in the Methow Valley. He was one month shy of his 21st birthday.
Tom loved academics. He was an exceptional student and had close relationships with his teachers, from Little Star Montessori School until he graduated from Liberty Bell High School, where he was salutatorian of the 2013 class.
He had a close group of friends, many of whom he knew all of his life.
For many years he practiced Taekwondo, was a downhill skier and also a member of the Methow Valley swim team.
He was involved in Math Counts and Math Is Cool, Knowledge Bowl and Speech & Debate. He was the first runner-up for the Washington State Poetry Out Loud competition in 2013.
He received numerous awards through the years, including Speech & Debate, history and art.
He was the proud recipient of numerous scholarships, which helped pay for his college.
What he really loved was the theater and he loved performing. He was in many plays at school and at The Merc Playhouse.
He especially enjoyed his role as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. He truly enjoyed encouraging and supporting younger kids in theater productions.
After graduating from high school, he entered Whitman College in the fall of 2013.
His interest in theater continued there, where he was in several productions at the Harper Joy Theatre during his freshman and sophomore years.
Tom was going to start his junior year as a physics major, with a minor in Chinese. He loved Whitman, and had many friends there. From his first day, it became his new home, and he was excited about his classes and the academic challenges of that school.
Like at Liberty Bell, Tom developed close relationships with his professors, and learned so much, and was so excited about everything he was learning.
Tom loved his family and his friends, and was happy and enjoyed life. He was kind and big-hearted, and saw value in every person that he met. He always stuck up for the underdog. He never had anything but kind words about anyone.
Tom spent his last two summers fighting fire, working for the Methow Valley Ranger District, a job that he loved. He was interested in the firefighting job because he grew up with the U.S. Forest Service, where his mother, Jennifer, currently works, and his father, Ski, worked for many years.
He liked the arduous physical work required for the job, but what he really loved was the camaraderie of the crew, and being involved in the firefighting effort.
He spent all of last summer fighting the Carlton Complex Fire, and had been on other fire assignments this summer.
Tom loved this valley and the people who are in it, and everybody he was associated with enriched his life.
He will be sorely missed.
He is survived by his parents, Richard “Ski” and Jennifer Zbyszewski, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, and all of the people in the Methow Valley who are part of his extended family.
There will be a memorial service on Sunday, Sept. 6, in the gymnasium at Liberty Bell High School beginning at 1 p.m. A reception will follow.
In lieu of flowers, people can make donations to The Merc Playhouse, P.O. Box 425, Twisp, WA 98856 or through the donation link at www.mercplayhouse.org in memory of Tom Zbyszewski. People can also donate to a scholarship established in his name through the Methow Valley Education Foundation, P.O. Box 3056, Winthrop, WA 98862.