Tom Rousseau and Rousseau’s Insurance

While the high-tech sign at 7924 East Sprague is only two weeks old, the wise sayings  it displays have a history that goes back 43 years. That’s how long Tom Rousseau has been faithfully finding pearls of wisdom to brighten and enlighten the moment for folks as they pass by his small insurance office. But Tom has given us all much more than thoughtful words during his 60 plus years in the Valley.He has given us a model of community service, volunteering untold hours of his valuable time, invaluable amounts of his considerable skillls and more than 18 gallons of his precious blood.
Upon graduation in Dearborn, Michigan in 1943, Tom was ready to serve his nation at the age of 17 but his father refused to sign for him and so he went to New York to study photography until he was old enough to sign up on his own, which he did the day he turned 18. His father’s reluctance kept Tom out of harm’s way during WW2, because the training he received in New York landed him an instructor’s job teaching photography.
“They sent me to the Naval photography school because the
Marines did not have one,” Tom told me recently, ” Pretty soon my instructor realized that I already knew the stuff and said that I would be more use to him as a teacher.” It turns out his instructor was actor Leif Erickson who you might best remember as Big John Cannon in the T.V. western High Chaparral.
Not wanting to raise his new family in Dearborn after the war,
Tom prudently sent letters to several cities with populations around 100,000. ” I figured they would have more opportunity for me,” he said, adding that he chose Spokane because of the Falls.Tom rode the train out alone, bunked at the Y.M.C.A. and quickly found work as a Culligan Man.Then he sent for his family.
While Tom continued to serve his country in the reserves, working full time and attending Kinman Business University, he soon began serving his new community by coaching American Legion baseball, which he would do for 22 seasons. When his country needed his skills, Tom went to Korea, this time as a combat photographer, an experience he politely refuses to talk about.
At the insistence of his wife, Tom left the Marines for good with the rank of Sargent Major in 1955. Before discharging, he again wrote back to Spokane concerning his future. ” I knew I needed a job,” Tom said,” and so I wrote Early Dawn Dairy and they said ‘come to work’.” And so for the next 11 years he worked delivering milk in the Valley. But that was not enough.
In 1963 he went to work nights at the post office while teaching himself the insurance business, which he also began in 1963 out of his basement.
Meanwhile, Tom and his wife were raising their 3 children in Edgecliiff and he saw that the neighborhood needed his service. Tom was instrumental in the establishment of Edgecliff Park, serving on the committee and volunteering his labor. He also noticed the Pratt Elementary had little to offer the kids after school, and so he worked to get a cub scouts organization established. “I worked with the principal and we sent out a letter to all the parents,” he said, “We got enough people to organize 14 cub packs. It was a great success.” After leading the group for 3 years, Tom was awarded the rare Acorn award by district 81.
In 1965, Tom had established his insurance business enough  to open an office on Sprague next to Taco Time near the freeway. Luckily for the rest of us, it had a reader board sign, on which he began his writing career.
It wasn’t long before Tom found a new way to serve. In 1972 he became a Shriner and when they discovered t his photography
background, they  put him to work. Today,at age 81, Tom travels
more than 30 days a year doing volunteer work photographing such events as the Shriner East-West senior all star  game, which he hasn’t missed since 1984.
As chairman of the Shriner International Photographers, with 22
photographers to keep track of, Tom has earned the highest award that can be given a Shriner. In his office he has hundreds of 2″x10″ cubicles containing photos from all 191 Shriners organizations and 22 hospitals, which he himself organizes into albums.
Years ago Tom established the Shriner’s local 10-Gallon Club,
faithfully going to the blood bank to donate his blood which goes to those in need in our community. One pint at a time, for more than 30 years, he has given 105 pints of his blood – more than 18 gallons. But all the blood-letting seems to only give him energy.
Will he ever slow down? The new, state-of-the-art sign helps in that regard. He no longer has to carefully clean and sort  the letters, and climb up and down the ladder to give us his short verse – it’s all done by computer now.But with a full travel schedule lined up for the year, he gives no hint of slowing down.
It seems only the “black camel” ( the Shriner term for the final ride to Heaven) will stop Tom from giving of himself. I only wish I could put the story of Tom’s example on some billboard in the Valley. Now that would brighten and enlighten our entire community.


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