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Thomas Donald Black, 76, died Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, from a stroke at St. Pat’s Hospital, Missoula, Mont.

He was born July 9, 1941, to Donald and Louise (Thomas) Black in La Crosse. He was baptized and confirmed at Trinity Lutheran Church, Charles and Sill streets in uptown (the North Side) La Crosse.

He graduated from West Salem High School in 1959, with an impressive record as a 6-foot-11 basketball player. He holds the record with the most points scored in the school’s history.

He attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, on a full ride basketball scholarship. After two years he transferred to South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D., with two of his fellow teammates and went on to win a national championship in 1963.

After college he played pro ball with the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) and retired with the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder). At the time he held the record of the oldest rookie signed in the NBA.

Upon retiring from pro ball, he was in sales with Allen Bradley/Rockwell Industries and was assigned the Northwest Territory. Being a history buff regarding The Lewis and Clark Expedition: The Corps of Discovery, Tom was thrilled Montana was one of the states included in his route. Through his work travels he discovered the perfect Montana town, Ovando, Mont., reminiscent of the Old West. He and his wife, Eileen, settled and made many, many lasting friendships. With his Stetson hat, this tall gentle giant explored and enjoyed daily this pristine territory.

His hobbies included his great knowledge of Louis and Clark, and hosting an annual loggers show at the King County Fair in Washington State sponsored by Mountain Dew. He most recently demonstrated and taught long-handled axe throwing at the Paws Up Resort near Missoula. He enjoyed teaching many celebrities and especially current and retired basketball players in the NBA. He also experienced some acting with a bit part demonstrating the axe throwing to the House Wives of New York.

He was married to Eileen (Stamp) and has one son, Craig (Brandi) and a grandson, Eli.

He was preceded in death by his parents and grandparents.

He was survived by six siblings, many cousins, aunts and uncle and nieces and nephews. Ella Stoker was a very special aunt.

Tom was such a gentle, handsome, talented and well-liked person, and I was always happy to say he was my brother!

-- Donna (Black) Hawthorne

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