Thomas Roy McDowell slipped quietly from this earth on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, to be with his Heavenly Father. Tom is survived by his wife, of 58 years, Dianne; his children Tammy McDowell, of Yacolt, David (Barry), of Arizona, and Scott (Emily), of Battle Ground; and grandsons Cougar McDowell, Cody, Matthew and Hunter Bauska, and Brad and Mitchell Hendricks.
Tom was born Dec. 6, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, to Roy and Ruth McDowell. His family moved to Hillsboro, Oregon, where he grew up. Tom graduated from Washington State University where he obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in police science and administration. He began his career in law enforcement in Washington County while still in college. Upon graduation, he worked for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office then went back to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office where he rose to chief of detectives. He left his position in Washington County to become the first director of the Idaho State Peace Officer’s Standards and Training Academy in Pocatello, Idaho. After establishing that program, he returned to law enforcement as the undersheriff in the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Tom’s career path changed after moving to Yacolt. He realized Clark County residents were in need of emergency medical services. Residents had to wait an hour or longer for an ambulance to come from Vancouver. Also, parts of rural Clark County were without fire services. With the help of community members and dedicated volunteers, Tom revitalized the Yacolt Fire Department and worked to officially form Clark County Fire District 13. Again, with the support of the community and dedicated volunteers, he founded North Country Emergency Medical Service, an agency that grew to serve a large part of northern Clark County and now serves an area of approximately 1,000 square miles. After the eruption of Mount St. Helens, North Country Emergency Medical Service began providing medical services to the crew of timber salvage operators working around the mountain. When visitors began traveling to the volcano, Tom started the Volcano Rescue Team to find and rescue lost and injured hikers, climbers, and visitors.
Over the past 40-plus years, thousands of men and women have served with North Country Emergency Medical Service, the Yacolt Fire Department, Clark County Fire District 13 and the Volcano Rescue Team. Tom had the ability to see the good in people (even when they didn’t see it in themselves) and over the course of his lifetime encouraged hundreds of people into careers of service including firefighting, emergency medicine, law enforcement, medicine, and other service related careers.
Tom felt the citizens of northern Clark County were the finest anywhere and he was proud to serve this community. His family is comforted by the outpouring of love and support they have received from this community and in knowing he made a difference in so many lives.
A memorial and celebration of Tom’s life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, in the Yacolt Primary School Gymnasium, 406 W. Yacolt Road, Yacolt, Washington, 98675. Donations in his memory can be made to North Country Emergency Medical Service, the Volcano Rescue Team or the Alzheimer’s Association.