Obituary: Thomas Joseph Cormack

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5/29/1940 – 8/23/2022

Thomas Joseph Cormack was born May 29th, 1940, in Topeka, Kansas and attended Topeka Schools. When he was 15, he started his 50 years of service to others, working at the Topeka YMCA after high school. He also worked and studied at the Menninger Children’s Department, working with Problem Youth.

In the early 1960s he was one of the first to sign up for the Peace Corps, working with a team from Save the Children. While with the War Orphans and Youth Programs, he worked with a medical team and a conservation team in Algeria. During his two years in North Africa, he was invited to tour the British YMCAs as their guest speaker in England, Ireland and Scotland.

Back in the USA, he answered the call of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” as a VISTA volunteer, spending two years working with migrant farm workers in California with Cesar Chavez. During his time with the Boys’ Club of America he was Executive director of clubs in Washington, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas, starting two new clubs. In 1993 he was presented an award for 35 years of service by the National Boys’ Club Director at the national convention in Texas. He went on to serve another five years. He was also a long-time member of the National Archery Association, and sponsored youth archery for many years.

He may be remembered mostly for the 28 years he was The Old Plainsman, a pioneer of the west, giving history lessons to groups of all ages. He made over 3000 appearances in six states, was seen on TV and had a weekly radio show for 18 years in Texas. He published several magazine items, a book on his work in Algeria, published in 1966, and “The Adventures of the Old Plainsman,” short stories published in the 1980s.

He married Barbara Hutton in Topeka in 1968, and they were married 49 years before her death.

He was preceded in death by his sister, Judith Anne in 1991, his father, Walter Vernon in 2002, his mother Leona Emily in 2007, his beloved wife Barbara in 2015, and his brother Jerry Michael in 2019. He is survived by many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the National Boys and Girls Club through their website at

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