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Dr. Thomas Floyd Trail was an accomplished man, WSU professor, Idaho State Representative, 4-H Leader, Rotarian, Idaho AARP President, Sunday School Teacher, devoted husband, and father. While spending most of his years in Moscow he was a world traveler, visiting and living in over 100 countries around the world. He was passionate about international cultures and invested much of his professional life living and working in the developing world overseeing programs such as Peace Corps, Heifer Project and international exchange programs such as 4-H IFYE and American Field Service (AFS).
Tom was a Moscow Idaho native. He was born at Gritman Hospital in 1935 and left this world Thursday, November 2, 2023, at 88 years of age after succumbing suddenly to multiple complications. He passed away quickly and peacefully with Ruth, his eldest child, friends, and family by his side to share last words and memories before life-support was removed. He was a man of quiet, but strong faith and we are comforted knowing he is now in a much better place.
For 16 years Tom represented the people of Latah County in the Idaho State House of Representatives (District 5). His slogan “Constituents First” often was at odds with the politics in Boise where he strived to work constructively across party lines. His proudest accomplishments included co-sponsoring the Promise Scholarship and Opportunity Scholarship Programs for needs-based students, passing minimum wage legislation for Hispanic farm workers, revamping the Idaho Public Retirement System (PERSI) and sponsoring three Victim ID bills that became law. He served on the Education Committee for 16 years, on the Commerce and Human Services Committee and as Chair of the Agricultural Affairs Committee. In his last year in the legislature, leadership stripped him of his Chairmanship for not voting along party lines.
Following a boyhood on a north Idaho wheat and pea farm near Moscow, Idaho, graduating from Moscow High School, and with 10 years of 4-H Club experience under his belt, Tom enrolled at the University of Idaho. He majored in Animal Husbandry and graduated in 1957.
While at the U of I he was editor of the Alpha Zeta Zipper, a newsletter which received a national award. He participated on the University of Idaho livestock judging team and went to Denver, Ogden and the Cow Palace in San Francisco. He hosted a weekly agriculture show on the local KRPL radio.
International interests developed early in his career. His family hosted International Farm Youth Exchanges (IFYE) from France and India. Tom applied to become an IFYE in 1956 and was the first student to travel to Nepal where he spent 6 months. Upon his return from Nepal, he met his wife of 64 years, Jo Ann Smith, who was returning from an IFYE exchange (to Sweden). They were married on August 16, 1959, in Virginia and honeymooned in 2 cars across the US.
He continued his studies at the University of Idaho, doing all the coursework for a Master of Science in Animal Husbandry, then received a scholarship to the National 4-H Center in Washington, DC and pursued a Master of Arts in Adult Education and Rural Development at the University of Maryland.
Tom accepted a job with the Idaho Extension Service and in 1960, accepted a Carnegie Fellowship to the International Cooperation Center at Montana State University in Bozeman, pursuing a doctorate in Experimental Psychology.
The next international adventure was Tom’s acceptance of a Heifer Project position in Cuenca, Ecuador, working with Peace Corps volunteers. The family was transferred to Quito, then they returned to Bozeman, where Tom completed his doctoral dissertation.
He accepted a job with The University of Nebraska in Chillan, Chile for 3 years, then worked in Colombia for another 2 years, after which time he was employed by Washington State University as a staff development specialist, working with extension workers to create the Master of Adult Education program and advising countless PhD candidates.
Both he and Jo Ann, along with David and Suzie Trail, helped start the Mountain View 4-H Club in 1972, which flourishes to this day.
In 1978 a sabbatical proposal was approved which resulted in a South Pacific adventure for Tom and his family. They travelled and lived on the island of Guam, for four months, and the South Island of New Zealand, for six months. In Guam Tom served as a Staff Development Specialist with the College of Agriculture. In New Zealand he served as a Visiting Professor at the Lincoln Agricultural College. His three children attended local schools during this time learning first-hand about cultural differences.
In his 23 years at WSU, Tom had a number of short-term overseas assignments in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Tajikistan, Kurdistan, Lesotho, Swaziland, Sudan, Greece, Jordan, Israel, China and Taiwan. He was employed by the USDA to work in Malawi for 4 years where he developed a graduate program for Extension workers at Bunda College and enjoyed numerous wildlife safaris with friends and family.
Often characterized by his interesting sense of humor and his “occasional” embellishment of historical happenings, Tom was always quick to tell a joke or share a funny story. We all have fond memories with his fascination for anything related to Big Foot, rubber chickens, screaming pickles and his crazy, continually escalating, gag Christmas gift exchanges with friends.
Tom was the eldest son of Floyd and Louise Willman Trail. He is survived by his wife, Jo Ann; his sister, Marilyn (Dale); his daughter, Ruth; his sons, Mark (Lisa); Steve (Debbie) and six grandchildren.
His family has asked that anyone seeking to honor his memory do so in the form of a contribution to either of the following foundations…
Tom and Jo Ann Trail International 4-H Endowment
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 3143
Moscow, ID 83844-31
The Gritman Foundation
700 S. Main St Moscow, ID 83843
The Kenworthy Performing Arts Center
P.O. Box 8126
Moscow, ID 83843