I guess I can say something now because Wikipedia has made it official. The extraordinary Tom Hornbein died early yesterday. He was a remarkable man – and not just because of his mountaineering feats, but because of his beautiful heart and soul. His decades-long friendship with my dad, Dee Molenaar – and his outreach to Dad in his last years – meant so much to us.
The last time he and Dad were together in the person was in April 2018. Jim Wickwire, Bill Sumner and Tom all visited Dad at his adult family home, and brought a book about K2 with them. Dad and his mountaineering buddies looked through the photos in the book and shared memories of mountains climbed. I was able to be there with all of them that day, too – it was an amazing experience to be sharing the same space with all these mountain legends.
Tom called Dad on Dad’s 100th birthday a few months later to wish him a happy day. It was touching to watch these two old friends talk to each other. We borrowed someone’s iphone so Dad could see Tom’s face and Tom could see his face. I think they knew, as they were talking, that this was probably the last conversation they would ever have with each other.
Tom made the world a better place – through his work as a medical doctor, as a mountaineer, and as a friend. I will miss seeing his emails pop up in my inbox and I will miss hearing his voice on the phone. I will miss knowing he’s here on the planet with us.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell