Navajo journalist remembered as hard worker, mentor
By Felicia Fonseca -- Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Every time Virgil Wyaco was late to work, he thought about Marshall Tome.
His former boss in developing a television news report and a radio station on the Navajo Nation was the model of promptness, Wyaco said.
''We were supposed to go to work at eight in the morning, but he was at the office at seven in the morning,'' Wyaco said. ''He would tell me, 'Virgil, you're late, the New Yorkers went to work two hours ago, where were you?'''
When he heard Nov. 26 that Tome had died, Wyaco recalled a boss who was a workaholic, a good friend who always kept in touch, and a mentor who instilled in him a habit of being on time.
''He was a very good man and we will really miss him,'' Wyaco said.
The 85-year-old Tome had been battling lung disease. He was in the intensive care unit at a Fort Defiance, Ariz., hospital for about a week before he died Nov. 23, said his son, Deswood Tome.
''He caught pneumonia, and he didn't make it,'' said Deswood, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation's Washington office.
Tome was born July 16, 1922, in Red Valley, Ariz. A World War II veteran, he took advantage of the GI Bill and attended the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1952.
Tome was working as an assistant city desk editor at the San Francisco Chronicle in the late 1950s when he was asked to return to the Navajo Nation to help develop what's now called the Navajo Times - one of the few independent Native newspapers in the country.
''Because of his stature in the community, he had clout, so he was able to make the paper into something dynamic, something different,'' said Tom Arviso, the paper's editor. ''There weren't very many Native newspapers back in those days that could call themselves newspapers.''
In 1982, the now-defunct Advisory Committee of the Navajo Nation Council sold the paper to Tome under outgoing Chairman Peter MacDonald. The committee rescinded the sale the following year as a tribal election ushered in new members, Deswood said.
Disappointed with the committee's decision, Tome filed suit in tribal district court for breach of contract, but lost, his son said.
''At that time, my father was leaving the government and wanted to go back into journalism, wanted to take the newspaper and really make a difference in journalism and also create opportunities for new journalism students to come into being,'' Deswood said.
In 1983, following the unsuccessful sale of the Navajo Times, Tome started another newspaper, ''Navajo Nation Enquiry,'' which included news on tribal government, chapter houses and communities, Deswood said.
That lasted only four years.
Every once in a while, Tome would send ''bits and pieces of news'' to the Navajo Times that he thought were interesting, said Arviso, who took over the paper in the late 1980s.
Tome retired from tribal government in 1989 after serving as the executive director of the tribe's Division of Community Development, Office of Operations, executive assistant to the chairman and director of the Office of Navajo Economic Opportunities.
His career also included stints at The Albuquerque Tribune and The Kansas City Star, and as director of communications at Arizona State University, his son said.
Tome was preceded in death by his wife, Carrie Dean Tome, and son, Robert Tome. He is survived by his son, Deswood Tome, 44, of Washington, D.C.; daughter Dana Tome, 45, of Window Rock, Ariz.; and three grandchildren.
Services were scheduled for Nov. 28 in Farmington.