Thomas Llewelyn Osborne had a voice from heaven which uplifted sanctuaries and playhouses alike. He lived a life distinguished by service, generosity, and integrity of character and act. On June 25 Thomas added his baritone to the choir in the sky. He was 80 years old.
Thomas was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 25, 1933 to Julia (Daly) Osborne and Robert H. Osborne. In 1935 his family moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin, where he lived most of his life. He graduated from Baraboo High School in 1952. He served two years’ active duty in the United States Army, stationed at Fort Shafter U.S. Army Headquarters Pacific in the Military Police Corps, followed by four years in the Army Reserves and an honorable discharge. Tom met Jane Ilene Kulseth while he was stationed in the Pacific and they were married shortly after in the Episcopal Church in Honolulu, Hawaii on March 23, 1957.
After his military service, Tom attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison; he joined the Theta Chi Fraternity and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in 1959. He then embarked upon a successful 40 year career in the insurance industry — teaching, working in claims adjustment and as branch manager for Zurich American and in insurance sales for National Union Insurance Company, both in Sacramento, California, and as a partner in Lange, Wilkinson, Osborne Insurance Company in Baraboo, Wisconsin. He completed a five course program and earned his Certified Insurance Counselor designation; this and other continuing education courses in insurance and law enabled him to better inform and advise his clients. Upon retirement from the insurance industry Tom co-managed the Devil’s Lake Concessions for seven years with his wife, Janie.
Thomas was exceptionally committed to civic organizations. He received a service award from the Sacramento courts system for counseling adolescents serving in detention. Also while in Sacramento he earned his Masonic and Scottish Rite degrees and became a member of the Ben Ali Shrine Temple in 1965, where he joined the A-Capella choir. He later joined the Zor Temple of Madison, Wisconsin. He was Vacationland Shrine President and Ticket Chairman of Vacationland Smorgasbord for five years. He was a Charter member of the Baraboo Jaycees and the Baraboo Toastmasters, a former member of Kiwanis and the Baraboo Country Club, and current member of Koshawaga, where he served as Secretary-Treasurer. He served on various Boards of Directors, including for Devil’s Lake Concessions (President, Vice President and Secretary), Friends of Devil’s Lake State Park, Art Friends, Baraboo Business Improvement District, and the Al. Ringling Theatre. A 50 year member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (B.P.O.E.) of Baraboo, Wisconsin, Thomas was an officer of the lodge, including Exalted Ruler and President of Past Exalted Rulers (P.E.R.). He was head of the Children’s Christmas Party Committee for twenty of his forty years on the committee and a member of the Waiters’ Club for many years. For eight of his twenty five years on the Wisconsin State Ritualistic Committee, he was Committee Chairman. He judged several state ritual competitions in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota and was a Ritual Judge for the Elks National Convention in 1984 in Houston, Texas. In recognition of his contributions, he won Elk of the Year and Past Exalted Ruler of the year. And of course, he was a celebrated actor, as well as a director, producer, and officer for the Baraboo Theater Guild (BTG).
Thomas’ Welsh-Irish musicality and dashing looks may have won him his first leading role for the Guild. Yet it was his wit and theatrical instincts that made him a local star able to turn “minor scenes into high drama or rollicking comedy with clever improvisation” (excerpted from Baraboo Sun). His debut role as Frank Butler in the Guild’s 1971 production of Annie Get your Gun was played “to the hilt”’ (Baraboo News Republic). His Harold Hill in Music Man (1973) “took the audience by the throat with his energized version of ‘We’ve got trouble – with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for ‘pool!!’” He played John Brown in The Unsinkable Mollie Brown (1976), Aristide in Can Can (1982), Bigelow in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1985). His 1991 performance as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha was a “triumph” which allowed the audience to share the character’s unbridled idealism and experience his “metamorphosis from … virtue and mania to solemn, nearly beaten realism” (excerpted from Baraboo News Republic). As Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof (1980),his dramatization of the dilemmas of fatherhood and tradition amidst social upheaval resonated with a convincing Yiddish accent; the Baraboo News called it a “powerful and dynamic” portrayal. He also starred with aplomb in UW-Baraboo production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, acted for Portage Area Community Theatre, and produced a BTG-Baraboo High School production of Anything Goes (1997). He directed and produced the 1998 BTG production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, an entertainment sensation which the Baraboo Sun called “amazing,” and broke all previous audience records of the BTG with its “sensational set,” “dazzling lighting,” “superb orchestra,” and the use of the talent of more than 90 Baraboo community cast and chorus members. In total he directed 4 musical productions and produced 8 musicals and 21 plays. He was elected Vice President and four-time President of the Theatre Guild and in 1990 he was named an Honorary Life Time Member of the Baraboo Theatre Guild.
When not singing Irving Berlin, Tom shared his vocal gift at weddings, funerals, as a local area Barbershopper, and at Milwaukee County Stadium where he proudly sang the National Anthem (having been selected as a solo performer and electing Tom Madland to join him in a duet.)
Thomas was also an active, lifelong member of the Episcopal Church. At St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Sacramento, he served on the Vestry and as Senior Warden. He was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Baraboo, Wisconsin for over 70 years. As a youth he served in Trinity’s Junior Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s and as an Acolyte. In recent decades, he was a Trinity choir member, member of the Vestry, Vestry Treasurer, and contributor to a variety of parish committees.
Thomas chose to live in a small town, but in doing so he lived a large life full of love, art, duty, and family. His presence offered a greater stage for the talents of his fellow community members. He adored Devil’s Lake, but also traveled to much of the United States, Western Europe, and Canada. History fascinated him; natural landscapes awed him; dogs cheered him. In his boyhood, his neighborhood baseball team, the Bobcats, held its club meetings in his Second Avenue basement. His keenness for sports also extended to his support of the Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Green Bay Packers. He loved social gatherings, playing chess or cards, and dinners out with friends. But his greatest love was for his family. An adoring father and husband and a devoted son, brother, and nephew, Thomas and Janie helped his daughter Connie raise their granddaughters Adrienne and Stephanie. He took care of his granddaughter Olivia while her parents traveled twice to Russia and was present to welcome his granddaughter Viviana to her new life in the United States. He believed in the virtues and founding values of his country. He believed in fairness, non-discrimination, and civic engagement. Like Quixote, he was an idealist who lived a life of honesty and charity.
Thomas bore his illness with humor and grace. He died peacefully with his family present, and they and his many friends will miss him tremendously. He is survived by his wife and lifelong co-star, Jane Ilene Osborne; two daughters, Constance Ilene Osborne of Baraboo, Wisconsin and Theresa Kay (Francis) Osborne of Washington, DC; and four grand-daughters, Adrienne Rae Hitt of Baraboo, Wisconsin, Stephanie Theresa Hitt of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Olivia Miralda Osborne Vella of Washington, DC, and Yana Viviana Osborne Vella of Washington, DC; his sister, Jewel Osborne of Baraboo, Wisconsin; son-in-law Francis Gerald Vella of Washington, DC; sisters-in-law, Constance (Robert) Winn and Kay Alton of Seattle, Washington; and other relatives and close friends.
His father, Robert H. Osborne; mother, Julia; and brothers, James Ganzlin and Robert E. (Bert) Osborne pre-deceased him.
Memorial Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 2014 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Baraboo with Father Scott Seefeldt officiating. Visitation will be held on Friday, June27, 2014 from 4-7 p.m. at the Redlin Funeral Home, 401 Madison Ave, Baraboo. A Masonic Service will be held at 7 p.m. following the visitation. Continued visitation will take place on Saturday, from 10 a.m. until the time of service, at the church. Memorial contributions may be sent to: Trinity Episcopal Church, the Al. Ringling Theatre, or the Shriner Children’s Hospital.