Tom Chepokas, 77, of Cloquet, Minn., formerly of Minneapolis and Cromwell, Minn., passed away Thursday, March 6, 2014, at home, surrounded by family. Tom was born on March 2, 1937, in Minneapolis, Minn. He was lovingly raised by his adoptive parents, Thomas and Arra Chepokas.
At an early age, it was discovered that he had an extraordinary musical gift. Tom began studying piano with Elsie Wolf Campbell and Theodore Bergman at MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis, and was often the featured soloist with the MacPhail Orchestra as a young boy. He discovered jazz in his teen years and listened avidly to Teddy Wilson, James P. Johnson and Oscar Peterson and began playing around the Twin Cities before graduating from Minneapolis Southwest High School in 1955.
Tom graduated from Mankato State University with a degree in music education and began his teaching career the same time he started playing with the Golden Strings in the Flame Room at the Radisson Hotel in Minneapolis in 1963. He taught in both the Edina and Robbinsdale school districts, but his true love was playing jazz. Throughout his career he had the opportunity to play with many entertainers who came to the Twin Cities, including: Henry Mancini, Bob Hope, Victor Borge, Mel Torme, Red Skelton, Lou Rawls, Billy Crystal, Rosemary Clooney, Cab Calloway, Peter Duchin and many others. Tom was frequently featured with the Minnesota Orchestra's Pops Concerts and always played with the Big Band Series. TC and Company played in the Bandshell at the Minnesota State Fair for 27 years as the house band for the Amateur Talent Show. Previously he played with the featured artists in the Grandstand. Tom loved jazz, good food, football, hockey and laughter. He was passionate about his family and dedicated to his friends.
Tom was preceded in death by his father, Thomas; mother, Arra; and grandson Mitchell Chepokas.
He is survived by his wife, Trish; children, Cindi (Peter Boynton) of Marco Island, Fla., Stephen (Becky) of Chanhassen, Minn., David of Eden Prairie, Minn., Nick (Yzolde) of Minneapolis, Erika (Kurt Hintz) of Chicago, Ill., Ginna (Nels Larson) of Lyons, Colo., and Rebecca Ronald of Boulder, Colo; his five grandchildren, Melissa, Hadley, Berit, Olivia and Avery; and one great-grandchild, Brayden.
Visitation: Saturday, March 22, from noon until the p.m. Celebration of Life at Zion Lutheran Church in Cloquet.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be given to the Miracles of Mitch Foundation, 7835 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438.
Arrangements provided by Nelson Funeral Care, Cloquet. To leave an online condolence, see the guest book at www.nelsonfuneralcare.net.
March 13, 2014 ~ Pine Journal, Cloquet, Minn.