Cover photo for Thomas Eldon Anderson's Obituary
Thomas Eldon Anderson Profile Photo

Thomas Eldon Anderson

October 26, 1932 — March 14, 2024


“I look around here at all your faces and, I tell you, 

I am the luckiest man that ever lived! I love you all and I

am so proud of each and every one of you.”


          ̴ Thomas “Tinker” Anderson


Thomas “Tinker” Eldon Anderson arrived in this world on October 26, 1932, with a twinkle in his eye that never left, and passed away on March 14, 2024, at the age of 91, having enriched the lives of everyone he knew. He had an incredible sense of humor with a dash of mischief, and he was a charismatic storyteller. Anyone who knew him would agree that he always made things fun. Tinker was a kind and genuine person who treated the lowest level person in the company with the same dignity and respect as he treated the CEO. Whenever he spoke with someone he always gave them his full, undivided attention, making them feel like they were the most important person in the world. He was often the smartest person in the room, but he never flaunted it, and he was always humble. As a gifted people-person, he sparked love and admiration in everyone whose lives he touched. He was simply someone everyone wanted to be around and will be sorely missed by all who knew him.


Tinker was born at the northern tip of Wisconsin, in Washburn, to Harold Anderson and Loretta “Honey” (Jonas) Anderson. He had a happy childhood, growing up with his two older brothers on the idyllic shores of Lake Superior, where he spent his days playing sports, climbing rocks, swimming in the lake, and playing with friends. He also developed a strong work ethic by helping out regularly at his family’s grocery store, which was a pillar of the Washburn community. From a very young age he bagged groceries or delivered them long distances, no matter the weather. During high school, he played football, basketball and baseball. He was selected as the Washburn representative for Badger Boys State, a prestigious leadership and citizenship honor, and graduated high school as his class valedictorian. Throughout his life, he maintained a deep connection to, and pride for, Washburn, returning every five years for town homecoming gatherings, and once to give the commencement speech for his high school.


Tinker attended college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and fell in love with the city and the Badgers. As an undergraduate, he enrolled in ROTC, and was involved in Beta Theta Pi, MACE, Iron Cross, Union Council, Student Board for Academic and Social Affairs, and Wisconsin Student Association which he served as President, and a number of student and campus committees. He earned his undergraduate degree in Labor Management.


After graduation, he joined the Navy and was stationed as an officer on the USS Hank Naval Destroyer, where the kid from Washburn first had the opportunity to see the world. He was honorably discharged after his years of service. He worked briefly for 3M Corporation in Denver, Colorado, before enrolling in UW Madison Law School on the GI Bill. Along with his studies, he was a member of Order of the Coif national honorary legal society, and he was the Editor-in-Chief for the Wisconsin Law Review.


It was during his law school days that he met the love of his life and best friend, Barbara Candell, at the UW student union. They married one year later, in 1962, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, before starting their lives together in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Not one night of their 61 years of marriage ended without Tinker reminding Barbara how much he loved her. Tinker practiced law in Waukesha and became a partner of the firm Lowry, Hunter and Tikalsky. He loved the practice of law, highlighted by arguing several cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. His nickname, originally bestowed by his parents in honor of the Tinker Toys he loved as a child, followed him right into his career. Even as a young lawyer trying to make a good impression in court, the presiding judge recognized him as Harold and Honey’s “little Tinker.” 


In 1975 Tinker moved his family to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was the Chief Legal Officer for Continental Mortgage Insurance Company (CMI), later becoming Verex Corporation. He helped Verex to grow its business, and guided it through the acquisition by The Greyhound Corporation, eventually changing its name to The Dial Corporation. He worked at Verex for 20 years. 


After his retirement in 1994, Tinker and Barbara moved to Cross Plains, Wisconsin, and spent 19 years there enjoying the country life, tending to a prolific garden, planting trees, and spoiling their six grandchildren. Their extensive travels included many bike trips with close friends throughout Europe, as well as multiple trips to Africa, Central and South America, and Australia. They also spent a lot of time with friends and family at their favorite spots on Enterprise Lake in northern Wisconsin, and in the Rocky Mountains near Dillon, Colorado. Finally, they settled in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, in a loving community surrounded by wonderful friends and neighbors.


Tinker embraced life enjoying quality time with not only his family, but also many treasured friends. He was a passionate fan of Badger football and basketball, the Brewers, and the Packers. In between sporting events, he kept active with biking, downhill and cross country skiing, tennis, golf, traveling the world, the symphony, the theater, cribbage, and, most importantly, anything that involved his sons or grandchildren. Many quarters were won and lost on the little side bets he would make during all these activities. He also had a soft spot for all the family dogs, most recently Andy, expressing that each and every one of them was, “...the nicest dog you’ve ever seen.”


Tinker was involved in many ways in the community. He was on the board of several organizations including the Madison Art Center, Planned Parenthood, and Nakoma Golf Club. He also had a leadership role in the State Bar of Wisconsin, and was active in the local Rotary club. He thoroughly enjoyed being a member of Nakoma Golf Club, the long-running Madison Book Club, and a men’s group created with friends that they deemed “The Advocates.”


The family thanks all of its incredible friends and neighbors and the many doctors, nurses and caregivers at UW Health, Meriter Hospital, Agrace Care Center and Hospice, Joan and Ahanna with Homeworks Caregiving, Loren, and the entire staff at Brightstar Senior Living. They stood with Tinker and with us when we most needed them. A special thanks to Dr. Dennis Maki, MD, for sharing his concern and compassion. We have greatly appreciated his availability, kindness and advocacy.   


Tinker was preceded in death by his parents, Harold and Honey, and his brother Ralph. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, his brother Lee and his wife Mary Lou, sister-in-law Martha Hunter, his sons and their spouses Steve and Liz (Verona), Brian and Susie (Madison), and Craig and Alice (Minneapolis), his six grandchildren who all live in the Madison area, Kayla (Zach), Alex (Emily), Evan (Molly), Ben (Laura), Holly and Mary Kate, three great-grandchildren Bryn, Blair and Barrett, and seven nieces and nephews: Jon, Pam, David, Beth, Susan, Scott and Carrie Lynn.


No one could have asked for a better brother, husband, father, uncle, grandparent, great grandparent, father-in-law and friend, and we will miss him every day. His memory will live on in the hearts of all those who loved him.

A Celebration of Life is being planned for May 18, 2024, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Nakoma Golf Club, 4145 Country Club Road, Madison, WI 53711. A short tribute to Tinker will take place at noon. We welcome your memories of Tinker, which you can share on his memorial wall here at


In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in Tom Anderson’s name. Please direct to either UW Foundation for the Initiative to End Alzheimer’s Research Fund at, or to UW Foundation for the Tom Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will assist UW law students from northern Wisconsin at  Checks may also be sent to either of these funds at US Bank Lockbox Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.

Cress Funeral & Cremation Service

3610 Speedway Road, Madison

(608) 238-3434

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