A life poured out in service

Grossman was devoted to his family, profession and community


By Ed Nadolski

Editor in Chief

Tom Grossman got a lot out of his community, but certainly not as much as he put into it.

However, you wouldn’t have known that by talking to him, according to the family members and friends who knew him best.

“Tom was a quiet guy. He didn’t talk much about himself,” said longtime friend and colleague Dr. Lief Erickson Jr., a local physician who played alongside Grossman on B

Thomas Grossman

urlington High School’s 1966 conference championship basketball team and later worked alongside him at the Burlington Clinic.

The former three-sport high school athlete at Burlington High School and local clinic administrator died Sept. 16 after battling bladder cancer for several years. He was 63.

“It’s a big void in our lives,” said Jim Peterson, co-owner of Mays Insurance, who was 6 years old when he and Grossman began meeting for daily ball games on the playground at Cooper School.

Their competitive nature grew, as did their friendship. By the time they reached their senior year of high school they were paired up on Burlington’s tennis squad as the No. 1 doubles team. Together, they won a conference championship and qualified for the state tournament where they lost to eventual champions Tim and Tom Gullikson. The twin brothers from Onalaska later became professionals and highlighted their careers with a runner up finish at Wimbledon.

Later in life Grossman became an avid supporter of local athletics. He was one of the driving forces behind the Burlington High School Athletic Association, serving as treasurer for many years and was a frequent fan at local football and basketball games – often with Peterson by his side.

Grossman’s wife, Joy, said her husband felt a debt of gratitude for athletic experiences he had and wanted to make sure successive generations had even more opportunities.

She also said his athletic and professional exploits took a backseat to his role as a husband and father of three.

“Tom always supported me and the kids in everything we did,” Joy said. “That’s the way he was – generous and kind, so loyal with so much integrity.”

She said her husband took a great deal of pride in being named one of Burlington’s most influential people by the Standard Press back in the 1980s.

Much of that honor was in recognition of his work during an 18-year stint as administrator of the Burlington Clinic.

“He was instrumental in the growth of the clinic,” Erickson said, recalling that the medical facility had roughly eight doctors at the start of Grossman’s tenure and had 35 when he left shortly after it was acquired by Aurora Health Care.

“Tom was dependable and honest. He wasn’t flashy, but he was completely trustworthy,” Erickson said. “He was really an important asset for us.”

He went on to work as an administrator for Great Lakes Radiology before that group, too, was acquired by Aurora.

Erickson said Grossman often joked that he was one of the few people to be “fired” by Aurora twice and, in essence, sacrificed his own position for the good of both organizations and the community.

“He wasn’t bitter about it at all,” Erickson said.

Throughout his professional life, Grossman was active in community organizations. He was a member of the local Rotary Club and Historical Society, chairman of the Burlington United Fund, and co-chairman of the Burlington Area School District Referendum Committee.

Joy Grossman said her husband’s goal was servant-leadership. “I thought Tom lived that,” she said.

“You could talk to everyone in town about Tom and you won’t ever hear a bad word.”

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