Tom's Hidden Talent

Tom with his special apron that his granddaughter gave him

Tom with his special apron that his granddaughter gave him

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” This well-known saying is exactly what came to my mind after hearing Tom’s story. Tom is a resident at Woodland’s Creek retirement community. Lynn (from my previous post) told me that I needed to meet Tom as he had a very interesting story to share. Sure enough, Tom and I connected via text and set up a time to get together.  

I met Tom over lunch last week, and I must admit it was one of the best lunch dates I’ve had this year (sorry Tim! ;)). As soon as I arrived, I was overcome by the smell of freshly baked cookies. Tom greeted me with a smile and told me to help myself. Accepting his offer, I took one bite and my mouth instantly watered at the taste of the gooey chocolate hidden inside. I quickly made a mental note to thank Lynn later for connecting us.

I reached for a second cookie (no judgment), and prepared for what would be another great story.


Tom is a true Iowa native. He was born and raised in Mason City, Iowa, and attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.  His small town roots didn’t keep him away from going off and exploring the world, however. He enlisted in the Army in 1952, where he was stationed in Korea, serving for two years before leading the Enlisted Men’s Club. Meanwhile, his fiance, Fran, waited patiently back home for his return.

Tom's army photo, 1952

Tom's army photo, 1952

Tom and his father

Tom and his father

Tom and Fran’s love story all began at a party in Clear Lake, Iowa. The story goes, Tom’s buddy brought him to this party because he was seeing one of the 12 ladies that Fran hung around with. Little did Tom know he would meet his future wife that night!

Speaking of, Fran met up with us halfway through our meeting and joined in on the conversation; and she was just as sweet as Tom’s cookies!

Tom and Fran married on the 25th of August, 1954. They will be celebrating 64 years this coming August!

They have had many wonderful memories together throughout the years. Fran shared some of her favorite moments with me.

My time with Tom on the road was one of special times. There was lots of sharing and bonding. Kathy and Jeff (their two children)  were out of the home and Tom was starting with Dickson’s, Inc., a Christian gift company that sold everything from 5 cent erasers to $500 framed pictures. He was traveling 9 states, Iowa, Minnesota North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado. We had a small Bible Bookstore in Atlantic at the time. We sold it, and I started traveling with him.. We lived in motels, and I spent a lot of  time walking around the towns and shopping. Traveling the various states, we did have friends scattered around. We touched base with several and made new friends with the store owners.. Sometimes it took Tom 2-4 hours to make a call. We would start with breakfast and end with supper with others. After a call, we would drive to the next town for another call in the morning, and start all over again. After 7 years of this, we decided to sell our home in Atlantic and travel in a Motorhome. We had our own bed every night and it gave me a place to spend the day. I spent many days parked in Wal-Mart parking lots.

By this time we were down to about 7 states, adding Oklahoma, part of Arkansas and dropping the northern state. We had our times on the road and I basically did the secretarial work; sending appointment cards for the calls and following up with a phone call the week of the appointment (the days before computers and cell phones).  I knew where most of the phone booths were in the towns! Tom had down time in between seasons and that time we spent volunteering at a Christian Conference Center in Hollister, Missouri (Close to Branson). Making beds, vacuuming, serving meals and cleaning up. We met many dear people there. Then we would head to Panora, Iowa, for Christmas at a Timeshare close to our daughter and family. Our son was in Minnesota then and spent time with us too. In 1995, we made a bid on a house in Bella Vista, Arkansas, and moved in 1996; thus ending the years on the road. We had the privilege of taking some of our older grandchildren with us on the road and to the annual Christian Booksellers Convention. Great bonding time!  Those were held in Denver, Dallas, Orlando, Los Angeles, so they had fun days at the parks.
Tom eventually retired in 2002 and we enjoyed Bella Vista, Arkansas, and days of golf until moving to Clive, Iowa, in 2012.
Tom and Fran with their whole family 

Tom and Fran with their whole family 

As you can see, both Fran and Tom were very active, and they still are! For many years, Tom helped out around Woodland’s Creek by planting and maintaining the flower garden outside, leading their group’s bible study, and volunteering at any given opportunity.


Remember when I said, “When life gives you lemons?...” Well, about 10 years ago, Tom was handed that lemon. He began losing his eyesight and was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. He was unable to participate in many of the activities he once loved. Rather than feeling defeated by this, Tom decided to find new hobbies that he could enjoy, which led him to baking, and this is where the lemonade is made! ;)

I asked Tom to talk me through his baking routine.

I use my measuring cups - most everything I bake will almost always be the exact measurements of the measuring cups I use, and I don’t have to see much for that. 

He usually puts all the dry ingredients into a bowl first and then mixes the wet ingredients in separately. The measuring spoons he uses are primarily a teaspoon and tablespoon for all of his recipes. Tom is constantly adding to and changing up his recipes. Any recipe he has been given, he tweaks or alters, making it his own.

The recipe that Tom has asked me to share is one that is close to both his and Fran’s heart. It was passed on from one of their friends at Woodlands Creek who passed away a few years ago. At her funeral, her family couldn’t stop talking about her delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They shared the recipe with Tom, and he now makes this treat in remembrance of her.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 



1 stick imperial margarine 

1/2 stick buttery crisco

1 cup sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

 1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups quick oats

10 or 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips


preheat oven to 350°F

 Line cookie sheets with parchment paper

set margarine in mixing bowl for 12-24 hours to soften

add flour, baking soda, and salt into small mixing bowl and stir with a table knife

Add buttery crisco to the margarine and sugars and mix with hand-held mixer until creamy

 add eggs and vanilla and beat well with hand-held mixer

add flour mixture and stir with table knife

add the oatmeal and chocolate chips and stir well

set mixing bowl in the refrigerator for 30-45 min.

Spoon batter with table spoon and place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart

bake for 10-12 minutes

when they are starting to brown around the edges, remove and set pan on trivet for 3 min.

transfer cookies to wire wrack and cover with a paper towel

cool for 10-15 min. 

makes about 3 dozen


Tori Scarpinato