At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Gentle, kind, and generous, Dr. Thomas "Tom" Aye lived a life rich in family and the service of others. With a thoughtful word, act of kindness, or heartfelt acknowledgment, Tom had a gift for making people feel special. He led with his heart, and in doing so, proved a powerful role model for all who were blessed to know him. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, clinician, and friend, Tom's legacy of love will long live in the hearts and lives of those he cherished.
Despite the obvious gloom of the growing conflict in Europe, 1939 held much to celebrate, including the end of the Great Depression, the premieres of the classic films Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, regular television began broadcasting nationwide, and The World's Fair in New York entertained visitors from around the globe. As the US prepared for war, families continued to center their lives in love and hope for a brighter future. Nowhere was that hope more evident than in the home of George and Anita Aye, Sr. as they welcomed their son, Thomas, into their hearts and home on March 12, 1939.
Growing up in Holland, Michigan, Tom's early days were spent in the comforts of a loving home. His father was a gentle, quiet man. An industrious provider, he was a tanner and bricklayer who built the family home from the ground up. His mother, Anita, was a beauty who stole George's heart and, true to the generation, kept the house in order and raised the children. Tom's older sister, Gail, and younger brother, George Jr. were his first best friends and, though they grew up poor, they were raised on a firm foundation of family values, integrity, and hard work.
Naturally shy, Tom never required the spotlight. He was easily contented by knowing he was giving his best and took his basketball coach's encouragement, that he could do anything he wanted to if he just worked hard and put his mind to it. From the start, Tom shared a love for dogs and welcomed canine affections as often as possible. During high school, Tom balanced his academics with sports and work. He proudly lent his talents to the basketball and baseball teams as well as the varsity football team where he excelled as a kicker. He was known to split the uprights on kickoff which is no easy feat. He also worked at the Heinz pickle factory in Holland and as a gas station attendant.
After graduating from Holland High School, Tom joined the Army and was stationed in Albuquerque, NM. Following his military service, Tom pursued his Bachelor of Science degree at Western Michigan University while working as a bartender at Knollwood Tavern. Choosing a career serving others, Tom continued his education at University of Michigan School of Dentistry and later completed his graduate studies through the University of Maryland Oral Surgery Program, earning his Masters of Science degree and bolstering his skills as an oral surgeon. For over 30 years, Tom provided professional, thorough care for the Kalamazoo community. Not only did he skillfully tend to dental care needs, his genuine affinity for interacting with patients afforded each person he cared for deep comfort. The cornerstones of his care were evident in his mottos, "Always do the right thing" and "do not cut corners," and his integrity unquestionable.
Life changed when Tom married his high school sweetheart, Judy Ann Maatman. They made a great team; Judy brought Tom out of his shell, and they loved to laugh with each other. Their marriage was built on love, mutual respect, and unwavering support. Judy worked as a hairdresser while Tom was in graduate school, and they spent many wonderful moments touring in their convertible. Tom would smile every time he recalled driving around town with their Saint Bernard, Heidi, taking up the entire back seat.
Tom and Judy settled in Portage, where they were blessed to raise their three children. Chris, Jennifer, and Julie were the centers of their world, and they worked hard to provide them a loving, supportive home that always included the magic of canine companionship.
Though he typically was serious or contemplative, Tom could be goofy at times. He’d let the kids ride on his back while he crawled around the house trying to wobble them off, and he often got on the floor to rough-house with his dogs. One time, he drove down Westnedge Avenue honking the horn for a mile just to make the kids laugh. When the kids were young, yardwork was a family event. He'd have everyone working and raking leaves (while he listened to UofM football on the radio). The worst job was K9 duty, picking up the dog poop. The family enjoyed many vacations, always someplace warm where they enjoyed the beach and sun. Tom enjoyed sitting in the sand while reading or watching the ocean. A faithful UofM football fan, Tom always had the game on in the background. His kids silently hoped for the win because a loss meant dad would be grumpy for the rest of the day. Whether helping with homework, playing basketball in the driveway, watching Jenny compete in swimming, working in the yard, or enjoying Sunday evening ice cream outings, Tom was fully present, with a smile of delight on his face.
A man of deep integrity, Tom took great pride and satisfaction in providing for his family. He embodied his morals and values, modeling how to put other's needs ahead of one's own and to live authentic lives. He raised his children and coached his office team to "keep your head down and keep working. Be honest. Kindness matters." and "Always do the right thing, even if it's hard to do." His uncompromising kindness and integrity often mean he avoided confrontation, but he did believe a little white lie was okay if it meant avoiding a conflict or hurting someone's feelings.
Tom made friends easily and cherished his interactions with others. Whether sailing, walking on the shores of Lake Michigan, or taking his daily trips to the dog park, Tom welcomed every person he met as a friend. He loved teaching family and friends about sailing on their many excursions in his sailboat, the Tranquility, and greeted every dog who crossed his path with enthusiasm and care. He looked forward to his weekly lunches with his daughter, Jenny. He cherished the lifelong friendships made at The Moors Golf Club and often told his daughters how lucky he was to have such good friends. After Judy died in 1994, Tom played golf more often and credited the game and his golf buddies with saving his life. "Until the last stroke of the last hole of your game, there's always another opportunity to improve."
A lifelong learner, Tom welcomed every opportunity to grow. He loved to read and always had a good book or newspaper with him. He enjoyed audiobooks while driving and sometimes sat in the driveway to finish listening to a chapter. In recent years, Tom traveled to many National Parks with his family. He enjoyed reading about the geology of the parks while listening to his carefully curated music in the car, which was limited to old country tunes by artists like Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, and Patsy Cline; because most other music was "too cacophonous!" While lodging at or near the parks, their visits centered on taking day hikes, followed by drinks and dinner. Over the years, he had the good fortune of exploring Acadia National Park, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Hoover Dam, the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and many other natural wonders.
Never one to like being the center of attention, Tom didn't talk about himself or his accomplishments. Instead, he listened to others as though they were the most interesting person he'd ever met. He silently and without complaint carried the burden of his son's mental illness; he simply wanted his son to feel loved, to be cared for, and to have the opportunity to live a full life. He lived with the sadness of Judy's death and his son's illness without ever thinking life was unfair. Instead, he leaned into his own hardships as access to empathy for others, often proving safe harbor to those in need.
Though stunned by Tom's sudden departure, may we find comfort in the many ways he gifted our lives. As we chose to carry his legacy forward, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us. With each moment we greet a stranger as a friend, delight in the companionship of a trusted canine, challenge we meet with quiet confidence, and comfort we offer another, we choose to live the way Tom did; with a full and generous heart.
Dr. Thomas "Tom" G. Aye, age 82, died on July 24, 2021. Tom, also known as "Doc Aye" to his friends, was preceded in death by his wife; parents, Anita and George; and his sister, Gail Tardiff. Surviving him are his children, and grandchildren: Jess, Jillian, Jake, Jenna, Addison, and Julia; his brother, George Aye; and several nieces, nephews, and close friends. Cremation has taken place. A private celebration will be hosted at a later date. Visit Tom's webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Meadow Run Dog Park. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.