Thomas M. Kurata

A Celebration of Life for Thomas will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2024 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary, Lawrence, KS. A graveside service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 1, 2024 at Oak Hill Cemetery (Veteran’s Section), in Lawrence, KS.

Thomas Milton Kurata of Lawrence passed away July 30, 2023. He was born October 5, 1952, in Lawrence, the fourth child of Fred and Virginia (nee Mefford) Kurata. He earned a double B.A. in Spanish literature and East Asian Studies from Kansas University and a B.S. in chemical engineering from New Mexico University.

Tom led a vigorous and adventurous life, spanning continents and cultures. As a youngster after graduating from Lawrence High School, he found a job working in the Amazon River town of Letitia, Colombia, catching monkey, anacondas, ocelots, and other wildlife for an entrepreneur who sold the quarry to laboratories and zoos in the United States.

After leaving Letitia, Tom took a river boat down the Amazon where he was swindled out of his money. He got off the boat at the Brazilian city of Manaus where he found work teaching English at a bank and earned money to buy a plane ticket home. He also served a brief stint in the U.S. Navy. While working toward his chemical engineering degree, Tom drove a cement truck in the oilfields of west Texas and eastern New Mexico to service drilling rigs.

After completing his degrees, Tom worked for a variety of technology companies that produced software for oil refineries and other industrial processes. Equipped with his knowledge of Spanish and Asian languages and cultures, Tom sold his firms’ software in Latin America, Japan, South Korea and China. Notably, he headed an office in Shanghai, China for three years for Oil Systems, Incorporated.

He was a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and MENSA International IQ Society. He loved to talk about politics.

Tom struggled with multiple bouts of head and neck cancer and prostate cancer starting in 1996 which forced him to retire with disability in Lawrence in 2010.

Tom was an avid sportsman. A shelf of his home study is lined with trophies he won at local tennis tournaments. He was an excellent shot with a shotgun, bagging quail and pheasant on hunting trips with his father and brother Doug. When no longer able to play tennis, Tom took up bowling and frequently broke 200. His greatest love was fishing, especially fly fishing, which he pursued even while using a walker. He asked that his ashes be spread at his favorite fishing holes.

Tom is survived by his wife Sachi, his son Ken and his daughters Naomi, Hana and Blythe.

13 Condolences

  1. Joe Flannery on August 16, 2023 at 10:29 pm

    Tom had a great spirit about him and a zest for life. I always enjoyed our conversations about everything.
    I have many found memories of the Kurata house at 17th and Indiana.
    Great guy & Family…..

  2. Rich Revenew on August 20, 2023 at 10:48 am

    I have fond memories of Tom coming into Francis Sporting Goods always with a smile and a laugh. He always cared more for others than his own battles with cancer. Its been a pleasure to have known Tom since Jr High, I’m so grateful that I knew him.

  3. Argenis Maldonado R. on August 22, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    Vuela libre Tom, el Amazonas guarda y honra tu huella. Hacen falta en el planeta mas seres como tu.
    Eternamente mi gratitud y cariño.

  4. Harold Smith on August 31, 2023 at 8:45 am

    Tom was a one-of-a-kind man of many shades and colors. Our visits and ongoing conversations over the past 40 years have enriched my life immeasurably as we debated and solved many of the major problems of humanity and the world. Our lively and thought provoking theories about the purpose of life, where we have been, and where we go after we leave has definitely expanded my understanding of reality. His zest for life has inspired me and countless others, and I have no doubt that Tom is engaging others, raising hell, and enriching lives wherever his spirit has landed. He made all of us better human beings for having touched our lives.

  5. Robert Seaver on September 3, 2023 at 1:30 pm

    Tom was one of my best friends growing up in Lawrence. We played countless tennis matches against each other growing up. He was a great practical joker with a well developed sense of humor even at an early age. I can still hear his unmistakable laugh after more than fifty years. But Tom’s most distinctive characteristic was his insatiable lust for life. His adventurous nature was obvious even at the age of ten. Even though I saw Tom rarely over the years, we would periodically speak on the phone. I was always curious to find out where he was, where he had been and what he was up to. I knew his would be no ordinary life. Returning to Lawrence after an absence of nearly fifty years, I was hoping to see Tom again and hear about all his adventures in person; therefore, it was with a heavy heart that I learned of his passing. To his family and children I send my deepest condolences. He was a special friend who will always be remembered.

  6. Saravana on October 18, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    Tom was my mentor and a great philosopher. He taught me a lot of values which one should possess and uphold. He was a special friend who will always be remembered.

  7. Steve Kallos on March 18, 2024 at 7:56 pm

    I knew Tom for several years at OSISoft (Oil Systems) – worked with him closely for a large part of my tenure there. Very good Chemical Engineer.
    Tom was a very smart man, and certainly comfortable in many cultures. He took on many a challenging task, and did well. He was not afraid to speak his mind. He stood up for his principles and protected his “underlings”. He is missed

  8. Argenis on May 31, 2024 at 10:26 pm

    Tom, tu amistad fue un regalo de la vida !

  9. Mike George on June 26, 2024 at 2:09 pm

    I only knew Tom briefly for a few years, but knew other family members, since Phil and I were in the same H.S. class year. And I was fortunate to play tennis with Phil and Tom. Tom was a gregarious and intelligent guy and will be missed by family and some friends.

  10. Ray Souza on June 26, 2024 at 5:51 pm

    I knew Tom during his stint in the Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese at KU and I still have clear and positive memories of him.
    I wish I had known he was in town during his long battle with a relentless disease. We watched a son wage a battle against
    a rare disease for 16 years. Tom was a very special person.

  11. David White on June 30, 2024 at 1:06 pm

    Condolences to Elizabeth and her family from me & mine 🙏…

  12. Norman Smothers on June 30, 2024 at 2:00 pm

    I got to know Tom after high school, when I was a student at Kansas University. I wasn’t much of a tennis player but he encouraged me to keep going–so I did and, because of him, I’m still playing tennis 50 years later. Tom was a free thinker who loved change and travel. He shared with me amazing stories of his extensive adventures in Asia and South America. He was also an achiever. He overcame huge obstacles to earn full professional certification as a Professional Engineer in Chemical Engineering–one of the most challenging fields of engineering. He also co-authored, with me, a published peer reviewed academic article about business negotiations in Korea. If I hadn’t seen Tom for awhile, he’d always give me a big hug and then smile–just like in the picture (above). Tom, we miss you.

  13. Tracy and Gail on June 30, 2024 at 2:39 pm

    Phil, Elizabeth, Doug, Sachi, and kids please accept our condolences. It was always great to see him when he came out to TJ for treatment. We’ll miss him.

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