Thomas N. Townsend

June 27, 1929 ~ May 9, 2021 (age 91)




Thomas Nelson Townsend, 91, of Litchfield, passed away peacefully on May 9, 2021, surrounded by his family at Bethany Assisted Living in Litchfield, MN.  A memorial service will be held on at 3:00 PM Friday May 21, 2021 at the First Presbyterian Church in Litchfield, MN.  Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service.   The service will be live-streamed on his obituary page at


Tom was born in Hastings, NE, on June 27, 1929, the eldest son of Lewis and Ruby (Nelson) Townsend.

After his birth, Tom did not achieve any of the usual milestones for infants. When he was taken to a doctor at 10 months of age, his parents were told that he evidently had some damage to his brain, would probably never walk or talk, and should be left in an institution. Fortunately, his parents ignored this advice –and took him home to raise him with love and a great deal of creativity. Later, Tom’s condition was identified as cerebral palsy.

In spite of the doctor’s prediction, Tom did learn to walk and talk, among other things! His family lived in Washington, D.C., Kansas City, MO, and Omaha, NE, where he graduated from Benson High School and the University of Omaha. Tom worked as an editor for the NEA Journal in Washington, D.C. and then as executive secretary of the University of Omaha Alumni Association. He attended graduate school at the University of Iowa, and eventually became a student at Mission House Theological Seminary in Sheboygan, WI. He was ordained on June 19, 1960.  

As a summer chaplain at Moon Beach Camp in Eagle River, WI, Tom met an assistant cook named Ruth Ann Koehn. Tom liked to be on the water but could only manage the left oar of a rowboat, so he asked if Ruth would sit by him and handle the right oar. Tom and Ruth began as partners in a boat and became partners in life on June 13, 1959.

Tom was a pastor at St. John United Church of Christ in Germantown, WI. He later continued his religious studies at Vanderbilt University. Tom worked in campus ministry at Wichita State University, the University of Kentucky and UW- Eau Claire, and eventually became an academic advisor at UWEC. Tom and Ruth had two children, Christopher and Susan. After retirement, Tom and Ruth moved to West Bend, WI.

Tom spent his life pushing the limits of his disability, showing himself and others how he could be used by God to fulfill His purposes. As a boy he loved stamp collecting, which he continued throughout his life. He loved watching birds, hiking and exploring parks, and especially riding his adult tricycle. Tom will be remembered for his friendly smile, his quick wit and love of words, and his wonderful ability to encourage and listen to others. He will be greatly missed.

Tom is survived by his wife of almost 62 years Ruth Townsend; children Christopher Townsend of Onalaska, WI, and Susan (Tim) Gosswiller of Cokato; grandchildren Noah, Amy, Ellen, Peter, Nathan, John, Ben and Ruby Gosswiller. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother James Townsend and sister Dorothy Bowman.

A memorial service will take place at 3:00 pm on Friday, May 21, with visitation one hour prior, at the First Presbyterian Church in Litchfield.


In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorials to the Meeker Area Food Shelf and First Presbyterian Church.












To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Thomas N. Townsend, please visit our floral store.


May 21, 2021

2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church (Litchfield)

Memorial Service
May 21, 2021

3:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church (Litchfield)

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