Fallon valentines make true love a habit
With Tom and Patty Fleming the question of “What’s the secret?” doesn’t hold much water — married 39 years this June, both convey it’s not so much a secret but a conscious choice.
Fallon has been home to the Fleming family since 1986, when they moved from their home state of Montana with their five children. Churchill County School District had scooped them up, as both were educators with specialties which led them to positions with Educational Services eventually for Patty and Tom leading the music department.
Patty started as a third-grade teacher and then co-facilitated the Gifted & Talented Education (GATE) program before going on to professional development with CCSD and Northwest Nevada Regional Professional Development.
“The reason I got involved in the musicals,” Patty said of being a producer for Tom’s productions, “is party because I enjoy it obviously — but if Tom’s going be gone for hours on end I might as well join in on the fun.”
Patty added that Tom’s contribution to CCHS’ performing arts is part of his mantra: service to others. She said, for example, Tom helped spearhead the disc golf course addition to the Churchill County Regional Park off Sheckler Road.
Tom worked with the commission, Parks & Recreation and people who had built disc courses in Reno and Carson City; plus Commissioner Bus Scharmann helped funnel it as an Eagle Scout project. Tom said Eagle Scout Tim Shurtliff, Shurtliff’s father and other scouts primarily deserve the credit.
“Yes, I gave him (Tim) the idea and I helped throughout the process, but the heavy lifting was Tim, his dad and his amazing crew of fellow scouts,” Tom said. “The city and the county pitched in $2,500 each. A true community effort.”
Tom said Patty had been talking all about him so he expressed what amazes him about her. He mentioned how she and Bernadette Nelson from their church, St. Patrick’s Parish, took youth to join a group of pastors going to Mexico to build homes.
“She had what I thought at the time was a hair-brained idea,” Tom said, adding he ended up really regretting not going on that first trip.
While he helped prepare some, it was Patty who took the children (including some of their own) over spring break. The family went on to go several times. Tom said that was something she convinced him was really worth doing.
“She’s been so supportive of everything I’ve done,” he said. “It felt really wonderful to be on the other side of it. You know it goes both ways.”
The couple met playing trumpet at Montana State University and had their children from 1978-1984 who would go on to graduate from CCHS. Both parents come from large families.
“We kind of did the pinky swear,” Patty said of their decision to move away. “We really thought we’d move back to Montana.”
Patty said the people of Fallon kept them here. She said they’ve really enjoyed participating, from baking brownies and cookies for rehearsals to mentoring, tutoring, chaperoning and hosting barbecues with games for the families.
“That’s definitely a testament to the community of Fallon,” Tom said. “That we decided to stay, make a home, dig roots.”
Both said the things they’ve done together have made them stronger as a couple.
“First and foremost I believe that having a relationship is a choice,” Patty said. “It’s really a decision that you make: we’re going to grow together and love each other and persevere really. With any circumstances, there’s going to be ups and downs. But that commitment is at the core, that strength … I really enjoy being married to Tom.”
Tom said when they got together, they knew they were off on this amazing adventure.
“But I know there was a time when we just made this very deliberate, very conscious and deliberate, decision to just absolutely love each other, you know, and that we could create that,” he said.
Tom reiterated it’s the things they’ve done together and try together.
“I can put my foot in the water first,” he said. “Then pulling my foot out so to speak, say yeah, water’s warm.”