LeRoy Thom was born in rural Buffalo County, near Ravenna, Nebraska, to John and Johanna Thom. LeRoy spent his childhood attending a rural school and working on his family’s farm. He started high school in Ravenna, but later transferred to Grand Island where he graduated in 1942.
Upon graduation, LeRoy attended the University of Nebraska to study engineering.
In January 1943, LeRoy left the University to enlist in the Navy Air Corps V-5 Aviation Cadet Training Program. His hope was to become a commercial airline pilot. However, he was called into service in September. What was supposed to be a 9-12 month training course was extended to nearly 23 months. During this time, LeRoy attended pre-flight training at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He was transferred to Corpus Christi, Texas, for further preparation. By the end of his instruction, World War II had ended and he was given the option to opt out of the V-5 program.
LeRoy returned to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering in 1944. While attending the University, LeRoy met Jean Ballance. The couple was married on September 5, 1948. They had four sons: Michael, Thomas, David, and James.
Upon graduating from college, LeRoy and Jean moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where he worked for the U.S. Soil Conservation Center as the district engineer for the seven surrounding counties. After a friend recommended him for a job with the Foxley Company, based out of Omaha, LeRoy and his family moved to Deer Lodge, Montana. He spent the next few years working as an irrigation engineer and farm boss. In 1953, they left the Montana ranch and settled in Hastings. He began working for the Farm Improvement Company as a traveling salesman selling hand-moved irrigation systems to the farmers of Nebraska. It was during these years that led to a distribution and the establishment of T-L Irrigation Company.
LeRoy and Jean Thom. Courtesy of T-L Irrigation Co.