Prominent businessman, Puyallup native made his mark on the community

Thomas Russell Absher left his mark in tangible and intangible ways, working to improve life in Puyallup and to shape the region’s built landscape.

Absher died Sunday at a health care facility in Puyallup. He was 83.

“He was a family man first and foremost,” said Absher’s son, Dan. “He strived for excellence in everything he did.”

That thirst helped build Absher Construction Company into a prominent business in Pierce County. Absher Construction is responsible for many notable developments in the South Sound, including the Mary Baker Russell Music Center at Pacific Lutheran University, the Pierce County Jail, the Puyallup YMCA, and many schools in Tacoma and Puyallup.

“He used his success in business to make an impact on the community,” Dan Absher, president and CEO of Absher Construction, said of his father.

Another son, Tom Absher, said his father was about building communities, not just buildings. He started a 37-year stint as board director for the Washington State Fair in 1970, aided animal shelters and local social service programs, and still found time to create lasting memories for his wife and six children. He was also one of the founders of Puyallup Valley Bank, now part of Heritage Bank.

“He’s always been about giving back,” Tom Absher said. “That speaks to the heart of my dad.”

Thomas Absher was born in Chehalis and grew up in Puyallup. He was a star athlete at Puyallup High School, and was an all-league center-fielder for the University of Washington baseball team before earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the school.

He met his wife of 62 years, Jayne, at UW and was a lifelong Huskies fan.

Absher took over the family’s construction company in 1958 and served as president until 1990.

His faith, sense of humor and large family – including 31 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren – kept him busy outside work.

Thomas Absher’s sons say their father was blessed in his final days by getting to see all of his extended family for the holidays – 63 relatives from all over the country under the same roof.

“It was a blessing to my dad and to each of them,” Dan Absher said. “It was almost miraculous that we could have everyone together.”

A funeral Mass will be held Jan. 5 at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Sumner – where Absher worshipped for more than 50 years – followed by a memorial and reception at the Washington State Fair Pavilion.

In addition to his wife, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and sons, Absher is survived by his other children Debbie Sayre, Denise Gallion, Beth Mills and Lisa Gimmestad.