Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

Thomas E. Archer

October 22, 1952 – December 11, 2022

"You light 'em, we fight 'em" and "Where I go, weeds don't grow". Two familiar slogans on the business cards of one memorable man. 'Tommy' as he was known to his oldest friends and 'Papa' to his grandchildren was a proud husband, father, grandfather, helicopter pilot and lifelong farmer.

Tom was born to Richard & Dorothy Archer on October 22, 1952 in Oklahoma, before the family settled down on the Archer Family homestead near Waitsburg, Washington. At an early age, Tom was driving grain trucks and combines on some of the steepest hills in Columbia County, where he and his younger sister Teresa spent their childhood. Tom graduated from Waitsburg High School with the class of 1970 where he was voted 'Best Hair' for three straight years. He went on to attend Big Bend Community College's Aviation program where he earned his commercial & private pilot's license in 1972.

In a career spanning over 40 years, Tom logged countless hours of flight time. Making his mark on a short list of aviators contracted to fly during the most perilous conditions. As a helitack pilot, Tom transported wild land firefighters to remote locations, flew search and rescue missions in the mountains and conducted initial attack water bucket drops on forest fires. Being owner & operator of Archer Aviation, you could find Tom dodging power lines while crop dusting wheat fields, helicopter logging at super low altitudes or sometimes even drying acres of cherry trees after heavy rain fall, using the wind generated by the helicopter blades. Tom was even asked to dry off the horse race track during Waitsburg's 'Days of Real Sport' after a particularly heavy downpour.

Tom truly enjoyed the simple things in life, like hosting his family & friends over. Relaxing on the couch in front of the big screen with a well-made fire burning, that was his definition of a good time. Tom's grandkids remember there was never a shortage of fun at their 'Papa's house' where they went for rides on the 4 wheeler, played air hockey, swam in the endless pool, and had bowls of candy at the ready, because it was always Halloween at Papa's house.

No amount of time with the legendary Tom Archer would have been enough for his family and friends, though he gave us tons of memories & stories to last several lifetimes. Tom passed away peacefully at age 70, signing off on a life that was, in his own words, "Never a dull moment". In true farmer fashion, terramation was chosen, beautiful life-giving soil (using only alfalfa, straw, and sawdust) will be returned home to his family to be scattered & planted. His life grows on.

Everyone has a Tom Archer story & we'd love to hear them all. Join us for a celebration of his life, Friday March 3rd at American 35 /128 Main Street Waitsburg, WA at 4pm. To share memories or photos of Tom with his family online, please visit,


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