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A bucket full of adventures

St. James man, 72,a two-time cancer survivor, pens first book

By Scott Thoma

Most people hope to be remembered once they’re gone. Having one battle with soft tissue sarcoma and another with a non-cancerous brain tumor, Tom Goeritz decided it was time to put his legacy in writing.

Tom Goeritz, administrator at St. John’s Circle of Care in Springfield, is an outdoor enthusiast who has recently written a book about his life. Many of his stories focus on his outdoor adventures. Contributed photo

Everyone seems to have a story or two to tell. When Goeritz started to write some of the things he’s done and people he’s met over his lifetime, he didn’t stop until he had 70 short stories. So, he decided to put them all in a book, called A Bucket of Frogs.

“Since I wrote those stories, I’ve thought of a lot more that I wish I had included,” he said. “The stories range from when I was 10 years old until now.”

Goeritz, a personable administrator for the St. John’s Circle of Care in Springfield, has worn a myriad of hats over his lifetime as a pilot, preacher, administrator, taxidermist, scuba diver, skydiver, skier, angler, golfer, hunter, poet, teacher, and administrator.

But the one hat that fits him best is an adventurer. He has seen and done many of the same things that others have done, plus many others. He and his wife, Colleen, currently live in St. James.

“Working with elderly people for many years, this was also a way for them to read some of the stories and say ‘I remember when I did something like that,’” he said. “It’s a way for them to reflect on their life, too.”

Goeritz, 72, talked about his bout with cancer in 2000. He had developed a lump between his right tricep/bicep. Initially, he developed a small nodule in that area and was told by his doctor “not to worry about it” as it appeared to be a fatty deposit.

Approximately four months later, the lump increased to the size of a golf ball and became worrisome to Goeritz and his wife. He made another trip to the doctor, and this time a biopsy was done.

“I got a call a few days after that telling me it was cancer,” Goeritz said. “It was soft tissue sarcoma, stage four. The news hit me hard.”

As he speaks, Goeritz rolls up the right sleeve of his dark-colored dress shirt, revealing a six-inch large fatty mass, referred to as a “flap.” That flap, taken from the middle of his back, was affixed to the area where his cancerous tumor was removed.

“My back looks kind of ugly now, too,” he said. “I’m self-conscious of my arm so I usually wear long-sleeved shirts.”

It was initially feared that Goeritz might lose his right arm. Although the 10-hour surgery was successful in removing the cancer and saving his arm, it did leave his right hand somewhat weakened.

Following surgery, Goeritz was told he would never be able to cross-country ski again, something that was a passion of his.

Just two years later, however, Goeritz was donning skis and clutching ski poles while competing in the Kortelopet, a 27-kilometer race which is a half-marathon in comparison to the American Birkebeiner 55-kilometer full marathon. Goeritz completed the course in three hours and 12 minutes. He didn’t win the race, but it was still a victory to him.

The benign tumor on his brain that developed four years ago took surgeons at the Mayo Clinic nine hours to remove and clean up.

“It was a difficult surgery because the tumor had wrapped itself around the nerves at the base of my brain,” Goeritz explained. “During the surgery, they did cut a nerve and I am unable to hear out of my left ear now.”

Still, Goeritz is happy to be alive and working at a job that he enjoys. He had semi-retired about six years ago but was still involved in working in an administrator capacity at senior living facilities in for many years at places in Westbrook, Belview, St. James, Lamberton, Sleepy Eye and Springfield.

Prior to that, he was responsible for 22 nursing homes, as well as housing projects, two hospitals, and two clinics as Vice President of Operations. He has worked at a lot of places and had a lot of adventures in his life. And now his legacy is preserved.

The name A Bucket of Frogs comes from his 70 short stories, some as short as one page, over the course of 170 pages.

“We called it that because the stories jump all over like a bucket of frogs,” Goeritz laughed.

A Bucket of Frogs is available by visiting, or at St. John’s Circle of Care in Springfield.

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