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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — May 21, 2004


Memories are bittersweet

Family and friends mourn Tom Algiers

Express Staff Writer

Tom Algiers was a poor man rich in family and friends.

He lived a simple life by choice, said his sister Mary Algiers. He was often seen in the Wood River Valley walking with his dog Patty.

M. Terra consoles Tom Algiers’ mother Peggy at a memorial gathering in his honor at the Coffee Grinder in Ketchum. Express photo by David N. Seelig

"He didn’t want a lot of responsibility," she said. "Since he was little he liked to sleep outside just in his sleeping bag without a tent."

Algiers was killed early Sunday morning when a sheriff’s deputy, responding to a 911 call about an assault, shot him twice in a confrontation at a campsite near River Run, west of Ketchum. Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said Deputy Curtis Miller was forced to shoot Algiers, 46, after Algiers refused to heed police orders to drop a knife he was holding.

According to Femling, Miller and fellow Deputy Dale Stocking were responding to a 911 call from Daniel Hunt, another camper at the site on the banks of the Big Wood River who claimed that Algiers had attacked him. Hunt told police that he had struck Algiers with a machete in self-defense and was concerned that his friend might be dead.

Shocked by the news of Algiers’ death, his mother and four family members and more than 50 people who were close to him came to remember Algiers at an informal gathering Wednesday evening at the Coffee Grinder coffee shop in Ketchum.

Algiers’ friends and family said Algiers was a peaceful person who avoided fights.

Tom Algiers

Some of those present had worked with Algiers and socialized or camped with him over the two decades he had lived in the valley. Stories were told about his interest in reading and his facility with words.

A teacher once told him at about age 9 that he was a ‘mentally gifted minor,’ said his brother Chuck Algiers. "He replied, ‘No, I’m a mentally gifted midget.’"

"I was the one who always got in trouble. I was the fighter," Chuck Algiers added. "I am learning from Ketchum people how well liked he was."

All present at the impromptu memorial said they wanted to know more about the events that resulted in Algiers’ death.

Word of his death got to his family after Wood River Chapel funeral director Russ Mikel, who also is the Blaine County coroner, contacted Diana Anida, one of Algiers’ longtime friends who also occasionally employed him in her business.

Anida said she helped the Sheriff’s Office inform the family and began the process of gathering together Algiers’ belongings.

"We have been friends for a long time," she said. "He was a wonderful person. He was always ready to help me with physical labor I couldn’t handle by myself."

Of Algiers’ seven siblings, four came with their mother from California to see the body of their brother Tuesday at the Wood River Chapel in Hailey.

"We are not happy about what happened," said Peggy Algiers, the mother of the victim.

She also said she understood that it was dark and disorienting for the officers involved in Algiers’ death.

"I’ve been praying for everyone involved," she said. "I hope something positive comes from this, and that he didn’t die in vain. I know he wasn’t an angel, but I know what a beautiful and unique person he was."

In fact Algiers did have a criminal record, including a charge for assaulting a police officer that was dropped and a separate aggravated battery charge that earned him a six-month jail sentence, that was suspended last fall.

"If he were rich he would just be eccentric," Algiers’ younger brother Peter said.

Tom Algiers’ friends Sylvia Green, Brent Rasmussen, Christye Prestwich, Cathy Gaillard and Heather Rodgers gathered at the Coffee Grinder Wednesday evening to relate stories of their friend and try to learn what happened to him. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Family members said Algiers’ love of the outdoors continued especially after he left Los Angeles with his childhood friend and moved to Ketchum in 1980.

"We met in junior high school," said Brent Rasmussen, a sous chef at Felix’s Restaurant in Ketchum. "Overall, he was the biggest hearted individual I had ever met in my life. He was incredibly bright and really funny. He always had your back as a friend. He was loyal true and honest. It was amazing."

But, Algiers’ minimalist lifestyle worried his family, and they often asked him to come back to Los Angeles.

Chuck Algiers, Tom’s older brother, once planned a trip to visit his brother for just a couple of days. But he said they had such a good visit he stayed for over a week.

"He wouldn’t leave this place," Chuck Algiers said. "He hated L.A. It was too busy, too many people."

Family members came for numerous visits during the years Algiers lived in Ketchum.

"Once we got here, we knew why he came here and stayed," Mary Algiers said. "He loved the outdoors. This was a perfect place for him."

"He was camping out by choice," his mother said.

Wealth was not something Algiers sought, but his family worried about him anyway.

"We all wanted to help him, but he didn’t want it," Mary Algiers said. "I used to send him money and he was always giving it away ... like my Mom said, he was one of a kind."

At least a dozen of Algiers’ friends contacted the Idaho Mountain Express this week to attest to the man’s positive character.


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