Thomas “Tom” Hirrschoff (79), formally from Pierre, South Dakota, USA, died on 5th February 2023 in Box Hill, Victoria, Australia, of complications from pneumonia.
In his professional life Tom was a secondary school teacher for over 30 years in Australia, teaching mathematics, science and psychology, and serving also as a school counsellor.
The Australian and international paddling community, however, will remember Tom for his involvement in paddling spanning 50 years. He, together with his late wife Liz, were involved in coaching, event organization and officiating in Victoria, since 1972. He was an international level technical official and officiated at multiple World Championships and World Cup competition events from 2000 through to 2017. In 2008 Tom was recognized with the Julius Patching Official of the Year Award by Australian Canoeing (now Paddle Australia) for his contribution to running competitions. Tom also had a long involvement in supporting the administration of our sport, being an Interested Director and Chair of the Canoeing Victoria board (now Paddle Victoria) from 2005 to 2014. He supported marathon and sprint paddling, serving as a selector for state teams and organizer of major paddling events, including the Australian Masters Games.
Tom and Liz were strong supporters of junior paddling in Victoria, notably through the coaching and support of the Camberwell Grammar School kayaking team and of individual athletes. Tom and Liz welcomed many young country athletes and athletes from Sweden into their home, who stayed with them while studying, working and training in Melbourne. Tom took an active role in supporting the Coaching Evolution squad led by Cameron McMullen during the 2010’s, when Victoria field strong teams of junior athletes, achieving selection to represent Australia at multiple Marathon World Championships. Many of those athletes are still paddling competitively today as young adults and as coaches of the next generation of juniors entering our sport.
Tom as an official could be intimidating for paddlers, barking instructions to achieve a straight line for a fair start. I am told on one occasion he disqualified all but one paddler from a Division 1 group for repeated false starts. On another occasion, in driving rain at Patterson Lakes he ordered junior crews to turn around to reform their line, with problems compounding as multiple boats capsized in the chop from the winter gale blowing in from Port Phillip Bay. During the heyday of the Murray Marathon Tom passionately advocated his view on the protest committee until 3:00 am in the morning, until all members realized that first light was approaching and they had to start the final day. He, and the late Joe Alia, another long serving official, were very good friends who would vigorously debate at events how things should be done. Tom was passionate, committed, generous with his time and experience, and a very good friend to many in the paddling community. Tom, we thank you for the support your provided to this sport, to your tireless contribution as an official and volunteer so that others could race, and to the difference you and Liz made to the lives of so many juniors within our state.
Vale, Tom Hirrschoff
On behalf of the Victorian paddling community
Friday March 3rd, 2023 4:37pm -> Monday April 10th, 2017 1:55pm