By George Stahl
Special to the Sun
On April 5, local Kern River Valley attorney Tom Borsari was given a military burial at the Bakersfield National Cemetery just outside of Arvin. Tom’s life was celebrated by about 100 of his friends and family under a shelter on the west end of the cemetery. As the men who make up the Associated Veterans of KC Honor Guard lined the path, Tom was escorted to the top of the shelter in an American Flag draped coffin as those gathered together that Thursday morning remembered Tom in silent affection.
Everyone had their own way of honoring Tom because Tom wore so many different hats in his life. He wore the mortarboard of a high school graduate, the metal helmet of an U.S. Army draftee in Vietnam, another mortarboard, this time with a purple tassel, as he graduated law school, the cowboy hat of a rancher and a member of the Cowboy Lawyers, the fly-studded hat of a fly fisherman, the visor of a golfer, and the cap of an airplane pilot. In 1987, Tom wore the hat of the President of the Kern Valley Exchange Club, when he was instrumental in coming up with the idea of numbering little rubber ducks, dropping them from a bridge on the Kern River and having people pay to compete to win prizes. ‘The Rubber Ducky Races’ have remained a staple and major fundraiser for the Exchange Club for the past 30 years.
Of all of his hats, his best, next to his cowboy hat, has been the one Tom wore as husband. For over 30 years, he wore that one proudly alongside his wife, Dana Adams.
Tom never had a problem taking one hat off to put on another, as the situation called for it, but you could always be sure of one thing. No matter what hat was on his head, the man beneath it was Tom. According to the memorial cards that were handed out at his funeral, Tom had 10 simple rules he tried to live his life by. For Tom, they were most likely easy to keep, most of the time. At the top of the list, rule #1, ‘Live each day with courage’ sets the stage for his other nine. If courage guides you, the rest will fall into place. Everyone that morning knew what kind of courage Tom had, and they all saw more than one of Tom’s rules coming through him at one time or another in their relationship with him.
Jenepher Lapp from the Center for Spiritual Living Bakersfield officiated over the morning’s ceremony, and she mentioned his love for nature and his determination to protect it. This started with his own house on his ranch in Walker Basin.
Being from Washington, D.C., it didn’t seem likely that Tom would end up on a ranch, riding horses and herding cattle but for the latter part of his 74 years, that’s exactly where he was and he had Belt Buckle #13 from the Cowboy Lawyers Assoc. to prove it.
To close out the tribute, five of the Honor Guard raised their rifles and fired three volleys each into the air. The 15 shots were recognizing Tom’s military service and were followed by a three-bugle chorus of Taps, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. His flag was carefully removed from his coffin, folded and presented to his wife, Dana.
That morning Tom was home. He was surrounded by people who loved him, looking out over a landscape of green mountains, blanketed with wild flowers and teaming with wildlife, some seen, but mostly unseen. He was in his element, and you couldn’t help but wonder, which hat was he wearing now?