Tom Grams, the former Durango dentist who was slain Thursday on a medical aid mission in Afghanistan, had so many
interests that probably no one was familiar with more than a few of them, a friend said Tuesday.
"Tom's existence was an iceberg, and we were exposed to only the tip of it," Ken Freudenberg, a Durango patent
attorney said. "The whole picture is only now coming into focus."
He met Grams about 20 years ago and the two soon were hiking, biking, climbing, running and river rafting buddies, Freudenberg said.
Dylan Norton, owner of Doughworks cafe and deli, in Durango, another close friend, said Grams' dedication to serving
the less fortunate can be a lesson to others.
"We can learn about selflessness and how such fulfillment can leave a legacy," Norton said.
He said Grams was aware of the peril of working in Afghanistan, but he accepted it as an occupational hazard.
"He had his reservations but felt he had to go," Norton said.
Grams could even have harbored a premonition that all would not go well, Norton said.
The night before he left, Grams asked him to take certain responsibilities in case he didn't return, said Norton.
"I was reluctant because it seemed morbid," said Norton. "But he said 'You have to do this.'"
The last e-mail he received from Grams, 51, in Afghanistan also had an ominous tone, Norton said. In the e-mail Grams
talked about the situation and about his trip to the hinterlands.
The last sentence said: "I hope it's just an adventure and a chance to see a very unique place and people - and no
more than that."
Freudenberg saw Grams whenever he returned from his humanitarian trips abroad. Grams retired in 2007 and started
working with several organizations, mainly Global Dental Relief and the Afghan Relief Organization.
"When he was in town we'd have dinner once a week," Freudenberg said. "He had a gentle demeanor and was quiet, but he
wasn't shy as I read someplace,"
Grams was not one to talk about himself, Freudenberg said. But he wasn't evasive if someone asked about his work in
Afghanistan, Nepal or India.
Freudenberg doesn't buy the story of the group claiming credit, the Taliban, for gunning down Grams and nine other
members of a medical International Assistance Mission team who were returning from two weeks in the remote Parun
valley about 160 miles north of Kabul. The Taliban said team members were preaching Christianity to their Muslim
"Tom wasn't religious as far as I know," Freudenberg said. "He wouldn't identify himself as a Christian, although he
represented Christian values but without Christian connotations."
Bridget Irish, assistant dean of writing and first-year experience at Fort Lewis College, knew Grams as a dentist, friend and colleague.
"He had a presence," Irish said Tuesday. "He was loving, gentle and compassionate, but he was steely in his resolve
to help the world."
The terrorist attack of Sept. 11 was the impetus for Grams' work in Third World countries, Irish said. Grams'
approach wasn't to react to terrorism but to provide education and health care to the poor.
Tim Grams, Tom's identical twin and younger brother by 10 minutes, said his brother did not have an uncommon early
"There was nothing exceptional in our background," said Tim Grams, a photographer in Anchorage, Alaska. "Nothing that
would get him involved at this level in the Third World."
Tom would visit him and an older brother, Craig, who lives in Glennallen, Alaska, every other year for outdoor
adventures, Tim Grams said.
His believes his brother's inspiration to help the helpless started when he heard an Afghan man in Albuquerque tell
of the torture he suffered while fighting in the endless fighting that has ravaged his country, Grams repaired the
man's battered teeth for free.
The Grams are scheduled to arrive Friday in Durango in preparation for a celebration of Tom Grams' life Sunday.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Dr. Tom Grams Memorial Fund, c/o Katy Shaw, Global Dental Relief Project, 2230 Glencoe St., Denver, CO 80207; Afghan Relief Organization, P.O. Box 866 Cypress, CA 90630 or the Dr. Tom Grams
Memorial Fund, Kids 4 Afghan Kids, 9936 Hambleton, Livonia, MI 48167.
Laurie Mathews, director of Global Dental Relief, forwarded an e-mail in which her brother, Mark, a member of the
Global Dental Relief board, wrote about Tom Grams.
Mark Mathews recalled that his sister and Grams hiked halfway up Mount Everest to a Buddhist monastery with dental
equipment loaded on yaks. They treated monks and about 100 other people in primitive conditions under a single light
"He (Grams) will continue to serve as a beacon for those of us privileged to know and work with him," Mathews said.
May we all live a life as full and rich and significant."