On June 10, 2016, Friedman Memorial airport celebrated the life and career of Professional Engineer, Todd C. Combs, by dedicating the Airport Management & Operations building in his honor. Todd spent most of his professional life working at the airport, starting with our first large taxiway project in 2001. He was diligently working on the airport’s $35 million Runway Safety Area project when he passed away. When you enter the first set of doors of the building named after him and look to your right, you’ll notice a sentimental plaque on the wall. It serves as a poignant memorial for Todd.
Over a long weekend in mid-October, we were able to sit down and catch up with the Combs family. Todd’s mom, sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces flew in from Montana for a visit to the Valley and they were able to make time to meet with us. Todd’s wife and two girls also drove up to be with the family. While talking with the Combs family, we asked what brought them back to the Wood River Valley? Their resounding response was to simply reconnect as a family in a place they’ve been wanting to return to for quite some time.
Todd was a nurturing family man — he was someone who cared deeply about those around him. Nearly every day, Todd would call his mom or sister to tell them about the latest airport projects. He would always say, “Mom, you would love it here; it’s so much like Montana. The fishing and hunting are great.” Todd poured his heart and soul into his work. Starting with his first day on the job in 2001, the Friedman Memorial Airport was lucky to have him.
From working on the pivotal taxiway project, to the $35 million Runway Safety Area project he was helping with at the time of his death, Todd was a crucial member of the airport’s team. He had the skills to communicate with everyone. And we mean everyone. There was something about Todd that just seemed to soothe those he interacted with. Todd made friends with anyone he talked to. Without a doubt, he was an extremely personable guy. While working for the airport, he would spend much of his time in Sun Valley, commuting home on the weekends to be with his wife and kids. Although it was hard for Todd to be away, he took pride in his job.
From his personality to his degree, Todd followed in his dad’s footsteps. Todd graduated from Montana State University with a degree in civil engineering. Afterward, he quickly started work. His work inevitably led him to Boise, Idaho. Here in Idaho, he met the love of his life, Stephanie. Together, they have two beautiful girls. But before we jump ahead too far, let’s back up to Todd’s upbringing. Todd grew up loving the big open skies of Montana — Great Falls and Lewistown, to be exact. Because of his roots, he always had a passion for the outdoors and adventure. His family operated a sand and gravel company, which inherently meant that Todd began problem-solving at a young age. He was also surrounded by big equipment and enjoyed operating his family’s machinery.
Growing up, Todd always had close-knit friends. He was fun-loving, comical, and lighthearted. He loved playing tricks on his sister, Lori. Lori is forever grateful for their bonding time and loves re-telling hysterical stories. She holds these memories close. Todd cared about everything he was involved in (and, for that matter, everyone he crossed paths with). Without Todd, who knows if Lori and Ryan (Todd’s brother-in-law) would have started dating! Introducing these two was Todd’s “claim to fame.” While at a bonfire one night, Todd suggested that Ryan talk to his sister, and the rest is history. Todd always wanted to share his life with his family — from telling stories to keeping them involved — he truly wanted to include everyone.
During our chat with Lori, she told us about a story she heard after Todd’s passing:
“When Todd and his crew began the taxiway project, they came across an old well head. As it turns out, Todd told the crew, ‘Oh, let’s just bury it. We’ll deal with it another time.’ On that set of plans, Todd went ahead and initialed TCC — his official stamp of approval to leave the old well head there. When Todd and the team came back for the big Runway Safety Area project years later, he watched from afar as the crew began digging in the area that he signed off on long ago. They found the old well head and began making calls to figure out who left it there. That’s when they found out it was Todd, and he smirked. They all had a good laugh over that one.”
We asked the Combs family what their plans were while in town. All they wanted to do was make memories together. They planned on taking a few small hikes, visiting Redfish Lake, and eating at the Pioneer— all of which Todd talked about regularly with them.
Here are a few closing words from Lori after their visit to the Valley:
“We wanted to make more family memories together while helping his memory live on. Though we all miss him dearly, we know he watches over us from above. That was evident the day we flew in as it was gorgeous weather and so still. We could not have asked for a more beautiful weekend.
The first stop we made was a visit to the building that was named after him. Upon entering the building, we had a moment of silence, hugs and tears, filled with lots of emotions from all of us and the friends who work in ‘Todd’s building.’ They gave us a tour and let us know they would make things extra special for us, whatever we wanted and needed. We even got to see some colleagues from TO Engineering as they were there for a meeting. Then we met up for dinner with Pete Kramer, a friend of Todd’s from the airport. Later that evening we were able to be together with my sister-in-law and nieces who had traveled over from Eagle. We celebrated our niece’s 15th birthday a few days early which was exciting as we have never been together in one spot at this time of year.
Over the next couple of days, we hiked up the Bald Mountain Hiking path, played around Red Fish Lake taking in the scenery and a beautiful hike along Fish Hook Creek. These were places Todd had taken his wife and girls a few years back. We shopped and enjoyed the little town of Ketchum including dinner at the Pioneer on Saturday night, in honor of Todd, as it was his favorite restaurant.
In closing, Lori’s final words during our interview sum it up best for all of us:
“To know Todd was to know someone who loved life, family and the outdoors. He made a mark on the hearts of everyone who was lucky enough to know him. Until next time…”
We all miss you Todd.