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ObituaryNorth: Sgt. Nicholas Tomko / Army Reservist was serving as gunner in Iraq

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

By Alisha Hipwell

The way Jessica Baillie tells the story, her fiancee, Sgt. Nicholas "Nick" Tomko, didn't spend much time pondering his decision to join the military.

"He just all of a sudden decided one day and then he went off and did it," she said.

That, according to Baillie, was the kind of guy he was.

Sgt. Tomko, 24, of McKees Rocks and previously of Butler and Hampton, was killed Nov. 9 in Baghdad, Iraq, when his convoy came under fire.

Biallie said her fiancee was sitting in the gunner's position of a Humvee when he was shot in the chest and killed.

Sgt. Tomko was a member of the New Kensington 307th Military Police Company, Army Reserves. He had served in the Army Reserves since 1998 and had been stationed in Iraq since February 2003. He also had served in Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina for nine months in 2001.

Baillie described her fiancee as a man who loved life, fun and spending time with family and friends, but who took his military service ser iously nonetheless.

"He wanted to serve his country, and he wanted his family to live in a country that was safe. And he did it with great pride," she said.

The hardest part for Sgt. Tomko was leaving her and Ethan, the couple's 2-year old son, on whom he doted.

"He hated to leave, but he would rather have been there protecting our country than sitting at home," said Baillie.

Sgt. Tomko was raised in Butler and in Hampton. He was a 1997 graduate of Hampton High Scho ol. Before joining the Reserves, he worked at the Toot-N-Scoot in North Park. He and Baillie moved to McKees Rocks last year.

Sgt. Tomko was preceded in death by his mother, Sherry Pfab Tomko.

In addition to his son and fiancee, he is survived by his father, Jack Tomko, of Evans City; his maternal grandmother, Frances Pfab, of Meridian; his paternal grandmother, Lena Bowser, of Butler; and a stepbrother, Jack Henderson, of Cincinnati.

Mass was held Monday in St. Mary Church in Hampton. Burial with full military honors followed at Allegheny County Memorial Park in McCandless. King Funeral Home in Hampton handled the arrangements.

Alisha Hipwell is a freelance writer.

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