Thomas "Tom" Paul Onken

January 28, 1959January 31, 2021
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Thomas Paul Onken 1959-2021

Thomas (Tom) Onken – a mentor to many, and a friend to all, passed away January 31, 2021 peacefully at his home in Franklin, TN with his family by his side.

Born January 28, 1959 to Leona and Romaine Onken, Tom spent his childhood growing up in Neenah, WI. He was a graduate of Neenah High School and the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he majored in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Immediately following graduation in 1982, he started his 38-year career with Marriott International as an Assistant Housekeeping Manager. Tom held a variety of roles on-property, including Front Desk Manager and Director of Operations, before moving into above-property leadership roles ranging from Regional Director of Rooms Operations in full service hotels to Regional Director of Marriott Select Brands. From 2007-2018, Tom was Senior Vice President, Lodging Development of the Eastern Region. In this role he was responsible for all aspects of hotel development for Marriott Select Brands. In 2018-present, he was the Chief Franchising Officer for the U.S. As CFO, he was responsible for continuing to build and maintain strong relationships with franchisees in over 4,000 hotels. He determined the strategy and direction for the franchise business to ensure the maximum value for stakeholders. He has worked with several of the MSB Franchise Advisory Councils and is a member of the Advisory Board for the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference. He will be greatly missed by his Marriott family.

Tom will be always be remembered for his witty sense of humor, smart aleck jokes and entertaining stories. He inspired others with his unfailing work ethic, friendship, generosity, and kindness to all. Tom loved nothing more than to spend time at his cottage in the UP of Michigan with family and friends where he would fish, boat, snowmobile, and go 4-wheeling. He was a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan, and always looked forward to his annual fishing trip with his childhood buddies.

Tom is survived by his wife Michele of 16 years, and his son Wyatt, 12. He also leaves behind his two sisters Kim (Jim) Elvecrog and Amy (Jeffrey Marr) Kron, sisters-in-law Laura (Rob) Brown, Ronna (Dave) Girton and brother-in-law David (Nicki) Balczak, as well as many adoring nieces and nephews who will miss their Uncle Tom.

Due to COVID restrictions, a Celebration of Life will be planned at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Tom Onken Memorial Scholarship Fund that is being set up at the University of Wisconsin-Stout Hospitality Administration/Management program.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Thomas "Tom" Paul Onken

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Ryan McRae

February 18, 2021

I was lucky enough to have worked with Tom on the Marriott MSB Development team. Even though I covered a different region (Western Canada), Tom was always more than happy to share his friendly guidance and advice on getting deals done given his vast experience at Marriott. More than that, he was always a total gentleman and joy to be around on the occasions we got to attend conferences and events together.

So sorry for your family's loss, Tom was one of a kind.

Glenn Gray

February 17, 2021

I am so sorry for your loss. My prayers are for you and Wyatt.

Sheryl Houck

February 12, 2021

One of a kind, salt of the earth, hard-working, dedicated and generous...this hardly seems real.

Thinking back nearly 20 years ago to a double date with Michele and Tom on what must've been their first on second date. We went to Universal Studios in Orlando and it was apparent pretty quickly that they were perfectly paired. We sure did have alot of fun. I have always admired how Tom cherished and honored Michele. What a gift to have that kind of love for nearly two decades! Some never find such a rare love. I hope the memories and love that will forever live in your heart comfort you in this difficult time.

My dear cousin, you and Wyatt are in my thoughts and prayers as you say farewell for now as Tom transcends to his heavenly Home. Our God has got a plan. It's goodbye for now....big hug, I love you.

Farhan Lone

February 10, 2021

My boss on Day 1 with Marriott on February 17, 1989 and boss in 4 different jobs. A mentor, a true friend of nearly 32 years, who has left a huge void in the world. Truly one of a kind. Cannot believe he’s gone. He possessed a sense of humor and practical joking abilities that were second to none. Always ready with “the scoop’, he was like a brother and friend to so many. Possessed of a contagious smile, ready wit and a great storyteller, Tom was the ultimate loyal friend and, more importantly, husband and father. He cherished his wife, Michele, and son, Wyatt, as well as being a loving son and brother.

His grace, while facing the ultimate journey was a true inspiration to us all who continued to pray and hope till the very end. Now we hold on to the great memories you leave us with. We started a tradition of connecting on the phone every Christmas/ festive season and maintained it over 31 years without missing a single year. This next season, and those following, will not feel nor be the same without him.

A true friend:

Tom, you will be missed, never forgotten...

George Challoner

February 9, 2021

My condolences to Michelle and Wyatt. You have been in my thoughts and prayers. Tom was a great friend growing up together in Wisconsin and then throughout the years in Florida.

He will be greatly missed.

Shane Shirley

February 8, 2021

This just isn’t right. I know people say this but with Tom it’s so true...why does God take the great ones too early? I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it and all that makes sense is that the world had him for a little while and that’s God’s gift to Shell, Wyatt and the world. And he was a perfect gift.

Barbara Elvecrog

February 7, 2021

Tom was an exceptional person. He loved to tell stories and listen to our stories. Gene and I so enjoyed the Christmas Eves we spent with Tom, Michele and Wyatt at Jim and Kim’s. And he was the life of the party at Jane’s wedding reception. He was so loved and will be SO missed.

Patrick Boyum

February 5, 2021

I was fortunate to have landed on the same dorm floor with Tom in 1977. Since then there have been many great memories and laughs because of Tom's efforts to bring friends together at the "Up North" fishing events, Packer games and entertaining texts and emails with the guys. I will miss the great times but thankful for the memories.
Tom always found a way to find the best in people and make them feel good about themselves which made his successful career in the Hospitality Industry a great fit.
Michele and Wyatt, even though I was unable to spend much time with you, I enjoyed hearing the many great times that your family had together as it was apparent that was at the top of his priorities in life. All the best, my thoughts and prayers to you during this difficult time.

April Duffy

February 4, 2021

Tom asked me one day if I had had fun on that day. It had been a difficult day, so I said not so much. He told me he has fun everyday. I was quite surprised at his response. Then he asked me, if you're not having fun, why do what you do? Good question and one of those aha moments for me not just as a business person but as a person.

He had a great business mind with a breadth of knowledge that only one who has grown up in this industry could have. And he used it for the betterment of everyone and everything he touched.

Tom had a big generous heart and I believe genuinely hurt for his team during the furlough period. He embraced his emotional side and showed us a vulnerability that made him so much stronger as a leader.

He will be missed by many. Including me.

I pray that the peace that passes understanding will cover his family now and in the future.

Rita Balczak

February 4, 2021

Dear Shelly my first time in the UP was awesome. Tom was so gracious and funny. The special gin or vodka with cucumber brings memories of Ron going up there to help out. Hard to put into words something that can describe what a great man Tom was. Thinking of you and Wyatt. Love Rita