The youngest, Joseph, was born with Down Syndrome.
On Sept. 8, 2008, Vander Woude’s father, also named Thomas, died rescuing Joseph from a septic tank on the family’s farm in Nokesville, Va.
The 66-year-old Vander Woude, a retired commercial airline pilot who was the athletic director at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., had returned from Mass at Holy Trinity and was working outside with Joseph when the then- 20-year-old fell through a 2 x 2 foot hole into the septic tank.
While his wife called 911, Vander Woude jumped into the septic tank and remained submerged in sewerage as he held his disabled son aloft.
When rescuers were finally able to extricate the elder Vander Woude some 20 minutes later, efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Fr. Vander Woude officiated at his father’s funeral, which was attended by hundreds of mourners.
A scholarship honoring Vander Woude is awarded each year to an incoming student-athlete by the Christendom College Athletic Department.