By Jeff Holt
Published August 19, 2021 in The Burg
It doesn't take too long to see that Tom Worden is very patriotic and proud of the time that he served in the U.S. Army.
Worden, a 1984 graduate of Galesburg High School and the owner of Big Catz BBQ in Knoxville, took some time to reflect on his time in the Army.
Q: Can you talk about your favorite memory from serving in the U.S. Army?
WORDEN: As my unit was flying back home from Desert Storm getting ready to land at NYC to refuel, I woke up from a nap and Whitney Houston's video of the Star Spangled Banner was on the screen and I looked out the window and there was Lady Liberty herself. Then landing at Ft. Benning GA and taking a bus to Ft. Rucker with the highways and streets lined with people waving flags.
Q: What would you like to say to someone thinking about joining the military out of high school?
WORDEN: Travel, go overseas and enlist in a job that will be useful when you decide to leave the military. But most of all travel and see the world.
While stationed in South Korea, I was able to attend the 88 Seoul Olympics.
Q: At your restaurant, you have a special patriotic section. Can you elaborate on that?
WORDEN: The wall was made to honor all veterans of the five branches of service. I do have a memorial to Caleb Lufkin who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Q: What was your job like in the Army?
WORDEN: My Job was Tactical Satellite Communications Operator/Nuclear Operations.
Q: It sounds like you did some combat time in the Army. How was that for you and what helped you get through that time?
WORDEN: Letters from friends and family helped during this time. The friendships of my fellow troops got us through the deployment. Some had a hard time as it was the first time away from home. I spent two years in South Korea and I think that helped me get through the 7 month deployment.
Q: Who is someone that you have always looked up to (non family) and why?
WORDEN: The one person I have looked up to that was non-family is Bob Nichols. Bob was my best friend's father and he would more or less treat me as his own. Bob gave me my first job bailing hay. I spent a lot of time at their house. Our families would go to Notre Dame games Bob has since passed away but I still think about him often.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories from growing up in Galesburg?
WORDEN: Some of my favorite memories from growing up in Galesburg were playing Little League Baseball for the Red Sox, spending summers at Lake Lawn, hanging with friends at the Mall, and at that time the innocence of Galesburg.
Q: Your restaurant in Knoxville has really taken off. You've made some great improvements, some really good food and have had some good bands. Where do you think you are with Big Catz right now and do you have any goals in the future?
WORDEN: I believe we will always have room for improvement. I believe the Big Catz Sound Garden was a major improvement not just for us, but also the community. I would like to think we can improve every year. My future goals for the business is to try and stay consistent with our product and continue to bring local top notch entertainment to the area. No plans of branching out at this time. We want to stay small and continue to serve the public and a good product.
Q: You've also had some celebrities eat at your restaurant like Aaron Tippin. What was that like meeting him?
WORDEN: It is hard to explain but here it goes, I was tipped off the Aron Tippin was coming in for lunch with his parents but he wanted to keep it low key. I then told my staff about it and told them to keep it low key. The waitress waited on them and I waited until they were almost finished eating and I then introduced myself. Aron went to tell me who he was and as we shook hands I told him this was the second time I have shaken his hand, I informed him I shook his hand 30 years ago on December 25th, 1990 at an Air Base in Saudi Arabia while doing Bob Hope's USO Christmas tour. Aron was amazed I remembered him as that was his first tour he had ever done. We talked a little more and took some pictures, We have also had Jim Sundberg, Zach Swon of the Swon Brother, Joel Kosche from Collective Soul, Brandon Gibbs from Devil City Angels, Jack Russel from Great White and Easton Corbin,
Q: It sounds like you and your wife have gone to some pretty good concerts. What's been your favorite concert so far that you've attended and why?
WORDEN: I would have to say the 1996 reunion tour of KISS. I have always been a huge Kiss fan and when the original band got back together I just had to see it, There is nothing like seeing Kiss live with all the pyro and lights.
Q: You are a big Notre Dame football fan, too. What's been your favorite memory of attending a Notre Dame football game?
WORDEN: A few weeks prior to attending a ND game, we were in Chicago for a Bears game. We went to a local establishment and as me and Deb were talking I got tapped on the shoulder and a gentleman says 'hey Notre Dame fan", I then turn and look, look back at Deb, look back at him, I then ask Deb if she knows who this is? She say's "no", I then say "This is the last quarterback to win the 1988 National Championship, Tony Rice". We then talked and were invited upstairs to a private party where we met his fellow teammates. Tony gave me his card as we were going to the ND vs. USC game and they were having a reunion at the pep rally and he told me to give him a call. We did go to the game and I did call, we got to meet up with Tony and a few others prior to the game. ND lost the game but meeting some of the last National Championship team was amazing.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
WORDEN: I would like to thank all of our customers throughout the years. It has been an amazing run for us. We want to continue to provide the best service that we can. We are having our End of Summer Blow Out Bash on August 28th featuring the Brandon Gibbs Band with Joel Kosche, and special guest Past Curfew, Opey and the Taylors, and Jera & Carol Jean. Jera and Carol Jean on stage at 12:30, Opey and the Taylors at 3:00, Past Curfew at 7:00 and The Brandon Gibbs band will play from 9:00-10:30.