Wondergem, Thomas M.
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Oct. 5, 1940 - March 12, 2014
Thomas M. Wondergem, 73, of Bradenton, FL, formerly of Battle Creek, MI, passed away in Jacksonville, FL on March 12, 2014.
He was born, October 5, 1940, in Battle Creek, Michigan. He attended Ann J. Kellogg, WK Kellogg and graduated from Battle Creek Central High School in 1958. He attended one year at Kellogg Community College and then attended and graduated from Michigan State University in March 1963. He played on many little, intermediate, and senior baseball teams in his early years and won numerous titles and championships. Two standout teams were the Battle Creek Elks #131 and the Battle Creek American Legion Teams.
Tom was hired by Grand Trunk Railroad as a Brakeman, and worked until September, 1963, enlisting in the Navy's Officer Candidate School at Newport, Rhode Island. On receiving his commission he was ordered to Pensacola, Florida for Flight Training. He received his "Wings of Gold" in June 1965 in Kingsville, Texas, and was assigned for further advanced combat training at Lemoore, California, flying the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. In December of 1965, he deployed on the Nuclear Aircraft Carrier, U.S.S. Enterprise, which had the distinction of being the first nuclear ship in any combat situation. He returned home to his home base at Lemoore, in late July and again redeployed in late December on board the U.S.S. Hancock.
He flew a combined 193 combat missions and was awarded numerous Air Medals, Combat Medals and other awards. He had over 400 Carrier landings.
On returning from that deployment in late July he was assigned orders to be carrier landing instructor at Pensacola, FL.
He left the Navy in December of 1968 and was hired at Northwest Airlines, in January 1969. He had 32 years' experience with Northwest and retired in October 2000 as a B-747 Captain flying the Pacific. He flew the B-707 and its' three variants, the B-727, B-757, DC-10 and the B-747. He had type ratings on every plane except the B-707. His final accumulation of flight hours exceeded 22,000 hours.
He was a charter member of the Skyhawk Association and a Board Member for over 5 years. His other affiliations were the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots, (A closed membership now as you had to fly a combat mission in the Red River country which is north of Hanoi up to the Chinese border) and The Tailhook Association. He was a member of the American Legion, Veterans Association and the Elks. He is survived by his most beautiful wife of 32 years, Kathleen. Her three children, Brendan Meeker (Sulynn), Heather, and Farrel Meeker. His two children, Eric Wondergem (Connie), Casey Magnum (Bill), and four grandchildren, Caitlyn Wondergem, Courtney Williams, McKenzie Mangum, and Maewyn Meeker.
He was preceded in death by his son, Michael Scott, his father, Marvin Wondergem, his mother, Marilyn Gunning, step-father, Alfred Wayne Gunning, grandparents, Ralph and Marion Shulters, and Irene Wondergem, uncle, Charles Shulters (Delores), and aunt, LouAnn Shulters and sister, Cindy (Medford).
He is also survived by his beloved sister, Sue Barney (Gary), brothers, Jeff and Marvin Jr. (Skip) Wondergem, and uncle, Ralph Shulters, and uncle, Jack Palmer.
A Mass of the Christian Burial is scheduled for 10:30 A.M., Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at St. Philip Roman Catholic Church, 112 Capital Ave., N.E., Battle Creek, MI and a 9:00 AM visitation (the same day) at Farley-Estes and Dowdle Funeral Home, Battle Creek, MI. Followed by interment with full Military Honors at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the National Hemophilia Foundation, 116 West 32nd Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY in care of Michael Scott Wondergem or the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, Kansas 66675.
Published in Herald Tribune from Mar. 19 to Mar. 20, 2014