Thomas Warren Hamilton III (Tom) passed away peacefully at home with family and friends at his side on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. He was born in Evergreen Park, IL on February 15, 1931, the second of three children of Thomas Warren Hamilton II and Elizabeth (Bet) Hamilton. Tom is survived by his two sisters, Betsy Lanoue and Lawrie Hamilton, his two children Lisa Shenton and Tom Hamilton, three step children Dan Burke, Jean Burke-Martinez and Jim Burke, and eight grandchildren: Sam, Alex, Zak, Corin, Elias, Katy, Ilana and Benny. Tom was married twice; first to Barbara in August 1955, who also survives Tom, and his second wife Elaine, who passed away in 2007. For the last few years he found a loving and devoted companion in Ginny Benson. Tom graduated from Caltech in 1952 and worked as an engineer and manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for over 40 years. Tom had an amazing career at JPL as a rocket scientist during the exciting years of the development and growth of the American space program. Tom worked on many different missions over the years from the Venus Mariner R-2 to his last project with the GRACE Gravity mapping satellite system. In the early 1950s, he worked on the Corporal and Seargent short-range missile guidance systems. In 1958, he switched from Army projects to NASA. His technical ability was combined with a deep insight into the people he worked with that enabled him to draw the best out of individuals. He was recognized as the man who asked the right questions that could save a project from failure. After retirement in 1993, Tom and Elaine built their dream home on the southern coast of Oregon, in the town of Port Orford. They enjoyed exploring Oregon's beautiful rugged coast and relaxing in the lovely home they had planned and built together until returning to Pasadena and Rohnert Park, CA to be closer to family and friends. Tom was a loving friend and family man who made the world a better place for so many people whose lives crossed paths with his. During the final stages of his life Tom thought a great deal about his grandchildren and how he could make constructive contributions to their lives. He did this by appropriately timed doses of wisdom, encouragement, insightful observations, advice and material support, which were well appreciated and will be sorely missed. He lived his life with honesty and integrity, and he left this world with dignity and grace and the comfort of having left no unfinished business behind. Services will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, March 24 at the Unitarian Universalist Church on 547 Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. Donations in his honor can be made to Sutter Care At Home Hospice, 1110 N. Dutton Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95401, which helped him end his days as he wanted.
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Published in the Press Democrat from Mar. 18 to Mar. 19, 2012