Tom Billie Strother
Colonel US Army
Jul 10, 1916-Aug 6, 2013
Tom was born and raised in Anna, TX, a tiny farming community in the rich black-soil fields north of Dallas, settled by his ancestors from Kentucky and Tennessee in the 1860s. His father was a rural U.S. Postal Service carrier who delivered mail by horse drawn buggy, and his mother was a music teacher.
Most aspects of depression-era country life for Tom and his younger sister, Anne, were austere by modern standards, but they also helped foster enduring personal qualities such as selfless devotion to family and community, integrity and strength in the face of adversity, and a strong spiritual faith.
One unique aspect of Tom's rearing was the location of the family home. It stood next to the house of Professor Roper, the demanding Anna school principal, while also being close to the cultivated fields where Tom picked cotton by hand. The dramatic contrast in pursuits, scholastic performance on one side and 'pounds picked' on the other, convinced him there was noble value in any job done well. The little free time available after chores and schoolwork was spent hunting or fishing to supplement food stocks for the family. His time in nature became a life-long passion and a source of immense joy.
An avid student, Tom's excellent grades and the low cost of a state school directed him into the ROTC program at Texas A&M University. There he took maximum advantage of opportunities for intellectual growth and broadened personal horizons. Not surprisingly, he flourished within the environment and quickly recognized his true calling of military service to the country.
Tom's graduation in 1938 was followed by commissioning in the US Army as a 2nd Lieutenant (Anti-aircraft Artillery) and extensive stateside training before deploying overseas in 1942 "for the duration" of WWII. Combat assignments included the Allied invasion and capture of north Africa from Axis forces, followed by extensive operations throughout the Italian campaign. His distinguished war record resulted in quick promotions and selection for advanced schooling back in the States. He completed International Studies at Yale, became fluent in Japanese through the Defense Language School in Monterey, and with an eye toward future diplomatic service, was selected to General Douglas MacArthur's staff in postwar, occupied Japan.
It was during his first postwar assignment at Ft. Bliss, TX, that Tom met and married a local beauty, Marie Dodson. Their marriage of almost 65 years produced two sons, Walter and Donald, both of whom sought careers in the military. Tom's challenging but rewarding assignments took him to Japan, Germany, Korea, and bases across the US.
The pinnacle of Tom's 33 year Army career was his posting to Ft. Baker in Marin County as the Deputy Commander of the missile air-defense system for the western United States. Tom and Marie so enjoyed living in the SF area that upon retirement from the Army they took up permanent residence in the City. They quickly found a welcoming, sacred home at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin and became active congregants. So began Tom's second career, one of service to the community, involving volunteer service with Hospice, running the Senior Citizen Food Handout Program for 16 years, serving as a St. Mary vestry member, managing the Church's recycling program, and acting as a lead usher.
The span of Tom's life was remarkable not only in duration but also in content and deed. Never losing the connection to his humble rural roots, he always faced life looking forward, embracing the moment and relishing the promise of the future. His intense love of family, faith, and fellowship guided his earthly journey until its end.
Predeceased by his beloved wife, Marie, and his sister, Anne, Tom is survived by sons Donald and Walter (daughter-in-law Sheila, grand-daughters Kathryn and Margaret). The family thanks caregivers Lilibeth and John for their wonderful care and devotion.
Memorial Service to be held at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Union and Steiner) at 10 AM, Saturday, September 21st. In his memory, donations may be made to WoundedWarriorproject.org or to the