No one - family, friend or stranger - could mistake Tom Charles' laugh for anything other than what it was: the sound of joy from a man who always made people smile and feel better after they were with him. Loving and devoted husband to Eleanor, father and grandfather, friend to many, Thomas W. Charles Sr. died Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at the age of 91.
Born on August 9, 1921 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to a father of Mennonite background and a mother from Tidewater Virginia, Tom reflected a blend of southern grace and hospitality and Pennsylvania common sense and decency. His youth focused on scouting, singing and yearly much-anticipated summer visits to the home of his mother's family in Virginia. He graduated from McCaskey High School in Lancaster in 1939. While in the Navy during World War II
, Tom attended V-12 officer training school at Dartmouth College, graduating in 1946. It was there that he met Eleanor Jenkins whom he married in 1946.
After the war, Tom received his MBA from Dartmouth. He then went to work for DuPont in the Accounting Department, where he was involved with the installation of the company's first mainframe computer. In 1961, he was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, as Director of Finance for DuPont's European operations.
While living in Geneva, Tom and Eleanor travelled extensively. Their love of travel continued after their return to Wilmington in 1967. Over the course of the next 30 years they travelled to every continent. Returning to Wilmington from Geneva also allowed Tom to pursue his passion for singing with his church choir. In his later years, and up until the time of his death, he sang with spirit in the choirs at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Country House.
In 1979, Tom retired from DuPont and began his second career as instructor of accounting at the School of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware. He also served as a board member and treasurer to both Sister Cities and Habitat for Humanity. Sixteen years ago, Tom and Eleanor moved to Country House where they developed another circle of close friends.
Tom is survived by Eleanor, his wife of 67 years; and his children Tom Jr. and his wife Lynn, Sue Wilson, and Judy Stafstrom and her husband Joel. He is also survived by his five grandchildren, Marisa Charles, Natalie Battifora, Carly Wilson, Krista Stafstrom, and Will Stafstrom.
A service to celebrate Tom's life will be held on Saturday, July 27, at Westminster Presbyterian Church at Pennsylvania Avenue and Rodney Street, Wilmington, Delaware, at 2 pm. A reception will immediately follow the service.
The family suggests that memorial contributions may be made either to Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County (http://www.habitatncc.org/
), or the Westminster Presbyterian Church Memorial Fund, 1502 West 13th Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19806.
For online condolences,
Homes & Crematorychandlerfuneralhome.com