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Thomas Capshaw

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Thomas Capshaw Obituary

Thomas Evan Capshaw, 81, of Merritt Island, died unexpectedly at home Monday, May 28, 2012.

A celebration of his life will be held at Wylie-Baxley Funeral Home on Merritt Island on Thursday, May 31, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Tom was born on December 2, 1930, in Granite Falls, N.C., the only son of Bertha Janette Hoke Capshaw and Lanys Gavin Capshaw. He attended Granite Falls High School, where he was a gifted athlete, lettering in baseball as catcher and football as quarterback, before leaving to join the U.S. Navy.

He served from 1948 to 1951 on the destroyer U.S.S. Floyd B. Parks in the Korean War. He developed a lifelong love of engineering in the Navy, serving as a Petty Officer Third Class in charge of all engineering division administrative functions. He also served on the Navy's all-star baseball team.

After the Navy, Tom earned a degree in engineering from Capitol Radio Engineering Institute in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation, he worked on developing flight simulators for the Navy and the Air Force with Engineering Research Corp. (ERCO) in Riverdale, Md. His work took him to Yokota Air Force Base in Japan, where he was factory Technical Representative under contract to the Air Force. From Tokyo, his career took him to St. Louis, Mo., where he worked on Infra-Red Detection Systems. From there, he was assigned to Key West, Fla., where he worked on Anti-Submarine Warfare simulators. After his work was completed in Key West, his career took him to Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where he was responsible for digitally processing the first pictures taken by NASA on the moon.

From California, Tom continued his work on image processing at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. During his time at Goddard, he was acknowledged by the F-14 Tomcat Division for his contributions to the design and development of the original static Tomcat.

In 1977, Tom was transferred to Kennedy Space Center, where he finished out his career working on the Space Shuttle program. At KSC, he was a member of the Configuration Control Change Board and also represented KSC as a member of the Johnson Space Center Loads Panel for ground instrumentation. While at KSC, he was a recipient of numerous awards including the 1982 NASA Public Service Award for his exceptional contributions to the first shuttle launch, which is the second highest civilian award presented by NASA. In 1989, 1990, and 1992, Tom received the Group Achievement Award from NASA for his work on the shuttle program. He retired in March of 1998.

Outside of work, Tom enjoyed spending time with his family, which he loved above all else. He was also a talented musician, avid golfer and enjoyed boating, and flying his own private plane. He took great pride in his home and yard.

In 1955, Tom married Barbara Irene Gentle of Statesville, N.C., at the Front Street Baptist Church, where his parents were the first couple to be married. Tom was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who will be missed dearly by his family.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents and a grandson, Shawn Evan Waters, of Merritt Island. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Barbara Gentle Capshaw, of the home; four daughters, Jessica Green (Jeff) of Merritt Island, Debbe Daughtry (Bernie) of Lugoff, S.C., Tami Salmon (Peter) of Alexandria, Va., and Teri Capshaw (Brad Mack) of Winston-Salem, N.C.; six grandchildren, Taija Waters of Merritt Island, Alex Capshaw-Taylor of Fredericksburg, Va., Erin Capshaw-Taylor of Fairfax, Va., Michael Capshaw-Taylor of Aspen, Colo., Carson Capshaw-Mack and Sophie Capshaw-Mack both of Winston-Salem, N.C.; two step-grandchildren, Isabella and Micaela Salmon of Bethesda, Md.; six great-grandchildren, Christian Waters, Madison Gurganus, Evan Waters, Lily Waters, Skylar Buzhardt, and Ella Waters, all of Merritt Island; four sisters, Sara Starnes of Granite Falls, N.C., Louise Martin of Atlanta, Phyllis Shook of Lake Orion, Mich., and Carolyn Poindexter of East Bend, N.C.

Online memorials may be made at www.wyliebaxleymerrittisland.com.

Published in FLORIDA TODAY on May 30, 2012
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