Lt. Col. (U.S. Air Force, retired) Andrew Hale Thomas Jr. passed away April 28, 2013, surrounded by family members after a hard fought 4.5 year battle with bladder cancer. He was born in Asheville, N.C., on July 16, 1928.
Known as Little Hale while growing up during the depression in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, he had a large family with loving parents. He helped his family by working in the family general store in Church Hill, Tenn. While he attended college at East Tennessee St. University, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve with his brother Joe. Then Hale left the Navy and joined the U.S. Air Force where he received his wings at Bryan Air Force Base, Texas, in 1952. With a military career spanning from 1948 to 1975 the family lived in many locations including Moultrie, Ga., Tyndall Air Force Base, Panama City, Fla., Great Falls, Mont., Fargo, N.D., Minneapolis, Minn., Sioux City, Iowa, Glasgow, Mont., Camarillo, Calif., Incirlik Air Force Base, Turkey, Shaw Air Force Base, Sumter, S.C., Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Va., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
As a Command Pilot, Andy served in the Korean War and Vietnam with over 100 missions over North Vietnam. He was awarded many medals for valor and commendation during his career including Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, numerous Air Medals, Unit citations and Commendation medals over his career. Unfortunately, he never talked about what he actually did to receive them. He was very humble about his accomplishments.
During his retirement in Fort Walton Beach he sold restaurant equipment for Alford's and was a part time administrator at First United Methodist Church of Fort Walton Beach. He and Mary Lou loved their church and made sure the children grew up in a Christian home. In 2006, they decided to move to Cypress, Texas, due to the wonderful health care facilities in the area.
He had many nicknames during his lifetime including Hale Jr., Andy, Tommy, Tom Tom, Handsome, Uncle Tale, Dad and Daddy. During his final years all the grandchildren called him Grandpa. That named morphed into "GP." He told everyone he met that they should call him GP and the name stuck with him until the end of his life.
Unfortunately there is not enough space to talk about Dad and do justice to the impact he had on many lives. He never met anyone who didn't like him immediately. His nature was to have fun, laugh a lot and love his family. He provided wise council to all and he will be greatly missed.
He was preceded in death by his parents, A. Hale Thomas Sr. and Myrtle Virginia Leeper Thomas of Church Hill, Tenn.; brothers, James Campbell of New Orleans and Morton Campbell of Charlotte, N.C.; sisters, Frances Thomas Sayre of Asheville, N.C., Nancy DeYoung McCoy of Kingsport, Tenn.; and his grandson and namesake, Andrew H. (Drew) Thomas, IV, of Spring, Texas.
Survivors include his wife of almost 61 years, Mary Lou Miller Thomas, Cypress, Texas; Andrew Hale Thomas III and wife Nancy Thomas of Cypress; daughters, Tamara "Tami" Susan Thomas Nunley and husband Jeffery "Jeff" Nunley of Eagle River, Alaska, and Teresa "Teri" Diane Thomas Cruce and husband Stephen A. "Skip" Cruce III of Panama City; brothers include John E. Thomas of Chapel Hill, N.C., Joseph S. Thomas of Auburndale, Fla.; and sisters, Virginia Thomas Neelands of Atascadero, Calif., and Carolyne Thomas Culbertson of Kingsport, Tenn. He has numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Please sign guest book at: http://AndrewHThomasJr.virtual-memorials.com.
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News on May 4, 2013