Col. Thomas Joseph Jr., U.S. Air Force (ret.), passed away Oct. 3, 2013, on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Tom was born on April 30, 1925, in Chesterfield, Pa. He was 88 years old.
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Tom maintained a passion for all athletic competition, even being offered an athletic scholarship upon graduation from high school. Life, however, had other plans. In 1943, the United States was engaged in World War II, so Tom chose to join the new Merchant Marine Academy. While there, he was again involved in athletics, competing in track and field. After setting records in most of the sport's measurable categories, he earned the Admiral Giles C. Stedman Trophy, given each year to the Academy's most outstanding athlete. Following the end of the war, Tom entered St. Joseph's College. There he was a member of two championship track and field teams and was the top point scorer three years in a row. He earned his master's degree in clinical psychology from Temple University in 1957 and then joined the United States Air Force. While serving, he earned his doctorate from Louisiana State University.
During the 1950's, Tom was instrumental in the establishment of the Silver Sands School for the developmentally disabled in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He would eventually establish a similar facility during a tour in Alaska. Then, while stationed at Lakenheath Air Force Base in England, Tom met his future wife, Janet. The couple married on July 29, 1976, in Dayton, Ohio. They returned to the Fort Walton Beach area in 1980 after Tom received a second tour at Eglin. During his 31 year career in the U.S. Air Force, Tom earned the rank of colonel and served as consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General. On Oct. 18, 1997, Tom Foley was inducted into the Merchant Marine Academy Athletic Hall of fame. Along with religion and sports, and the occasional game of cards, one of Tom's great loves was good food. He would say in jest, with a plate piled high positioned directly at his 12, "I hate food! So I have to eat all of it, just to get rid of it!" He loved to talk about the war and his days as an athlete, but in spite of all of his accomplishments and awards, he was never boastful. Quite the contrary.
The world is void of a wonderful man. Those who knew him know that he is sitting with his Chihuahuas Chico and Bambi on his lap, a jar of peanuts in one hand, a port and brandy in the other. He's watching the game with the volume down so he doesn't have to hear the commentary. He is happy.
Tom is survived by his wife of 37 years, Janet Foley; his sons, Thomas J Foley III, Patrick Foley, Michael Foley and Kevin Foley; and daughter, Maureen Marenco; his two step-daughters, Lisa Trevino and Tina Powell. Tom also leaves behind his 14 grandchildren.
Expressions of love and sympathy may be viewed online at www.emeraldcoastfuneralhome.com.
Emerald Coast Funeral Home
113 Racetrack Rd NE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News on Oct. 31, 2013