Linwood A. "Tick" Thumm beat the odds so many times in his long life that when death took him gently on April 15, 2020, at age 105, it somehow felt too soon. Tick had convinced many of those who loved him that he would go on forever.
He was many things over his century plus five: a devoted son, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; World War II hero; business owner; Virginia's oldest park ranger; thrower of great parties; champion bowler, tireless swimmer.
He brushed with death more than a few times, especially in World War II while skippering a Coast Guard cutter in U-boat-infested waters off the Atlantic coast.
All his life, though, luck smiled on Tick. He could sing like Sinatra and dance like Astaire. And when he flashed that wide grin, there was no doubt: Tick was on top. He carried himself like a man who'd turned $2 into $2,000 at the craps table, bowled a 300 game, got the thickest steak at a bargain price and won the heart of the girl of his dreams. All on the same night.
Tick was born in Norfolk on March 26, 1915, the son of Jacob Henry and Willie Kemp Thumm. Growing up on Mayflower Road in Colonial Place, he often joined his dad and dad's buddies on fishing trips on the Chesapeake Bay. On one outing, he clung to the mast for hours when a sudden storm battered their cabin cruiser.
After graduating from Maury High School in 1932, Tick enrolled at the new Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary, known today as Old Dominion University. He sang in a quartet for variety shows and graduated with a degree in business administration. That helped land him a clerk's job with a Norfolk bag-manufacturing company -- no easy feat during the Great Depression. Tick soon moved into sales.
Tall, lean and taut-muscled, he cut a sharp figure. Nothing fit him better than the dress whites he earned when World War II came calling. He won admission to a new program at the Coast Guard Academy that churned out ensigns in mere months to fuel the war machine.
After graduating in 1943, he was sent back to Norfolk and put in command of an 83-foot Coast Guard cutter based at Little Creek. Nicknamed the "Perfect 36," the ship mostly escorted convoys and patrolled the Virginia capes. It also chased German U-boats and is credited with one's likely sinking, from depth charges, off North Carolina, according to war records.
The cutter made several rescues - most notably of crew members of a tanker that collided with an ammunition ship off Cape Henry. Tick's crew rushed to make a big net from sheets and blankets. Into those, from the upturned bow of their sinking ship, the tanker survivors leaped down to the cutter's stern.
Decades later, Tick remembered radioing the shore commander at Fort Story: "He asked me whether I wanted to go in to help them. I said, â€˜Well, somebody's got to go. You can't just leave those men to go up in an explosion.' â€¦. Eight minutes after we got everybody off, the tanker blew up."
Life after the war became far less dangerous. Tick co-founded a heating and air conditioning business. He bowled far and wide, winning amateur trophies throughout the mid-Atlantic. He mastered many a dice or card game, with lots of gin rummy tournament championships to boast of.
Most importantly, Tick courted and married his ideal dance partner, Jane Marshall Brinkley, who would become a widely known local artist and with whom he parented four daughters. The Thumms were among original homesteaders, with 11 other families, of a close-knit lakefront neighborhood in Norfolk called Hunt Club Point.
Even late in life, Tick seldom stopped moving. He swam laps, most enjoyably at Norfolk Yacht & Country Club, until he was 103. He walked a mile a day, even if just back and forth in his apartment hallway. He worked into his 90s - his last position as a ranger welcoming visitors to First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. Tick became the oldest in many circles, including Old Dominion, which claimed him as its senior living graduate.
Besides his parents and siblings, Tick was preceded in death by his wife, Jane Brinkley Thumm. Left to treasure his memory are his daughter Susan Paxton, and her husband, James, of Norfolk; daughter Elizabeth "Betsy" Townsend, of Norfolk; daughter Katherine Thumm, of Virginia Beach; daughter Virginia "Ginny" Thumm, and her husband, David Mayfield, of Norfolk; eight grandchildren, Drew Paxton, Colin Paxton, Webster "Web" Townsend, Linwood "Woody" Townsend, Miles Muller, Sarah Robotham, Samuel Robotham and Zach Mayfield, and three great-grandchildren, Mateo Paxton, Marcus Paxton and James Paxton, as well as numerous other family members and friends.
The family would like to acknowledge the wonderful staff of Province Place of DePaul and Westminster-Canterbury at Home for their attentive care in Tick's last years. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to a charity of the donor's choice
; or the Coast Guard Foundation, 394 Taugwonk Road, Stonington, CT 06378, or Friends of First Landing State Park, 2500 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. Messages to the family are welcome via firstname.lastname@example.org.