William Warren "Tommy" Tomlinson
January 20th, 1921 - September 3rd, 2012 91 Years
No Visitation Scheduled
September 7th, 2012 at 11:00 am
First Presbyterian Church
175 Lake Hollingsworth Drive Lakeland
William Warren “Tommy” Tomlinson, 91
Lt. Col. - USAF Retired
William Warren “Tommy” Tomlinson died of natural causes on Monday at Florida Presbyterian Homes, Lakeland.
Born in Dover, Delaware on January 20, 1921, he was raised a farm boy. His father grew apples and peaches in Delaware and also ran a hunting reserve in mid-Alabama during the winter. He attended high school in Dover then left to attend college at the University of Delaware for two years where he learned to fly. His college days were interrupted by WWII which led him into a life-time aviation career. His first assignment was as a government contract flight instructor in Lakeland, FL. It was in Lakeland that he met and married Betty Langston, a native Floridian, in July of 1944. They moved twenty-eight times before returning to Lakeland in 1983. In addition to a number of assignments in the states, they lived in Hawaii, Turkey and Portugal. One of their most fortunate assignments was in the Washington, D.C. area where they kept the same address for 10 years. Six of those years were spent at National Airport with a Special Air Missions Group (SAM FOX) transporting high government officials, foreign dignitaries and members of congress on worldwide missions.
Tommy also served in Vietnam. During his time there, he directed 100 SAR (Search and Rescue) missions which resulted in the recovery of 81 aircrew personnel down in hostile areas. In addition, 56 other lives were saved on medical evacuation missions. His exceptional performance was demonstrated during an SAR incident when a large helicopter was forced to land on a sandbar in a river following serious battle damage. He quickly evaluated the enemy threat, arranged for US Cobra gunships to secure the area and Army UH-1 helicopters to recover the downed aircrew. Enemy fire became intense as maintenance personnel and a flight crew was flown in to recover the aircraft. He then coordinated the introduction of Army ground troops who provided protection required to complete the mission. His sound judgement, along with a thorough knowledge of available resources, were vital to the success of the mission.
Upon retirement from the Air Force, he held a faculty position as an Associate Professor of Aviation at the University of Illinois. He thoroughly enjoyed his work at Illinois and followed the progress of his students in the aviation world. In 1983, he retired from that position and moved to Lakeland, where he was immediately hired by Flight Safety International and was involved in training corporate and airline pilots in turbo-prop aircraft. He finally retired in 1995 but continued to volunteer at Sun N Fun for many years.
Tommy loved his Lord, his family, friends and everything connected to flying. He was especially devoted to his wife of 55 years, Betty.
Tommy was preceded in death by his oldest son, Thomas Russell “Rusty” Tomlinson in 1992 and his wife, Elizabeth Langston Tomlinson in 1999. He is survived by his sister, Elisabeth Tomlinson, Dover, DE; son, John L. Tomlinson (wife Linda), Maitland, FL; daughter, Barbara A. Kieszek (husband Joe), Fort Walton Beach, FL; daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Tomlinson, Chantilly, VA; grandchildren, Melissa Tomlinson Romo (husband Agustin), Warren Tomlinson (wife Amy), Graham Tomlinson, Jason Kieszek, Connie Kieszek, Mark Tomlinson (wife Joanna) and Leigh Tomlinson; and great-grandchildren Ian Romo, Julian Romo, Alexander Tomlinson and ZacharyTomlinson.
He was a devoted and active member of the First Presbyterian Church, Lakeland. Services will be held at 11:00 A.M. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 175 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland. Memorials may be made to the Memorial Fund, First Presbyterian Church, 175 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland, FL 33803.
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4 Condolences / Memories
David W. Torbeck, Bloomington, Illinois on March 3rd, 2013 - 7:01 pm said:
I just learned of Tommy\\\\\\\'s passing this morning. I was one of his flight students at the University of Illinois in the late 1970s. Tommy was my primary flight instructor, and once my flight partner dropped the course after the first week, my flight training periods were just Tommy and me, enjoying the air and flying time together. I still remember the wonderful stories he\\\\\\\'d share with me about his early career and his love of flying. I was the first to solo in my class, due to his patient encouragement. Later on, Tommy also took me up for some dual instruction in a glider and the Institute\\\\\\\'s Aeronca Champ. I eventually competed as a member of the original \\\\\\\"Flying Illini\\\\\\\", the Institute\\\\\\\'s intercollegiate flying team of which Tommy was the coach. I enjoyed Tommy\\\\\\\'s friendship so much that I asked him to be a groomsman at my wedding in 1979. Hopefully, you saw one of the photos I gave him. He told me that Betty enjoyed seeing him in that tux, and he wore it to a meeting of the flying team that evening. He always knew how to make an impression. The last time I spoke to Tommy was many years ago after he moved to Lakeland. He told me that in his new vocation as a flight safety instructor, he had the opportunity to teach Christopher Reeves how to fly his personal aircraft more safely. He laughed when he said that he \\\\\\\"got to teach Superman to fly safer.\\\\\\\" What an amazing man and friend. I am truly sorry for your loss. I, too, feel a deep sense of loss and sadness today. I know Tommy was also a man with a deep, abiding faith in Jesus as his Savior. I hope that my recollections will give you a chance to remember, to smile, and perhaps to enjoy the legacy that Tommy left with so many people. Thank you for sharing him with me.
Amanda Jeanne on September 11th, 2012 - 7:07 pm said:
I was so sorry to hear of the loss of Mr. Tomlinson. During sad times such as these, it is comforting to reflect on fond memories and the Bible\'s hope for our dead loved ones. Jesus\\\' words in John 5: 28, 29 are especially comforting. \"Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.\" (Revelation 21:4, 5)\" And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” \"And the One seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new.” Also, he says: “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” I hope these verses bring as much comfort to you and yours as they have to me. With Deepest Sympathy, Amanda
Creigh Yarbrough on September 5th, 2012 - 4:37 pm said:
My late father, Dr. Daniel E. Yarbrough, was a great admirer of Mr. Tomlinson. May all the Old Flyboys be together forever in God\'s eternal grace.
Edna E. Lopez Mas on September 5th, 2012 - 3:37 pm said:
My deepest condolences in the lost of such a Wonderful Man and Human Being. \"Memory becomes treasures, may this be your greatest comfort\". \"Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they\'re happy\". My thoughts and prayers are with your family during this difficult time.