Thomas Bower

Thomas Bower

LAKE RIDGE, Va. – Thomas Ephraim Bower, 94, a World War II veteran, U.S. State Department and Foreign Service employee, and captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, passed away peacefully on Feb. 19, 2013, at Westminster at Lake Ridge retirement community, Lake Ridge, Va., where he had resided since 2004.

He was born Feb. 8, 1919, in Mooresburg, Pa., to Ernest and Hazel (Mordan) Bower. In 1944, he married Beth Gifford of Rantoul, and they were happily married for 63 years until her death in 2008.

Beth and Tom lived in Arlington, Va. for many years, then retired and returned to Champaign in 1976, where they lived in Lincolnshire Fields before moving back to Virginia in 2004 to be near their daughter.

Tom was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Kiwanis club, serving as lieutenant governor, and Beth and Tom were members of the First Presbyterian Church of Champaign.

Tom attended Gettysburg College, transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy for a year, and then returned and graduated from Gettysburg in 1941 with a degree in mathematics, later receiving a master's degree in communication from American University.

After Pearl Harbor, he joined the U.S. Navy and taught pilots a new visual method of aircraft recognition and then served as an officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in the Pacific, participating in the battles of Tarawa, Wake Island, Kwajalein, Truk and the Marianas.

After the war, he worked in intelligence for the Navy Department, U.S. State Department, and U.S. Foreign Service Institute, briefing President Kennedy and the Cabinet on Russian involvement in the Berlin Crisis, and participating in briefings during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He retired as a captain from the U.S. Navy Reserve, having won the Noel Davis trophy, an award for the highest level of mobilization readiness in the Navy Reserve, for an unprecedented two years in a row.

Tom managed farms in Champaign, enjoyed gardening, golfing and traveling, was an artist in watercolors and oils, a sculptor, and furniture craftsman for 65 years.

His woodworking brought him the greatest pleasure, as he crafted church altars, constructed furniture for family and friends, and repaired and built over 100 furniture pieces for residents at Westminster.

Tom was predeceased by his beloved wife, Beth; their son, Tom; and his brothers, Sam and Ernie.

He is survived by his sister, Ruth Snyder and her husband Gene of Bloomsburg, Pa.; his sister-in-law, Louise Wise of Champaign; his daughter, Susan Whitehead and her husband Jim of Vienna, Va.; his daughter-in-law, Nancy Bower of Morrisville, Pa.; five grandchildren, Sonya Shaver and her husband Andrew of Harrisonburg, Va., Jennifer Wisniewski and her husband Mitch of Erie, Pa., Jim Whitehead and his wife Beth of Vienna, Va., Melissa Hopkins and her husband Scott of Ridgeland, S.C., and Kate Whitehead of Sunnyvale, Calif.

He is also survived by six great-grandchildren, William and Audie Shaver, MJ and Jack Wisniewski, and Evie and Zoe Whitehead.

A memorial service will be held at Westminster at Lake Ridge, and burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, memorial contributions may be made to First Presbyterian Church of Champaign.

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