Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Thomas A. 'Tom' Turner was born in York, PA but grew up in Springfield, MO. Tom's father introduced him to golf, which became for Tom a lifetime leisure activity, in which he excelled. Tom's youthful ambition was to be a doctor, but as he matured he realized that family finances were not sufficient to permit pursuing that goal. Searching around for an alternate career path, Tom joined the Naval Reserve at 17. Liking what he saw, Tom decided to explore the possibility of attending one of the military academies. The only appointment available from his congressman was an alternate to West Point. Tom accepted the alternate appointment, traveled to Fort Leavenworth, KS to take the mental and physical exams, and then returned home to sit and wait the results. In mid-May he was advised of his acceptance. By way of celebration, Tom took the young lady he had his eye on, Marianne Skidmore, to the country club for dinner. That celebration with Marianne lasted for the next 32 years.
The Turner family (Tom's parents, Tom, and Tom's two younger brothers) left Springfield in mid-June for a family vacation that concluded with Tom being dropped off just outside Central Area. He was thoroughly excited to be there until the 'Drop that bag, Dumbsmack' greeting brought him forcefully back to reality. After Beast Barracks, Tom was assigned to Company M-l in South Area. His four years were filled with activities. He lettered in boxing and golf, was the manager of the Soccer Team, and was an active member of the Camera and Ski clubs. Throughout the four years, Tom and Marianne corresponded regularly and dated exclusively when leaves allowed Tom to return to Springfield. Marianne traveled to West Point for Tom's June 7, 1955 graduation, and they were married that afternoon in the Cadet Chapel.
Tom branched Air Force. The Air Force had been designated a separate service in 1947. Prior to that date it was the Army Air Force. The Air Force Academy was not founded until April of 1954, and West Point was still providing officers for the Air Force. Following graduation leave, Tom and Marianne reported to Malden AFB, MO, where Tom received his primary pilot training. From there it was to Reese AFB, TX, where he earned his Pilot Wings in 1956. During that assignment, Tom and Marianne's first son, David, was bom. Tom's first flying assignment was in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Lincoln, NE, where he served as a pilot for eight years supporting SAC's nuclear retaliation mission. During that tour, their second son, Robert, was born. Subsequent assignments included Charleston AFB, SC; Saigon, Vietnam; Dover AFB, DE; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Warner Robbins AFB, GA; and McQuire AFB, NJ. At McQuire, Tom primarily flew cargo aircraft in the Military Airlift Command supporting worldwide U.S. forces. He retired as a lieutenant colonel from Charleston AFB, SC in 1985.
During his Vietnam tour, in addition to his duties as air operations officer at Tan Son Nhut, Tom was active in a humanitarian venture. He headed his unit's sponsorship of the Sanctuary de Phu My, an organization for needy Vietnamese that provided food, clothing, medical supplies, and other necessities. Tom's spirit of serving the needy was also present Stateside. Tom and Marianne sponsored a Finnish exchange student, and later in life Tom hosted a Bosnian political refugee.
In 1983, two years prior to retirement, Tom lost his beloved Marianne to cancer. She was buried in Greenwood Memorial Gardens in their hometown of Springfield, MO. Tom was never quite the same after losing Marianne. In retirement, he worked for the Charleston Police Department for three years. At one point, he made contact with a former high school classmate. They married, and moved to Houston, TX, where Tom earned his master's degree and taught history. The marriage was short lived, and Tom returned to Charleston. He played golf two or three days a week, was a frequent contributor to the editorial pages of the Charleston newspaper, helped with Charleston County disaster preparedness group, and was active on line discussing topics of current interest. His constant companions and the focus of his life, however, were his four dogs: Tippy, Lacey, Freddie, and Jaxx. He talked often of the Rainbow Bridge and the reunion of humans and their pets. When they died, Tom had them cremated. He told a classmate that when he died he wanted to be cremated and to have his ashes mixed with theirs. Whether that happened or not is not known.
Tom died at his home in Charleston on Monday, February 7, 2011. He was cremated and his urn was transported to Springfield, MO. On February 12, with full military honors, Tom's ashes were inurned next to his beloved Marianne. Together they have surely crossed the Rainbow Bridge into a joyous life.
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