MSG Thomas H. Pettis USAF RET, 87, of Goose Creek, SC, passed away June 2, 2019. His wife, Doris, who cherished him for almost 29 years, remained close and showered him with love and encouragement.
It was not sufficient to achieve victories in his last battle. His weakened body could fight no more and he departed to accept accolades and hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (Matthew 25:21) Tom was a praying man who kept his Bible on his nightstand and thanked God daily for his wife and his daughter, Barbara Jean, who was indispensable during his illness and declining health. She received a verbal message from an unknown woman, whom she thought to be his departed grandmother, Mittie L. Britt, whom he adored. Her influence and wise counsel shaped him into the person he became: a loving, compassionate man, who loved his family and country, and who could look anyone in the eye without shameless regret. His extended tours of duty may have contributed to his fractured family, but strengthened his resolve to be honest and trustworthy and do the best job possible while saving for the future.
"Mister Tom" was born in 1932 in Bayminnette, Alabama, where his father and grandfather taught him many skills using hand tools. His second grade teacher predicted a career in carpentry or airplanes. This was based upon Tom's construction of an airplane with dual wings, which was made from crates. This observation proved to be correct as Tom began his Air Force career in 1950 and continued until his honorable retirement in 1973. After his induction into the USAF, he completed his high school requirements and received his diploma. He continued to study hard and gained skills in several areas including construction, electrical, plumbing, cement finishing, mechanical, and administrative. Often slackers or trouble makers were assigned to his unit. He was instrumental in seeing a change in attitude and acceptance of what is required in the USAF or secured sufficient data for dismissal.
Tom received the National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and the Bronze Star Medal. He served during the Cold War, Korean War, and two tours in Viet Nam. Due to his service as a VNAF Advisor (he lived among them) the Vietnamese wished to honor him with a parade. He declined, as it would delay his departure to the USA. After his retirement from the USAF, Tom began Pettis Construction. He built houses and completed several apartment complexes in the Charleston area. Later, he concentrated on interior trim. Years after he had closed that company. Tom continued to receive calls from former clients who admired his meticulous work.
Over the course of time, Tom acquired a wife and eight children. After 35 years of marriage, his first wife, Nadine Schulke, passed away from ALS. In addition to his loving wife, Doris, and furry companion Bradley, Tom leaves behind his daughters, Vanessa Lee, Barbara Jean, Carolyn Nadine, Patricia Lynn, Fern Ellen, and Dawn Elaine; sons, Charles Tomas and Richard Allen; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Visitation was Wednesday evening, June 5, 2019 at Parks Funeral Home. It was a time to celebrate the life of a hero, loving husband and father, and share happy memories. His pocket held a special token and four red marbles. The weekly game of cut throat marbles was something he looked forward to, as it was challenging. We retired his favorite red marbles in tribute to a life well lived. In lieu of flowers, memorials in his name may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105. His funeral services with Military Honors were held Thursday morning, June 6, 2019 at Parks Funeral Home Chapel. Rev. Victoria Richardson, pastor of Enoch Chapel United Methodist Church officiated at his funeral service, with the Honor Guard in attendance and acting as pallbearers.
Blessed Assurance and Wind Beneath my Wings were chosen songs. A trio of young Richardson girls performed a stirring rendition of Amazing Grace. They concluded with a drill (as AF ROTC members) and a special salute to Tom. After a prayer, we exited the chapel to strains of the Air Force song. Entombment followed at Summerville Cemetery Mausoleum at 640 Boone Hill Rd, Summerville, SC 29483. Military Chaplain James Harris officiated at ceremony.
Arrangements by Parks Funeral Home, 130 W. 1st North Street, Summerville, SC 29483.
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