Thomas Edward Anderson was born on September 7, 1931 in the back seat of a taxi cab just outside the doors of Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, Illinois. Though his parents Mamie and Arvid Anderson were protestant Evangelical Lutherans they gave no thought to the consequence of arriving at the door of a Catholic hospital with a premature infant son. Not long after being taken from the back seat of the taxi and being placed in the nursery baby Thomas was soon baptized by the on-duty Priest. Thus, began his life journey as a self-described “Fundamental Ecumenicalist”.
Thomas joined his parents and two older brothers Arvid, Jr (Ted) and Robert (Bobby) in the home of his paternal grandparents on North Main Street in Evanston. His earliest memories included the sight each day of his grandmother Hannah sitting in her rocking chair with her arthritic legs perched near a radiator. As the radiant heat soothed her physical pain her bible was held in her hands as she steadfastly completed her dedicated bible reading and spiritual mediation. It was an example of faith and devotion which the child everyone now called Tommy would remember the rest of his life.
Through the years of the Great Depression the adults of the home worked as opportunities presented themselves to house and feed the family. Ted and Bob departed the home in the late 1930’s to become hands on the Hannula family (maternal grandparent’s) dairy farm in Hurley, Wisconsin. Tommy would join his brothers on the farm each Summer just after Memorial Day and return to Evanston around Labor Day.
He smoked his first cigarette at the age of seven on an overnight train ride to Wisconsin it was a habit launched in that moment. When prompted, Tommy would admit his first drink of alcohol had come two years earlier at age five while hanging out with his brothers in the dairy barn. The Summers of farm work with first milking at 4AM followed by days of bucking hay or cleaning corrals convinced Tommy the life of a dairy farmer was not for him.
Tommy and his father Arvid were listening to the Chicago Bears football game on December 7, 1941 when the broadcast was interrupted to announce the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Not long after many of the young men of the Anderson and Hannula families were heading off to war. Older brother Ted joined the Navy and served the entire war as a boiler tender on ships in the Central and Western Pacific. When he later returned from the war his tales of tropical lands planted a desire in Tommy to go see the world himself as a sailor.
Tragedy arrived in 1946 when Tommy’s father Arvid died suddenly because of chronic alcoholism. It was a grief Tommy carried with him the rest of his life. The death of his father and Tommy’s own drinking did disrupt his focus on academics and athletics and he began to drift with a gang which called themselves the Main Street Alley Rats. Later he would admit to minor brushes with the law, but mostly he and his friends would drink, smoke and flirt with the girls. He dropped out of high school and began work as a Soda Jerk in the drugstore on the ground floor of the apartment building where he lived with his widowed mother Mamie and infant sister Dorothy.
Later he would sell insurance and vacuum cleaners. In 1951, he received a draft notice as the Korean War was raging. He went to the Navy recruiter and was told he had to be a high school graduate. In short order, he was able to arrange for a GED exam which he passed in all areas on his first attempt in May 1951 to become a graduate of Evanston Township High School. The next day, he enlisted in the United States Navy.
After boot camp at Naval Training Station Great Lakes, Tom (as he was now known) was assigned to duty at the Naval Aviation Supply Depot in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He worked in the communications area and spent his off-duty hours in an apartment with five other sailors who made sure there was always several cases of Budweiser beer available. Later, he would admit he and his friends did work and party hard.
In the Spring of 1953, one of his sailor buddies asked Tom if he would join him on a blind date for a prom with a young lady who would soon graduate from high school. Tom’s dancing skills and personality melted the heart of the soon to be graduate. She invited him to her graduation, church and other events with her family over the next five months.
In October of 1953, in the parsonage of the Brethren church of the bride and her family, Tom pledged his heart and affection to Lois Ann Stone. It was a bond which endured for over 63 years and beyond her death in July of 2017.
Though the ladies of the Brethren Church were counting months since the marriage date, daughter Lois Ann did arrive on the first day of September of 1954 which was well into the tenth month of the new marriage. That was a point Lois made sure to make to “those old bitties” of the Brethern Church as she was showing off her new born daughter. Shortly the delivery Lois bundled her daughter for travel and flew off to Argentia, Newfoundland to join her husband at his new Navy duty station. Later, Naval service took the family to Bainbridge, Maryland and then on to Norfolk, Virginia. It was in Norfolk and the nearby Portsmouth Naval Hospital where Tom Jr arrived the scene on Valentine’s Day of 1960.
Tom’s Navy career was zooming right along as he was promoted to Chief Petty Office after just eight years of service. Yet, his beverage of choice, Budweiser was beginning to cause problems in both his personal and professional life. By July of 1960 alcohol consumption had become a problem.
On July 23, 1960 Tom went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and heard a crusty ex-Marine describe his life before and after being sober. When the meeting concluded Tom decided to stop by his favorite bar just outside the entrance to the Destroyer and Submarine piers. As he entered the bar, he motioned to the waitress and said “Budweiser”. She did not hear his order. Tom paused and looked into the mirror behind the bar and took a long hard look at the man in the glass he was observing.
In that moment, the words of the Marine came to the forefront of his thoughts and he said them aloud to himself – “any damn fool can stay sober for 24 hours”. The waitress took Tom’s order for a 7-Up. No Budweiser or any other alcoholic beverage crossed Tom’s lips again.
With sobriety unfolding day by day, Tom’s tour in Norfolk onboard USS Tidewater came to an end in 1963 and the family moved to the Philippine Island of Luzon and the town of San Miguel and its Navy base there. Though Tom had begun to stay sober he had continued his habit of smoking four packs of Camel cigarettes each day. One night, he was jolted from sleep by a sudden loss of breath. In that moment, he asked God for strength to cease smoking. The next morning, he had a first cup of coffee and began his daily devotional without a cigarette in his hand. He never smoked again.
After three years, the family then moved back to the U.S. in 1966 and resided in the Washington, D.C. area. The final tour as a Navy family was spent in the Norfolk area once again. In August of 1970, Tom’s service in the Navy came to an end when he retired as a Radioman Senior Chief Petty Officer. His plan was to move to Arkansas where he would go to college and study to become an educator. The family settled in Dardanelle, Arkansas and soon Tom was enrolled in Arkansas Tech University.
As his sobriety began to take hold, Tom had begun a practice of daily bible study, meditation and prayer which he had seen modeled by his grandmother Anderson. Once out of the Navy his focus on faith and spiritual study became stronger. Tom and his family became active in the ministry of the Dardanelle United Methodist Church where he was a lay speaker at the Pisgah United Methodist Church and became active in the Lay Witness Mission program. Meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous were attend frequently too.
In 1972, Tom was driving home from a day of college when he heard a voice say, “now you are ready”. He arrived home to announce his call to the ministry in the United Methodist Church and soon the family was serving together on the Morrilton Parish. When Tom graduated from Arkansas Tech in 1975 the family moved to Richwood, Ohio to serve the Central United Methodist Church while seminary work was completed.
During the time in Richwood, in October 1976, Lois Ann married Gary Glass who resided in the community. The wedding events became a impromptu family reunion for both the Anderson and Stone families. As Lois and Tom enjoyed hosting siblings, parents and other relations from their families who had scattered across the nation when all came together in one setting.
In May 1978, Tom graduated from the Methodist Theological School of Ohio with degrees as a Master of Theology and Master of Christian Education. Son Tommy graduated from high school about the same time. So, as a trio Tom, Lois and Tommy departed Richwood to take on a fulltime appointment to the Marshall – Leslie Charge in north central Arkansas.
Two years passed quickly and the steps for ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church were completed. A few months after the ordination ceremony an unexpected mid-year appointment to the Hoxie – Clover Bend charge was announced. During this time son Tommy graduated from college and joined the Navy to follow a family tradition.
Two additional appointments in some half-dozen years took Tom to Manila with a mission to rebuild a fire destroyed church structure and then on to Fisher Street in Jonesboro. The final and longest appointment was to the Clarendon – Holly Grove charge where he served for seven years and realized a deep personal attachment to the land and lifestyle of the Grand Prairie. In June 1992, son Tom married Nancy Lewis of Seattle, Washington.
Full retirement came in June 1996, but retirement did not end the itinerant lifestyle for which Tom (and Lois) had become accustomed. As they transitioned away from parsonage life they leveraged the skills and perspectives in a new direction in the role of a fulltime RV lifestyle and active participation in Good Sam activities in events throughout the mid-South. They also became avid and dedicated servants for Fishnet Missions and Trinity United Methodist Church. As each day passed and Tom stayed sober for another 24 hours his faith grew, his study of scripture continued, and he became an unceasing intercessory prayer partner in the Silent Unity network.
Thomas Edward Anderson passed away on December 23, 2018 with his final hours were spent in hospice care in a quiet and comfortable setting with a spirit of love filling the air. Before hospice comfort medications were administered Tom offered these final words to his family and friends with a broad smile on his face and his arms extended in the manner of a benediction - "love everyone like they are your brother or your sister!"
Tom Anderson died sober after 58 years and 21,337 days of 24 hours of “One Day At A Time” which he would tell you “any damn fool can do it”.
Thomas Edward Anderson is survived by daughter Lois Ann Glass and husband Gary and their children Christopher and Leigh Ann all of Richwood, Ohio and son Thomas E Anderson Jr and wife Nancy of Albuquerque, New Mexico and their children Renee Lewis-Andersen of Oppegard, Norway, Aaron Lewis of Renton, Washington and Victoria Anderson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Tom Anderson’s roots were from a humble background from which faith and love were core values. He embraced the words of John 3:16 and lived each day preparing for eternal life. In keeping with his desire to tithe his blessings and share his talents, gifts and service though active support for the work of groups he fully supported please direct memorial contributions to either:
Fishnet Missions of Jacksonville, Arkansas
1700 Swift Drive, PO Box 972
Jacksonville, AR 72078
Trinity United Methodist Church
PO Box 17029
North Little Rock, AR 72117
Visitation will be from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, Thursday, December 27, 2018 at Smith-North Little Rock Funeral Home. Funeral will begin at 9:30 AM Friday, December 28, 2018 at Trinity United Methodist Church in North Little Rock, followed by burial with military honors at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery.