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Thomas E. DeSimone   '54

No. 20011     • March 27, 1932 - January 14, 2012

Died in Leesburg, VA

Interred in Virginia Union Cemetery, Leesburg, VA

Thomas Edwin DeSimone was born to Dominic Thomas and Emily Palumbo DeSimone in Providence, RI. He was loved beyond measure by Marge, his wife of 55 years, and his four children, Liz Reed, Cathy Piciulo, Tom, Jr., and David, all of whom were with him at the end. They held hands, prayed, and played his favorite song, “After the Lovin’.” His sister and close friend, Claudia, lives in Austin, TX. Two of Claudia’s children, Margie Whitlow and Jeff Ligarde, came from Austin to support the family.

A funeral Mass was held at Christ the Redeemer Church, Sterling, VA, and was attended by family, friends, and classmates from the area. He is inurned at Virginia Union Cemetery in Leesburg. Tom described his childhood as “idyllic.” He played baseball on the vacant lot and hockey on the frozen creek with five neighborhood friends. In high school, three others joined the friendship which lasted throughout Tom’s life. He attended LaSalle Academy and developed his leadership skills, wrote for the school newspaper, served on the yearbook staff, twice starred in the yearly musical, and graduated with honors and as a member of the Senior Council. He then attended the University of Rhode Island for one year, receiving his appointment to West Point from Sen. Theodore Francis Greene in 1950.

As a Plebe, Tom exhibited the good nature and sense of humor that classmates remember. According to Pete McCloskey, “Tom and I (as first classmen) were walking up the hill from Ordnance Lab when we noticed a car owned by one of the professors. It was a small European model, parked next to one of those large concrete caissons that housed a sewer manhole. A quick urge passed over us, and Tom and I, with others helping, picked up the car and placed it on top of the caisson. We later learned that the motor pool was called, and they had to bring a wrecker crane to get it off. Unfortunately Tom injured his back and was hospitalized but never got over relating the “fun.”

Tom took the ups and downs of life with equal measure of humor. He tried out for the Glee Club, but before the audition was over the leader looked at him and called out, “Next!” This became a family joke and whenever anyone went on too long or said something inappropriate someone (usually one of the kids) would yell “Next!” Tom joined the Catholic Choir instead.

As a first classman, he was a Cadet Lieutenant and chair of the Class General Committee.

His first assignment after graduation was to the Ft. Bliss Artillery Officers Course, where he and his classmates learned not to order steak for dinner in Juarez after the Sunday bull fights. Tom’s next assignment was as “The Defender of Chicago” at a Nike site. While there, he met and married Margie Schroer in 1956. Tom resigned from the Army as a captain in 1961 after assignments in El Paso; Thule, Greenland; Ft. Lawton; and Ft. Devens. Tom went to work for Rohm and Haas Corporation in Rochester, NY and later in Philadelphia, where he became the Sales Manager for Plexiglas. In another “typically Tom” moment, he taught his dog Ben to growl at the word “Lucite” (a competitive product). In 1983 Tom left Rohm and Haas and started DeSimone Associates, a plastics and adhesives marketing company.

Tom and Marge moved to Leisure World, Leesburg, VA, in 2005. Tom’s devotion to his family was the prime focus of his life. He guided without force by kind example (except for an occasional threat). In a eulogy, his son Tom explained, “He didn't act like a drill sergeant. He did show us how to roll up our underwear and place it in neat rows in our dresser drawer, but he never made us do it. He showed us how to make our beds with tight hospital corners, but he never made us do it. When things didn’t go as planned in life, he never complained or whined. He just did what he knew he had to do. I looked up to him, I was proud of him.”

He was active in his children’s endeavors and worked with Little League and encouraged good grades, music lessons, skiing, sailing and camping! Marge had never wanted to camp, but Tom’s enthusiasm and a few camping trips to the Adirondacks won her over. With a pop-up trailer attached to a small Chevy, two adults and four children took off on a 32-day trip to California and back. That adventure left all with an enduring memory of cooperation and disagreement; good meals and bad; fun adventure and mild mishaps. Later family fun centered on a vacation house in the Pocono Mountains.

In 2010 Tom was presented with a plaque in recognition as founder and first organizer of the DeSimone Family Reunion. This weekend reunion, occurring every five years since 1985,  has grown to almost 200 participants. Tom originated and planned the first four reunions down to the minutest detail for this two-day event, including location, activities and meals.

In 1974, while living in Rochester, NY Tom headed a committee to name the Acquinas High School stadium to commemorate the memory of one of its graduates, Don Holleder, a 1956 West Point graduate and All American football player who was killed in Vietnam while trying to save fallen comrades. The honor remains today as the Holleder Technology Center in Rochester after the stadium was torn down. Holleder Center at West Point is the venue for basketball and hockey.

Tom’s deep faith, care and generosity were revealed in his relationship to a live-alone blind man who needed some company. Tom visited Elmer every Sunday night for three years until Elmer died.

Today Tom’s family is expanded by six loving grandchildren. They still refer to the Blue Bell, PA, backyard as “Club D,” where they spent many vacation hours. These grandchildren will carry on his memory and legacy of love, patience, discipline, and laughter.

Originally published in TAPS, SUMMER 2012

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