MAJOR THOMAS A. SPENCER, AUS (Ret), aged 85 passed away on June 1, 2020. He was born October 2, 1934 in San Diego, California, the son of Arthur and Nora P. Spencer of Chula Vista, California. Educated in the public schools of Chula Vista, California, he graduated in 1952 from Chula Vista High School. He worked a variety of jobs in the citrus industry, including a job at the Chula Vista Citrus Association Packing House and as a foreman for a citrus pest control operator. Photography was his primary hobby and he worked part time as a free-lance photographer and for the Chula Vista Photo Studio. With the demise of the citrus industry in San Diego County he secured employment in the U.S. Postal Service, at the Palm City Post Office, which was later incorporated into the Imperial Beach Post Office. He worked there as a letter carrier for 3-1/2 years before joining the Army in 1956.
He took his basic and advanced training in the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington and worked his way up through the ranks. After attending Sixth Army NCO Academy at Fort Ord, California, was selected for Infantry Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning Georgia. After being commissioned in the infantry he held a variety of troop command positions including platoon leader, company commander of three different companies: two at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and one at Fort Ord, California; and as commander of two battalion sized units: one in Vietnam and one in Germany. In addition to these command positions he had staff assignments on battalion, brigade, division and corps level staffs as well as serving as an instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
His military assignments included overseas tours to Korea (two years with the First Calvary Division), France (two years in the European Communication Zone Headquarters), Vietnam (almost three years, half as an advisor to Vietnamese Army and half assigned to the 101st Airborne Division), and Germany (for five years in the 5th U.S. Army Corps). In addition, he served at five stateside posts: Fort Lewis, Washington; Fort Ord, California; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He retired in 1976 with the rank of Major.
His military decorations include the Silver Star (the nation’s third highest award for gallantry in action), the Bronze Star for valor, two awards of the Bronze star for achievement, the Meritorious Service medal, two awards of the Air Medal for valor, nine awards of the Air Medal for achievement, the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnamese Campaign Medal (with seven stars), Korean Defense Service Medal, Reserve Forces Medal, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and Valorous Unit Citation Award. Awards from the Vietnamese government include the Honor Medal First Class, Staff Service Medal First Class, Training Service Medal, Gallantry Cross with Gold Star with the Unit Cross of Gallantry Award with Palm Award and the Unit Civic Action Award. The Secretary of the Army named him a Distinguished Member of the 502nd Infantry Regiment.
Subsequent to retiring from active duty he worked an additional nine years in federal civil service as an Equal Employment Specialist, Cost and Management Analyst and National Emergency Planner, concluding with a total of 32-1/2 years of federal service as a GS-12 National Emergency Planner for the U.S. Army Engineer District at Fort Worth, Texas.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1971 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha under the Army Bootstrap Program, majoring in Business. Continuing in that field he earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from Boston University in 1975. He completed all but six months of his bachelor’s degree and all his master’s degree by attending evening classes, while on duty with the Army.
Major Spencer actively supported his alma mater, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, by funding two scholarships, the Beverly Grace (Ward) Spencer Memorial Accounting Scholarship and the Major Thomas A. Spencer Business Scholarship, as well as the Spencer Professorship in Government Accounting. He was a member of the university’s Chancellor’s Club and the Nebraska University system’s President’s Club, and a charter member of the Lucas Society of College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He was inducted into the university’s Accounting Legacy Society along with his wife in October of 2013; and in 2019 was honored by the addition of his and his wife’s name to the Donor Recognition Wall of the Business College for cumulative donations of over one million dollars.
In addition to the scholarships at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Major Spencer endowed three scholarships at San Diego State University for his and his father’s Masonic Lodge and was honored in 2019 by the University by having his name on the donor monument at the University campus.
He was married at Fort Ord, California on July 1, 1966 to 1st Lieutenant Beverly Grace Ward, USAF (a 1972 graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha), a native of Russell County, Kansas, whom he met while they were stationed in France and Spain, respectively. During the late 1970’s he and his wife, a certified public accountant, established a financial and management service business in Arlington, Texas. The business consisted of work in accounting, real estate, investment management, auditing, and tax planning / preparations. He continued to run the business on a reduced scale after his wife’s death in 1983 and until 1994 when he fully retired.
Tom enjoyed the outdoors and was an avid hiker. He founded two IVV hiking clubs in Texas, serving as president of one or the other continuously for 17 years, and was awarded the International Bronze Award for service by the IVV International Bodies. He also had a love for animals as evidenced by his support of organizations dedicated to the preservation endangered animals and the Humane Society. He was designated a Gold Charter Member of the Leadership Circle of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. His hobbies included photography, collecting figurines of cats, and hunting.
He was a member of the Chula Vista Elks Lodge No. 2011 and an endowed member of the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association.
Tom was also active in the Masonic Fraternity, initially joining his hometown lodge, Chula Vista Masonic Lodge #626 F. and A.M. of Chula Vista, California in 1962 – a membership he retained and served on several committees for the lodge, and became a member of the Grand Master’s Circle in California. He joined the Columbus, Georgia Scottish Rite Bodies in 1964, and later transferred his membership to the Fort Worth, Texas, Scottish Rite Bodies, where he was honored by being selected as a Knight’s Commander of the Court of Honor in November 2009 and was elected to the 33rd Degree Inspector General Honorary in 2017. While stationed in Germany, he became a dual member of Oregon Military Lodge #223 in Frankfurt under the Grand Lodge of Oregon and served in several officer positions, ending as the Presiding Master in 1975. He founded a new lodge – Oregon Military Lodge #936 under the German Grand Lodge; in 1975 he served as its first Master. He remained active in his German lodge, publishing its quarterly bulletin for stateside members. He also joined the York Rite of Frankfurt, Germany, of which the Chapter and Council were under German Grand jurisdictions and the Commandry was an independent body under U.S. jurisdiction. He belonged to the Moslah Shrine Temple in Fort Worth, Texas, and was a permanent contributing member to the Shrine Hospitals for Crippled Children. He was a member of several research lodges in the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He continued to be active in lodge work after retiring, becoming a plural member of Arlington Lodge #438 A.F. and A.M of Arlington, Texas, and serving as librarian and education coordinator and on several committees. Major Spencer was also a member in perpetuity of San Diego Chapter of National Sojourners and Constitution Camp Heroes of ’76. He was honored by the American Canadian Grand Lodge of the United Grand Lodge of Germany by being elected as Honorary Junior Grand Warden in April of 2005 and elevated to Honorary Senior Grand Warden in 2012. Major Spencer was honored in 1996 with membership in the Brandon Carrol Society for his support of the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. In 1998 he became a full member of the Texas Grand Lodge Sam Houston Hall of Fame for his support of the Grand Lodge Library and Museum and became a Gold star patron of the library in 2000. He was the recipient of the DeMolay Legion of Honors degree in October 2012 and on three occasions the Peter Rassmusen Charity Jewel from the American Canadian Grand Lodge of Germany. He became active in the Harry S. Truman Club of the Masonic Home of the Grand Lodge of Missouri and was a member of the Harry S. Truman Society of that club. His interest in Masonry led him to pursue a four-year course in Masonic History and Philosophy at the Grand Lodge of South Australia and Northern Territories, receiving his diploma in 2010.
In 2014, Major Spencer gifted the family commercial real estate holdings he inherited to a charitable trust for the benefit of a number of public charities.
While not a member, he was a faithful attendee and supporter of the First United Methodist Church in Arlington.
Major Spencer was active in several veterans’ organizations including the Retired Officers Association, for which he served as president of the Lone Star chapter in Fort Worth in 1979. He was a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, Military Officers Association of America, Combat Infantry Association and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was designated a Distinguished Donor by the Disabled American Veterans National Service Foundation.
Major Spencer was preceded in death by his wife, Beverly, in 1983, his parents and his brother; and is survived by his stepdaughter Janet Gary along with several nieces and nephews and his long-time soulmate Martha Gagnon.
He wanted to be remembered as a soldier who served his country and did his duty the best he could and as a Mason who practiced his beliefs as best he could.
Funeral services were held at Moore Funeral Home by Masonic Lodge #438 on Monday, June 8, 2020 at 11:00 AM. Public and friends are invited to attend. A celebration of life will be held after the service at Moore Funeral Home. All are invited to attend. Burial with military honors will be at Vincent Cemetery in Osborne County, Kansas on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 10:30 AM alongside his wife and older brother, Dean. In lieu of flowers memorials should be made to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, Texas. www.scottishriteforchildren.org. After the burial the family invites all to meet at Meridy’s for lunch. Pohlman-Varner-Peeler Mortuary of Russell, Kansas, is in charge of the graveside services.