Thomas Bernard Columbus, 91, of Elfrida, Arizona, beloved husband, father and grandfather died on Friday, April 30, 2010, at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.
He was born on February 23, 1919, in Buffalo, New York. Through his life he showed strength of moral character and the qualities of an individual who possessed resilience, deep faith and a gentle spirit.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lois Johnsen Columbus from Peoria, Illinois; and his three children, Ann Kelley and Dickie Duckett of Middletown, Maryland, Jill Columbus and Nicholas Reed of Westford, Massachusetts, and Marc John Columbus and his wife, Terry Columbus, of Charlottesville, Virginia; and his three grandchildren, Kip Kelley, Jillian Columbus and Cole Columbus.
He graduated from high school at the age of 16 and played in the school band. Later in his life he loved to play the piano by ear never having had a lesson. He then attended the University of Wyoming on a track scholarship for three years.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and went through initial training in Chickasha, Oklahoma. He served in the Air Corp during World War II. As a 1st Lieutenant, he was a pilot and navigator stationed in China, Burma and India and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. His combat group received citations issued in the name of the President of the United States "for outstanding performance of duty in action during the period of January 14 until March 1, 1942". After service to his country, he received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin.
He started his career in insurance in 1950, as a field claims representative and divisional superintendent of claims for State Farm Insurance. As an attorney for State Farm he had offices in Bloomington, Illinois, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Westmont, Illinois. In 1960, he became Vice-President of the American Mercury Company and was ultimately Chief Operating Officer. In 1961, he was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. Between 1966 and 1981, he was employed by the Colonial Penn Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Senior Vice-President of several of their subsidiaries as well as becoming Director of Litigation for the group. He was appointed Vice-President of SAI Group Inc. as well as Managing Director of Preferred Assurance Company Ltd., a United Kingdom joint venture of SAI group and a Netherlands company.
He returned to Arizona where he and his wife had a pecan ranch where they spent many happy years together.
Tom was a man of quick wit, firm principles and integrity who believed in honesty and truth. He believed in standing up for and supporting others. His exemplary work ethic and belief in the intrinsic good in all people set him apart from other individuals. People who worked with him defined his qualities of intelligence, loyalty, good nature, and a man always having sincere personal interests in others. He valued his life long relationships. Tom's easy smile, kind and generous heart brightened our lives. We will miss him and cherish his memory.
The family thanks the caring staff at Park Avenue Rehabilitation and Healthcare and the University Medical Center in Arizona, Diamond Three North for the concern shown toward their husband and father.
A family graveside service was held at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
The family requests donations be made to the Thomas B. Columbus Fund c/o The Gateway Longview Foundation 605 Niagara St. Buffalo, NY 14201
or Pilgrim Lutheran Church 5500 Massachusetts Ave. Bethesda, MD 20816. Contributions should be made in memory of Thomas B. Columbus.
Lois Gladys Johnsen Columbus
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