Centenarian – Veteran – Family Man
By: Lynn E. Mueller Nissen
Special to Hernando Sun
Thomas M Rexford, Army Air Corps Veteran and family man, is celebrating his 100 th birthday on Veterans Day, November 11, 2019. Hailing from Schenectady and Saratoga County New York, Tom has been a long-time resident of Spring Hill, Florida. When you speak with Tom, you gain a deep appreciation for his humility. He’ll tell you, “I’m a pretty simple person. I live a simple life.” His father was a chauffeur at General Electric and his mother was a homemaker. Being the youngest of three boys, he was just ten years old when the Great Depression hit. Tom says it best, “It wasn’t easy, but we managed.” With a loyalty to his family, he joined General Electric in his teens to help with the monthly bills.
With a looming dark economy, one has to wonder how Tom had the gumption to just ‘get up and go’. Tom offered, “My best buddy and I worked together at GE. We had always talked about joining the Army Air Corps so we could serve together. We wanted to get into the trucking outfit.” Tom shed light on the reality of military recruitment, “Well we did it! We went to the recruiting office. Everything sounded good. The recruiting officer told us everything we wanted to hear, ‘Oh yeah, we can put you in there. Don’t worry about it!’ Oh, they got us in! And the rest? That never happened! Uncle Sam owned us!” My buddy ended up in the south. He never left the states. They shipped me off! That’s the Army Air Corps. You do what they want you to do and you don’t do anything else.”
He had this to say about his service, “In 1939 I went to bootcamp in Connecticut. We went from there to Salt Lake City, orders to Fort Dix and, we ended up aboard a ship headed to Casablanca as part of the North Africa Campaign, Operation Torch. Our ship stayed way behind the ships that would make landfall. When we arrived near the coast of Africa, we stayed about a hundred miles offshore. Being a supply ship, we sailed in as close as we could get to the fighting, off loaded, then sailed back out to sea. When the men needed supplies, we got them there. That was our business.”
Tom didn’t reenlist, “When our time there ended and we came back in, they put us in lines, and gave us all kinds of shots. It was right there they told us if we wanted to stay us in the Army, we could get one stripe higher than what we had, “I told them where to put that!” I got out in 1944. When I got home, I went back to GE and talked to them. They told me I had ten days to report to work. If I do this, they’d give me credit for my service. It was like I never left. They also had a pension plan. I reported to work and that was it. When I got back to work, I went right back to the job I had when I had left for the Army. There was someone in my position, but they kicked that guy out and gave me my old job back. I retired from GE in 1979. I never looked back. That gave me forty years and retirement pay.” When asked about retirement, Tom had this to offer, “I joined the volunteer fire department and the Masonic Lodge. That was enough for me. There were enough chores at home building cabinets, shelves, and anything else my wife needed to do.” He smiled, reached for his coffee and took a sip.
Sitting in a black leather recliner, coffee at his side, he offered important words when asked for the secret to a long, happy life? This journalist took notes, “There are no secrets. Every man knows, happy wife, happy life. The other important thing to remember, don’t argue with your wife, just say “Yes, dear”! Keep your family and true friends close to you. I’ve been happy all my life. What I’m most thankful for is that I’m still around.”
Tom celebrated his birthday with family and friends at Silverthorne Country Club, November 9 th . Happy Birthday Thomas Rexford! Thank you for your service and your words of wisdom!