Charles Thomas "Tommy" Gregory
March 31, 1926-July 23, 2005
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(l. to r. sitting, Tommy Gregory, Jette Gregory, .l to r. standing, daughters Lynne Sinclair, Beth Holland)
Below is the obituary from The Greenville News (Greenville, SC), July 24, 2005. It is followed by Tommy's eulogy, written by Mel Sinclair at the request of the family:
Eulogy for "Papa T", written by Mel Sinclair at the request of the family. After being overcome with emotion during the first sentence, Mel's son Michael, read the eulogy at the First Baptist Church (Whitmire, SC) funeral service on July 25.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Melvin Sinclair, Jr., son-in-law of this wonderful man, Charles Thomas Gregory. On behalf of the family, I’d like to thank you for being with us today …. to pay your respects to Tommy, to offer your support and encouragement to the family in a time of this great loss, and most importantly to celebrate the life of Tommy Gregory. As someone recently said, it is impossible to find the right words to describe such a wonderful and noble man as Tommy. I don’t expect to find those words today either.
However, as I think of my father-in-law, certain images, thoughts, and remembrances have left an indelible mark in my mind and on my life. Each of the family members can say the same, as many of you can also. Although I could never begin to walk in the shoes of so fine a man, I … and we … are so much better off by having had him touch our lives in so many ways.
To set the stage for expressing my experience of Tommy; and I think the family’s experience of him, let me begin by quoting a bit of Scripture:
In Genesis 1: 1-3, it is written:
1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
In solemn commemoration of that sublime event, I submit to you that Tommy’s life, symbolically, was a LIGHT to not only all who knew him, but to many who may never know the impact that he had on their lives.
Tommy, first of all was a devout, God-fearing Christian man who was certain as to where he was going when his earthly ministry was over. He told me so. He didn’t hide his spiritual light in the least. It shone brightly for all to see. He served God to the very best of his ability. The beautiful thing about this man is that he didn’t have to tell you that he was a Christian. He walked the walk. He demonstrated through his actions, his belief and faith in the Almighty and by simply doing what was right. His faith was without question to the very end of his life.
Tommy’s “LIGHT” was so bright that it shined a very great distance and it continues to shine today, and will shine tomorrow, and for many “tomorrows” yet to come. Let me be clear about this, when a man’s light shines for such a distance, it shines most brilliantly closest to the man. His light was the brightest to his family, to those who had the opportunity to know him best. We all saw him when things were going well and also when things were not going well. His light and his faith never wavered. He was also a devoted husband and, as most of you know, the primary care-giver to his lovely wife of 57 years, Jette, until he became too ill to continue to care for her, just nine months ago. His devotion to his family is also without question, as he continued to support in any way possible, his children, grand-children, and great-grand children. He loved them all and was loved by them all. The memories and stories that we recently shared will carry on throughout generations to come. Yes, his light was brightest at home.
He served others as a respected management official with West Point Stevens and as a past member of the Whitmire Town Council, also serving many years as Mayor Pro-Tem. He offered himself to serve others, from his heart, and not as any source of personal power. He also served his country by enlisting in the US Navy during World War II. He is a Master Mason of over 55 years and served for a time as the secretary. He was a deacon and for many years treasurer of this very church; this church that he loved dearly. He was a member of the local VFW Post 70, also having served as Commander. His service was both wide and deep.
Now I’d like to tell you some things about Tommy that you may not know.
He didn’t really care for watermelon, but he kept buying them. Just like much of Tommy’s life, it afforded us a time to fellowship and to build memories. … but watermelons? Yes, you see, we would slice the watermelon and before too long, someone would “shoot” a seed at someone else. You know how you get a seed and place it between your thumb and forefinger? Pow! You might wonder who would start these ferocious watermelon seed battles. No, it wasn’t Tommy. Of course, it would be Jette. Oh, and then everyone was shooting seeds. I remember the time when she actually chased me around the yard with a piece of watermelon in her hands. I knew what was coming. She “caught” me and smeared the melon in my face. What a great time we had. Where was Papa Tommy? Well, he didn’t get into the fray very much. He just sat back and laughed. Can’t you just see that beautiful smile of his?
He was color blind. Well, maybe not in the sense that you are thinking. I never heard him make an “off-color” comment about any person because of the color of their skin. He respected people. You see, many of us look with only our eyes. He looked at people with his heart. He taught us, by example, to do the same.
He seemed very proud of his “foolishness”. Can you imagine Tommy being proud of foolishness? When we went together on an overnight trip of any kind, whether it was to soccer tournaments or vacation, he would call and say that he was ready and that he had packed the foolishness. That was the cooler and the bags of candy, cookies, crackers, and soft drinks. He was well known by the parents and the kids on Mike’s and Thomas’s soccer teams for having a good stash of foolishness. Just another memory, repeated over and over.
Tommy owned a drug store. When traveling, you could always find what he called “the drug store” at the bottom of the closet in the motel room. Medicine and band aids were always on hand.
Tommy was spontaneous. It wasn’t unusual for him to call on a Saturday morning and say “Let’s go to the mountains”. Of course, who could turn down such a trip? We either picnicked along the way, placing a watermelon in a nearby stream for cooling, or we would find ourselves going to our favorite ice cream shop before returning home. As his family grew, some of these trips became a caravan.
There were some things that he just wouldn’t admit to doing. You know, sometimes things just need to get done … no fanfare. Once upon a time he was at a basketball game. Tommy noticed that one young man’s shoes were in terrible condition, and that was to put it mildly. Tommy slipped one of the coaches enough money to buy this young man a new pair of basketball shoes. He wanted no recognition. He just knew the young man was in need. How many other “untold” needs did Tommy meet? He just lived his life in an unassuming way.
Sometimes the singing of the National Anthem was a little too much for him. Many of you may know that Tommy enjoyed sports. In fact, I think that was the only section of the newspaper that he read. Sometimes, at the beginning of a televised game when the National Anthem was sung, the vocalist would render some “way out” version. In was not uncommon for one of the kids to call him on the telephone, while it was being sung, and offer a comment. Tommy left no doubt that the National Anthem should be sung in its original format and with a high level of respect. He was a patriot. He understood what that great song meant.
Memories? Examples? We could write a book; however, I hope you got the message. Tommy was clearly “Other Centered”.
In October, 2004, Tommy and the family became aware that a drastic change had developed. Although he didn’t feel particularly bad, he was very ill and his life on earth was short. How short and what we all were to face was not even imagined at that time. Yes, intellectually we knew, but how does one prepare emotionally? As time progressed, conversation eventually turned to his impending departure from this world. It was comforting to know that he wasn’t going to die. He had died many, many years ago when he was born again as a Christian. He was dead in sin and raised to a new life in Christ. Tommy, as well as you and me, can rest assured that we will live forever, our lives are eternal. Even when our old clay pots become cracked, weak, and ultimately useless, we know that we will live forever. The question that each of us have is where will we live when this earthly life is over. With Tommy, there is no doubt where he is at this very minute. His faith was unshakable, and yes, he knew the way.
We take comfort as we turn to the scripture once again:
Jesus gives us these words in John 14: 1-4 1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
….and remember this very key verse …verse 4.. Jesus said:
4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Did you hear that? “You know the way”.
And as those final moments came to Tommy’s earthly life, with his two daughters by his side, they tell me that a visible peace came upon him.
Revelation 21:4 tells us: 4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Let there be light, and there was light! Charles Thomas Gregory was a brilliant, glowing light to many. Yet, he was an unassuming man. He taught us many things and as we reflect, it is clear that his life, and the light that it still shines so brilliantly, is continuing to teach us more.
Tommy was the most unselfish person that I’ve ever known and throughout the years practiced unconditional love …. Unconditional love. Even as he lay in that bed, his concerns were about others, never himself.
As I am nearing the end of this message, I’d like to share two ideas or rather ideals that Tommy believed. These were found in his Bible. He did not author them but kept them in his favorite Book. The first one he named “My Yardstick” and the second one “My Motto”.
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye is a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see the good in action, is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn how to do it, if you’ll let me see it done,
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue to fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true;
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
There was always one piece of advice that Tommy would give to us whenever there was any concern; he would tell us to “put your hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee”. You know, that’s what he did. He did this everyday. His Yardstick was clear. His motto firmly entrenched in his very being. He walked the walk. His actions were in line with his words and his faith.
And once again we can look to the Good Book for what I believe was Tommy’s final thoughts:
Timothy 4: 6-8
6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Thank you all again for being here today -- for your comfort, your support, and your encouragement as we celebrate the life of a great man. Let Your light shine, showing THE WAY for your family and for others. I am hopeful that our family will continue to grow closer to each other and to God by reading His Word and emulating many of the actions of those Saints such as Charles Thomas Gregory. What would Tommy say? Put your hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee.
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