Cover photo for Ltcol Thomas Hall's Obituary
Ltcol Thomas Hall Profile Photo
1948 Ltcol 2021

Ltcol Thomas Hall

September 17, 1948 — July 29, 2021

Winchester

LtCol Thomas Henry Hall, Jr, USMC, Retired, age 72 of Winchester, Tennessee has been assigned to his final duty station on 29 July 2021 and tasked, like all Marines, with guarding the Pearly Gates.  He fought a long 36-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease and a short campaign with aspiration pneumonia after a fall.  He passed peacefully from complications of Parkinson’s at the Nashville VA Hospital surrounded by his family praying and singing.  We’re hoping he’s guarding a back door that he can hold open for us, because we broke a lot a rules getting into his hospital room every day.

Born on 17 September 1948 in Paducah Kentucky, the second of four children, to Capt Thomas and Ann Hall.  The family struggled in government housing after Tom Sr left his mother, who, with an 8th grade education and three jobs, struggled to raise her children.  She emphasized the importance of education, determination and fortitude.  All four of her kids went to college, two earned masters degrees.  It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.  Even as a kid, Tom was motivated to help his family.  In middle school, he worked two paper routes and cut grass, and later in high school as a Little League Umpire and at Griff’s Burger Bar, where we suspect he ate more than he made. He once bought a pack of cigarettes until he did the math and realized how much money it would take to buy a pack a week for the rest of his life.  He was cheap when it didn’t matter, and generous when it did.  He bought the family’s first car and gave it to his mother after he graduated from high school because he felt she needed it more than he did.

He excelled in sports, but basketball was his favorite and he was a natural. To see him play was like watching art.  His coach said, “I had a favorite player…a flat-footed, slow runner that couldn’t jump and I wish I had a whole team of Tom Halls!”  His love for the sport never dwindled.  He played daily when possible, coached Marine intramural teams, was a referee for the USMC leagues, Kim’s high school and Millie & Ronnie’s middle school and somehow every year managed to pick the winning March Madness bracket.

1966 - barge welder and a deck hand on his father’s boat on the Mississippi River, started night school at Memphis State University

25 July 1967– enlisted in the US Marine Corps

26 Sepember 1967 –graduated Private First Class, Awarded Outstanding man in the Platoon Award, 1st TRBN, RTR, MCRD, Parris Island, South Carolina

27 September 1967 – 1st Infantry training MCB Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

05 November 1967 – helicopter mechanic school, NATTC NAS Memphis, Tennessee

03 Jan 1968 – promoted to Lance Corporal

17 April 1968 – H&MS-56, 3d MAW, MCAF, Santa Ana, California

June 1968 – NCO Leadership School, NCAS, El Toro, California

10 February 1969 – OCS, MCDEC, Quantico, Virginia

18 April 1969 – Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant

18 April 1969  – Company “K”, Basic School, MCB Quantico, Virginia

22 October 1969 – Republic of Vietnam 81mm Mortar Platoon Commander, Co A, 1st BAT, 1st MAR

02 November 1969 – 81mm Platoon Commander Company B, H&S Company, 1st BAT, 1st MAR

04 February 1970 – Bronze Star Combat V

26 February 1970 – Rifle Platoon Commander

17 March 1970 – Platoon Commander

01 July 1970 – promoted to First Lieutenant

05 October 1970 – G-3 Training Officer and Commanding Officer, H&S BN, FMFLANT, attended night school at Old Dominion University

01 July 1973 – promoted to Captain

August 1975 - Degree Completion Program, Bachelor of Business Admin, Memphis State University

August 1975 – Commanding Officer of H&S Company 3d Shore Party Bn, Okinawa, Japan

30 August 1976 - Executive Officer and subsequent Commanding Officer, MCRS, Nashville, Tennessee.

01 July 1979 – Promoted to Major, Advance Infantry School, Ft Benning, Georgia

19 June 1980 – Operations Officer Marine Barracks, 1st Marine Brigade, 2nd MarDiv, Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i, Marine Barracks Sunset Parades Commander of Troops and COT honoring returning MIA from Vietnam

June 1982 – Masters of Business Admin, Pepperdine University

July 1983 – Executive Officer, HQBN, 2d MarDiv, FMF, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

27 December 1984 – Executive Officer, Infantry Training School, MCES, MCB, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

12 July 1985 – promoted to Lieutenant Colonel

14 February 1986 – Inspector Instructor of 2dBN, 23DMAR, 4thMARDIV, Encino, California, second Meritorious Service Medal

14 January 1988 – United States Marine Corps Retirement

1989-May 1993 – Statistics and Finance Analysis for Department of Mental Health, State of Tennessee, Nashville, Tennessee

He was respected by his troops for being a “Mustang Marine”, starting enlisted and rising to the rank of an officer through his own grit and tenacity.  In Vietnam he received a Bronze Star with Combat V for inspiring leadership, cohesive and proficient fire support during combat patrols and uncovering vast quantities of ordinance and valuable intelligence of the Viet Cong Infrastructure. He also earned two Meritorious Service Medals and countless accolades and awards.  His Fitness Reports are a credit to his character and constant ambition for improvement and perfection often required to do jobs above his pay grade.  Each one a more glowing account than the last, noting his exemplary service, meticulous manner, quiet demeanor, unassuming intellect, fierce loyalty to his men, rigid standards, constant adaptability and as a tremendous asset to the Corps.

As kids, we were his little platoon, often doing things that we didn't realize were Marine-like things until Millie went to Parris Island.  After dinner we would read the Marine Corps Officer Handbook and learn about the characteristics of an officer.  Bring your kid to work day consisted of us blowing up tanks at the Camp Geiger School of Infantry night fire shooting range. We often joke that he is a mix of the characters from the movies Heartbreak Ridge, The Great Santini, Hoosiers and Blazing Saddles.

He made us feel invincible.  As kids we never questioned or waivered when he gave us commands, I mean chores.  We always felt that if he thought we could do it, then we must be able to. He was annoyingly fair, never favoring one of us over the other (except there may have been a little extra peacocking when he spoke about Millie’s Marine Corps service). When he watched our basketball games he used to clap for the other team if they made a good shot.  He told the other parents he was more interested in teaching us to appreciate athletic talent and sportsmanship than winning.   Needless to say he didn’t exactly get the team parent award, but looking back, I realize that every moment was a life lesson with him.  How to be fair or kind or generous or humble.   Every lesson seemed to stem back to that handbook, honor, courage, commitment, integrity, maybe not so much tact…he may have told Kimmy and her seven-year-old friends that Santa didn’t exist and clean his shotgun when we went on dates.  If we complained about anything he used to say, “at least they’re not shooting at you”.  Every other problem was insignificant compared to that.

Married to Mercedes Mszanowski on 11 October 1969, they honored and respected their marriage vows better than anyone I know.  Over 51 years, through war, deployments, moving, kids, loss, and disease they were unwavering in their commitment to each other.  They faced so many obstacles even before he became sick and Mercy held the fort together then and now.  While she admits he wasn’t always the best gift giver (an iron for Christmas), the things she’s going to miss the most are how confident and beautiful he made her feel, his compliments, holding hands, having him close and seeing the twinkle in his eyes when he smiles at her.  As constant companions, it is because of their devotion for each other and Mercy’s perpetual caregiving, that he was able to stay home for so long, even in declining health. Their story is one of loyalty, admiration, love and commitment.

He used to play golf on Sunday mornings when we went to church.  After we moved to Winchester, his interest in golf diminished and he started to get bored at home by himself.  We suspected he was just hungry and wanted to join us for brunch after mass.  He started asking questions about all the knelling and standing and other weird Catholic rituals.  Eventually, he converted and became a devout man of faith and belief.  He often could explain things better about the church than the rest of us and always made a point to follow the Golden Rule, to treat others the way he wanted to be treated.  He never blamed God and his trust in the Lord is admirable.  He often told Mercy that his priorities were God, Country, Corps, Family…in that order.  We are comforted that he received Last Rites and we prayed over him in his final hours.

We still see him as a hard-charging devil dog, but if you met him later in life you might have only noticed the Parkinson's Disease.  Slight symptoms started in his early 30s, but it took several years to officially diagnose. He spent half his life suffering with a body that wouldn’t cooperate, and while we never knew of his frustrations or worry or anger we found some journal entries that were heartbreaking to read.  He never complained to us and I don’t think we will ever truly understand the torment he went through on a daily basis.   His perseverance is a reminder to all of us to improvise, adapt and overcome.

He is survived by his wife of over 51 years, Mercedes Mszanowski and three daughters, who he all called “Sugar” because we’re pretty sure he couldn’t tell us apart, Kimberly Hall (Geoff Zerbe) of Hillsboro, Oregon, Melanie Hall (John Morris) of Belvidere, Tennessee and Veronica Hall (Johnathan Winstead) of Savannah, Georgia.  As “Col Grandpa”, he became an unrecognizable softy with his six grandchildren, Daniel, Abraham, Cecelia, Grant and Naomie Morris and Damon Zerbe.  The torch has been passed and his siblings are now tasked with tattle-telling on each other about all of their childhood antics, Lawrence Hall of Nashville, Tennessee, Cynthia Hall Allison of Antioch, Tennessee and Stanley (Joyce) Hall of Bluffton, South Carolina.  He is preceded in death by his parents Tom Hall and Ann Graznak and infant son Daniel Aaron Hall.

In his ultimate act of service, he generously donated his body for medical research, because as he put it “who wouldn’t want all this?”  While we were unable to donate his entire body, after 28 hours and up against the clock, we were lucky enough to honor his wishes with his brain going to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida for Parkinson’s Research.  He despised flowers, cards and wrapping paper because he was cheap, and growing up poor he always saw them as a “frivolous waste of money”.  So in lieu of wasting your money, the family requests charitable contributions to be made to:

“In memory of LtCol Thomas H Hall, Jr USMC”

Brain Support Network

PO Box 7264

Menlo Park, CA 94026

https://www.brainsupportnetwork.org/donate/ - cc

A Celebration of Life is planned for Saturday, 18 September 2021 at 1030am, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Decherd, Tennessee with lunch following at Tom & Mercy’s House.  Feel free to wear red, his favorite color or a Marine Corps shirt.  His ashes will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia at a later date.

Comments and desserts are welcome, prayers are needed, but inappropriate Marine Corps jokes are expected.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ltcol Thomas Hall, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Starts at 10:30 am (Central time)

Good Shepherd Catholic Church (Decherd, TN)

2021 Decherd Blvd, Decherd, TN 37324

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