Thomas Donald Eason, Sr, 91

WILMINGTON — Thomas Donald Eason, Sr passed away peacefully Sunday afternoon, October 24, 2021, at Lower Cape Fear Life Care Hospice Center in Wilmington, North Carolina following a massive stroke.

Tom was born January 23, 1930, in Jacksonville, Florida to Jesse Beamon Eason and Mary (Mamie) Susan Casteen, both of Wilmington, North Carolina. His father worked for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad in Wilmington, and the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida with his job prior to 1930. Tom moved back with his mother and two sisters when his mother fell ill, and he was only 6 years old when his mom passed away, and he was raised in Wilmington by his older sisters, Margaret, and Virginia.

Surviving Tom is his wife, Patricia Ann Jenkins Eason from Los Angeles, California, daughter Martha Eason Watson of Wilmington, son Thomas D. Eason, Jr (Glenda) of Castle Hayne, granddaughter Kimberly Ann Eason of Morrisville, North Carolina, nieces Mary Grotgen Cowand (John) of Wilmington, Susan Adubato Hallard of New Jersey, Mary Crutchley of Virginia, Caitlin Blair (Jason} of California,  Mary Ann Russo Moore (Brian) of Wilmington, nephews Dr. John F. Grotgen (Jean), Thomas Adubato of New Jersey, Adam Blair of California, Drake Nighswonger of California, and Billy Russo of Myrtle Beach, who along with  Pat, babysat him from the time he was 6 weeks old until he started school.  They enjoyed an incredibly special bond.

Predeceasing Tom in death are his parents, two sisters, Margaret Lee Eason Grotgen of Wilmington, Virginia Mae Eason Adubato of New Jersey, a brother, Baby Boy Eason, brothers-in-law John Frederick Grotgen of Wilmington and John Adubato of New Jersey, father-in-law Erna Jenkins, and mother-in-law, Louise Jenkins, both of Los Angeles, California, and son-in-law, Donald W. Watson.

After attending New Hanover High School, Tom joined the US NAVY, and after attending boot camp in San Diego, California, he was assigned to Naval Air Squadron VC35 based in Miramar, and his squadron was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Princeton CV37 during the Korean War. He flew on numerous bombing missions during the war.

He met his future wife in Long Beach, California, and they were married in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 14, 1951, and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on June 14, 2021.

They visited his family in Wilmington after his honorable discharge from the Navy and remained here.

Tom joined the Wilmington Fire Department in 1952 and rose thru the ranks to Battalion Chief. He was in the forefront of the establishment of Fire Rescue, which began with a re-painted bread truck and Band-Aids.   He also served as Captain of the Wilmington Fire Boat, which he enjoyed so much. WFD Chief Eason stood up for the regular firefighters on several occasions and those firefighters never forgot his efforts on their behalf.

From 1985 until his retirement in 1992, Battalion Chief Eason was in a unique situation where he was a Battalion Fire Chief at the Wilmington Fire Department, his son was a Sergeant with the Wilmington Police Department, and his daughter was a Wilmington Police Department communications Shift Supervisor, telling them both “where to go.” 

Tom was a member of American Legion Post 10 for decades, a former member of George Davis Camp 5 SCV, and the VC35 Nighthawks Association. He received a Korean Service Medal from Cape Fear 3-UDC during a Memorial Service in 2012.

A graveside service will be held by the family at 2:00 PM on Friday, November 5, 2021, at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens with Fire Department honors, recognizing his 40 years of service to the City of Wilmington. Retired Wilmington Police Department Lieutenant Matthew C. Hinson will play bagpipes at the graveside service. Visitation with the family will be held for a brief time following the services at the cemetery.

My Mom, brother, and I appreciate the prayers and good thoughts while Dad was at Hospice, and now that he has passed. The Fire Department family has been exceptional. Special thanks to Chief John Mason, Henry Gore, Dal Burton, David Hines, Retired Chief Sam Hill, New Hanover County firefighter and friend, Keven Gore, and particularly, Michael Mincey, and his wife, Dee Dee, who visited Dad at Hospice. We will never forget you.

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