Posted on Monday, 17th July 2017 | Melbourne
Dr. Thomas D. Williams III passed away peacefully on Thursday, July 13, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. He was 87.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dr. Williams began practicing dentistry in Orlando, Fla. before moving his practice to Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1958 – the year nearby NASA began its manned space flight programs.
His first practice was located at what is now Ron Jon Surf Shop.
Dr. Williams was one of the first two dentists to serve a tiny beach community that grew exponentially alongside a burgeoning Kennedy Space Center. Many years later, he served on the City of Cocoa Beach Planning & Zoning Board to help guide responsible growth. Always civic-minded, he was a member of the Rotary Club as well.
One of his extracurricular passions was serving as a scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts of America. Each of his three children participated in scouting and he was proud to see his two sons and a grandson achieve the rank of Eagle Scout – the same rank he achieved in 1946.
In scouts, he was a fierce believer in getting out under the stars and his camping adventures are still remembered among many a boy who called him “Doc.”
Dr. Williams was known to many in his Cocoa Isles neighborhood as resurrecting a dilapidated, overgrown, seldom-used city park across the street from his home. After practicing dentistry for 38 years and retiring in 1991 following a heart attack, he found he had time on his hands.
He set out clearing debris and liquor bottles, mowing weeds, pulling up sandspur, planting grass, landscaping and installing a sprinkler system that brought the park to life – and drew children from the many surrounding neighborhoods.
He took delight at children’s laughter and watching families return to the swing sets, slides, merry-go-round and picnic area.
His home “office” is still today a veritable library, primarily of all things history-related and more specifically anything Civil War-related. He visited many of the Civil War battlefield parks he researched in his books.
When he wasn’t reading, he was watching the History Channel. When he wasn’t watching the History Channel, he was watching any movie starring John Wayne.
Deeper into his retirement years, he kept a dentist’s hands busy; he was forever crafting and modeling, be it intricate 18th century tall ships, or miniature doll houses or Christmas decorations from all manner of detritus.
He loved Christmas and each year’s ever escalating decorative theme would have put Clark Griswold to shame.
Dr. Williams was married to his bride of 64 years, Jacqueline O. Williams. Tom and Jackie met in college. He was at Emory College’s dental school, she was at UNC-Chapel Hill. He sold his blood to buy gas to make the long drives to visit.
After they married in 1953, he entered the U.S. Army’s Dental Corp as a reserve officer. He served from 1954 until his honorable discharge in 1963. During most of that service, he was stationed in Japan and found the culture there of much interest. His living room sculptures and knick-knacks serve as testament to that.
Tom enjoyed raising a family with Jackie, who was also a Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader and one of the original members of the Cape Canaveral Hospital Auxiliary. She later joined Tom as his assistant during the final years of his dental practice.
He and Jackie moved from Cocoa Beach to Melbourne’s Suntree community in 1998.
He is remembered for his 1994 Tiger Cruise from Bermuda to Charleston aboard the USS CARR, his oldest son commanding the ship, his other son gobbling Dramamine.
His grandsons remember him cheering from the stands at their baseball games, riding with them around the block on bicycles, and poolside capers on weekends.
His granddaughter remembers his greeting – “Good morning, Sunshine” – and glazed donuts on her visits to Florida.
He is remembered for his love of Florida Gators football, UNC-Chapel Hill basketball and the Miami Dolphins. Plus John Wayne.
He is remembered for his rally from hospice care in 2003 when family gathered for a 50th wedding anniversary and found him fighting for his life. That we got him for another 14 years is a God-send.
He is remembered for his daily devotional – sitting on his screened back porch, watching a crane stalk the lawn for grub, a jealous osprey light a limb, and the sun setting over a pond. It was here, he said, God was speaking.
He is survived by his devoted and loving wife of 64 years, Jackie Williams, of the home.
He is survived by his sister, Joan Belvin of Largo, Fla.
He is survived by his three children, in each of whom he took great pride: Thomas D. Williams IV, his oldest and a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy now living in Virginia Beach, Va; Kimberly Williams Kilgallin, his youngest and a virtuoso pianist now living in Winter Garden, Fla; and Edward Troy Williams, a writer in Greensboro, N.C., and quite possibly the most awesome of the bunch.
He is survived by four grandchildren, in each of whom he took equally great pride: Andrew Auld, a Mechanical Engineer living in Winter Garden, Fla.; Dr. Thomas Auld, in medical residency as an orthopedic surgeon at Rutgers University in Bloomfield, NJ.; Thomas D. Williams V, a Process Engineer living in Norfolk, Va.; and Stewart Rebecca Williams, a student at UNC-Greensboro, living in Greensboro, N.C.
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