Someone said a little more detail on my background would help these postings. It occurs to me that this writing may also save a family member some time when they finally publish something about me in the obituaries. I'll leave out the details....that will all be yet "another story" for future posts...but a fun one.
Thomas A. (Tom) DeRossett, Jr
1948 - _____
Born Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee, October 30, 1948
State and place of official Residence: Amelia Island, Florida
Resides between Pagosa Springs, Colorado, Palm Springs, California, Newport Beach, California and Atlanta, Georgia: Residence preference: Orange County, California
Tom's first years as a youngster were spent in or near Chattanooga. His birth family heritage was rather humble. His residence until about 4 years was a small wood framehome located on a portion of his maternal grandparents' property. Situatied on a dirt road feeding into Chattanooga from Rossville, Georgia, Tom learned from his first years the value of simple things: hard work helping his grandfather tend to the garden and a few farm animals, equipment and tilling the land. His favorite pet on the small farm, a pig, was a delite for him to feed with the leftovers from each family meal. Indeed his first traumatic experience was witnessing the slaughter of the pig after it was grown. The family ate from the produce of their land, supplemented with staples from the local grocer. His maternal grandfather was not only a small farmer, but also worked his entire career on the railroad as a switchman. The family was Christian. Tom attended church services with the "grownups" from his earliest years, and after age 2, often sat with his grandfather in the space reserved for the church elders, known then as the "amen corner." That was a special place where about twelve elders, or church deacons, sat during services and often proclaimed in unison an approving "amen" whenever the pastor offered an especially moving statement.
Tom (then known as Tommy to his family and friends) parents moved to Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1950's for a short while. It was there that his father first began working as a salesman for the Purex Corporation, which produced household cleaning products, soaps, bleaches and Brillo soap pads. Tom's Dad, Thomas, Sr. was a gregarious soul, and quickly ascended the ladder at Purex. Soon they were relocated to Southern California around 1954.
Tom attended his first years of elementary school at Leffingwell school in Whittier, California. After serving at Purex headquarters for several years, Tom's dad was assigned back to Atlanta as Purex's regional sales manager. They resided in the Chastain park area of North Atlanta. Tom attended the Georgia Military Academy (later to become Woodward Academy) for several years, and later WF Dykes High School until 1964. His family then relocated back to S. California as his father was promoted to a staff position at Purex Headquarters. They resided in Huntington Beach, California. Tom attended and was in the first graduating class at Huntington Beach/Marina High School in 1966, where he enjoyed surfing, football and politics. He stated that his political career actually began and ended at Marina high school, where he lost the class presidency by one vote. He noted with disdain that his opponent was actually in the vote counting room when the final tally was made. It was there that Tom claimed first awareness that politics was not only interesting, but could often be downright deceitful and unsavory. Nevertheless, Tom retained interest in politics sufficient to pursue a degree in Political Science at the University of Tennessee (UT) at Knoxville, and later transferred to Central Florida College in Ocala, Florida - claiming the weather was very preferable to that of Tennessee particularly in winter. Rumor has it that Tom, and his roomate who is now a judge in a small Georgia county, were actually "invited" by the Dean of Students at UT to "take a little vacation from academia until they could focus on their studies. It was well known in the mid sixties at UT that Tom, with David's (his roomate's) assistance, did quite well selling "Gold Cup' socks. They happened to be the "in" sock for all non-nerd types at the University, especially those on fraternity row. Tom acquired dozens of socks weekly from a hosiery mill where his Aunt Louise worked as assistant to the Chairman. He then resold them at a handsome profit at the school. After the first year at UT, Tom was earning over $50,000 annualized from his sock business, which left him and his assistant, David, little time for school studies. This diversion is said to be the actual cause of his "Invitation to leave" from the Dean, though it did prove early on at age 17 that Tom had a good business head on him. That skill would become well honed in later years.
After attending Central Florida for some time, Tom decided to follow in his father's footsteps and joined the US Marine Corps. His father had participated in the battle for Iwo Jima during world war II. Tom claims with those kind of credentials preceeding from his dad (Iwo Jima Marines "walked on water" in all Marine circles) that his career in the corps was greatly enhanced.
The Vietnam Era Marine Corps. record shows, however, that Tom earned the success he attained in the Marines due to his own dedication and merit. He was graduated first in his class at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, SC.; was promoted to Private First Class and earned the "Leatherneck Magazine" Dress Blue Uniform Award upon graduation from basic training. Afterward he was transferred to further training as an infantry rifleman (0311) in August, 1968 and assigned to the Fleet Marine Force.
Tom quickly earned a meritorious appointment to US Marine Corps Officer Candidate School(the 59th Officer Candidate Class) at Quantico, Virginia under what was known as the ECP program. Upon graduation as a second Lieutenant, Tom became the youngest officer in the U.S. Marine Corps as of 1968. At age 20, Tom may have been a commander of platoons of Marines, but he often complained that even so, he had yet to attain the age to enjoy a beer legally! Shortly thereafter, Tom was assigned to flight school, where he would earn yet another distinction as the youngest person to fly a multi-engine super sonic jet aircraft.
During the Vietnam Era, the Marine Corps "pipeline" at Pensacola, Fla, where all Naval Aviators begin their pilot training, was overloaded. The need for more pilots in the Corps. was acute. 800 well qualified young Marine officers were assigned to participate in an inter service flight training program with the US Air Force. Tom was graduated with Air Force Wings in class 71-03 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Tom states the best thing that happened to him there was the birth of his first child, Tori Ayn DeRosset Bjerke, in 1970.
Tom was then assigned to the US Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina where he earned his US Naval Aviator Wings as Aviator #T13490 and yet again became the youngest Naval Aviator in the US Marine Corps. He was assigned to fly the A-6 Intruder, a precision attack aircraft that was Aircraft carrier capable. Tom was soon thereafter assigned to a special group of pilots selected to operate as Tactical Air Coordiators/Forward Air Controllers. They were the first Marines designated to fly the OV-10 Bronco, a light attack/observation aircraft. They were also qualified to fly the A-4 Skyhawk in the TA4J configuration. Tom Served as Squadron Pilot for VMO-6, Marine Air Group 36 as it began to stand down during the Vietnam War, and later served as Squadron Operations Officer for VMA 142, an attack squadron primarily flying A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft.
After Marine Corps service, Tom flew commercially, concentrating his expertise in the Eastern Caribbean area for several years. He returned to Atlanta, Georgia in the Mid 1970's and went into business. There he met and soon married Cathy Hall of Marietta, Georgia. Cathy and Tom are the proud parents of 3 children from their marriage, Thomas III, Trevor and Tiffany, together with Tom's first daughter Tori Ayn, they enjoy 5 Grandchildren aged 20 months to 20 years of age.
During his business career, Tom became the inventor and owner of several security businesses as well as holdings in other industries. He invented proprietary systems designed to mark security numbers on vehicles and other surfaces generally. He holds US Patents including US 4,985,115 for chemical based marking and US 5,298,717 entitled "Method and Apparatus for Laser inscription of an image on a surface." These are two inventionss among many other innovations he designed and implemented within and without the automotive industry. His latest diversifications include majority ownership interest in Divine Wine Franchise Systems USA, LLC, a franchisor of small wineries, as well as sole ownership of US Elite Winery supplies and giftware, a winery supply and winemaing juice/concentrate supply company servicing wineries worldwide. Certain of Tom's winery interests are in partnership with the Rosenberg Trust, Ann Rosenberg, trustee. That business relationship arose from his longtime friendship with whom Tom referred to as his "business mentor", Bill Rosenberg. Mr. Rosenberg was the Founder of Dunkin Donuts Corporation and the International Franchise Association.
Tom's last days have surrounded a long and courageous medical battle against advanced colon cancer and related illnesses. Throughout the ordeal Tom retained his energetic view of life and lived out his Christian faith admirably. His favorite statement on that difficult medical situation has been consistent: "I've lived a blessed life and enjoyed so many good times without asking "why me", so there is no reason for me to approach this cancer with any thought other than "why not me." Through it all, He has stayed in contact with his business affiliates and has especially enjoyed spending time with his family located across the United States. He has lived between his residences in California, Colorado and Georgia, including time spent at his place of permanent domicile on Amelia Island, Florida.
When in the final stages of incurable, advanced colon cancer Tom has always enjoyed stating that his business competitors consistenly checked in on him with many kindnesses, but mostly to see IF he was still alive and, laughingly, to determine how long Tom may remain among the living. He has loved stating the old addage that the rumors of his death have been greatly exagerated. His 'can do' attitude and intrepid spirit in the face of virtually impossible odds are consistent with the way Tom successfully approached life with its many challenges and rewards.
The story of those challenges, and the various exploits and adventures about his "every man" type character is being compiled and will be available in print soon.