For ninety years, seven months and ten days, Thomas Britton White, Jr. of Camden had a very good run. Sadly, it ended on Saturday, March 14, 2015 with Andy and Debbie by his side. After a courageous, decades-long battle with pigweed, he succumbed to a brief bout with lymphoma. He left us convinced that if that pesky weed is, in fact, present in Heaven, there will also be a herbicide that is 100% effective against it. Further, he did not expect to find squirrels there when he arrived last Saturday evening.
The oldest son of Thomas Britton and Mary Winonah McCoy White, he was born on August 4, 1924 into the depths of the post-Reconstruction agricultural depression in Lee County, South Carolina. Thomas was an anachronism, and he allowed us to experience history with every story he told. Firmly rooted in the 20th Century, he was amazed by the changes he witnessed over his nine decades. He started life on the family farm, with no indoor plumbing, electricity or telephone, yet he ended his days with an Ipad, an email address, a Facebook page and his own Pandora account (with channels for Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Porter Wagner).
In between, he found his way to Clemson in the Fall of 1942 (his stay cut short by freshman calculus a poor bet on the Enlisted Reserve Corps in February 1943), married Isabel, his 4-H Camp sweetheart in May 1944 and travelled the world on Uncle Sam’s dime to such luxurious spots as Saipan and Iwo Jima.
Tom made his way back home in January 1946. He and Isabel set up house in Columbia while he attended USC on the GI Bill. There, they welcomed Faye to the family and, two years later, Tommy. Andy surprised them in 1960.
He tried his hand at farming again in 1949, thought better of it in 1950 and signed on at DuPont, where he remained until his retirement in 1984. He was very proud to have made it to Senior Design Engineer (thank you, Bruce) before the unwinding of the company. He was also greatly humored to have lived long enough for his retirement earnings to vastly eclipse those of his active employment.
His retirement years were filled with joy, spending time planting, hunting, fishing and piddling at the family farm with his grandchildren and friends, playing golf with his brothers and friends at the Camden Country Club, bridge with the Baxleys, Halls, Woolards and Richardsons and poker with his Third Monday Poker Club buddies Bill, Barney, John, Frank, Foy and Henry. He made it in time to join Al, Bill, Henry, Mel, Paul and Don for his best poker gathering yet on Monday evening.
Pop taught us to serve God, our families, our communities and our professions. He did so by word and deed. He and Isabel were faithful members of Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church – and the Wimberly Sunday School class – for over 65 years. He served as chairman, president or commander of most organizations he joined, but he was most fulfilled by his dual service as chaplain of his Masonic Lodge and American Legion Post, where he helped scores of his brothers and comrades find their way Home.
To Pop, family meant everyone from his parents and siblings and in-laws to aunts, uncles and his cousins. He could tell you his relationships down to third and fourth cousins – and their children. His extended family was spread across Lee, Sumter and Kershaw Counties as well as around the Country, and he cherished all of you. However, he was none too pleased with the burden of being the family patriarch, as that meant “you would be the next to go.”
He is survived by his wife of over seventy years, Fay Isabel Smith White, his daughter, Winonah Faye White Coan and son-in-law, Gilbert Fitzgerald Coan, Jr. of Brevard, NC, his oldest son, Thomas Britton White, III and daughter-in-law, Paige Randolph White of Long Beach, CA, and his youngest son, Andrew David White and daughter-in-law, Debra Stueber White of Lexington, SC. He is also survived by grandchildren, Thomas Britton White, IV, Amelia Coan Templeton, James Lawrence Coan, Andrew Stueber White, Benjamin Lee White and Lucas Aaron White and their spouses (and significant others) and five great-grandchildren. He dearly loved his surviving sisters-in-law, Salome White, Ann White, Marian White, Rouie Miller, Mary Alice Smith, Panagoita Smith and Ann Smith and his surviving brothers-in-law, Paul Smith and Bill Miller.
Pop was pre-deceased by “just about everybody else,” including his brothers, Averil McCoy White, Dr. Harold McCoy White and Maj. Lawrence Anthony White, USAF, Retired, and his dear friend, Marvin Cribb.
His funeral will be held at 3:00 pm on Sunday March 22, 2015 at Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church in Camden, SC, with Rev. Steve Patterson officiating and Rev. David Weaver assisting. The family will receive visitors at the church Fellowship Hall one hour prior to the service. Immediately following the service, everyone is invited to a celebration of his life at Four Boys Farm located at 643 Egypt Road near Camden, SC, where slightly over-cooked hot dogs will be served.