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The Last Sortie

Thomas S. Potts, 777th

11 July 2011


   Thomas S. Potts, age 92, passed away on 11 July 2011. He was born in Litchfield, Illinois, on 29 November 1918, to Marie Capitola Jordan Potts and John R. "Jack" Potts.
   He is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Betty Potts; sons, Thomas G. Potts and wife Karen of Tulsa, OK, Robert W. Potts and wife Marcy of Chandler, OK.; grandchildren, Kari Potts Dawson and husband Dr. William Dawson of Charlotte, NC, David Potts and wife Jenn of Tulsa, OK, Laura Potts Warde and husband Chris Warde of Stillwater, OK, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Potts and wife Lin of Pensacola, FL; and great-grandchildren, Hank Soule of Charlotte, NC, and Megan Harrison of Tulsa, OK.
   Tom was a career Air Force officer, and his Air Force service record is a source of pride to his family. He entered the US Army in the summer of 1941 in the infantry and later as an aviation cadet. His leadership ability was quickly recognized, and he was commissioned as a Second Lieutentant.
   During World War II, Tom flew 33 aerial missions in a B-24 Liberator Bomber in the Rome Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Air Combat Balkans, and North Apennines Campaigns. His duty stations included Italy, Japan, Hawaii, and numerous USAF bases within the continental United States.
   Tom's fine military record and dedication to the mission of the Army Air Force and, subsequently, the Air Force was recognized with the following decorations and awards: Silver Star, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters.
   After Tom's retirement from the Air Force, he worked as a civilian employee for the Air Force in various jobs for the next twenty-two years at Tinker AFB. Tom was known for his outgoing personality, engaging smile and hearty laugh. He was an active member of the Tinker AFB Chapel for fifty years, the Order of Daedalians, and Kiwanis International.
   Tom and Betty enjoyed the frequent reunions of his 464th Bomb Group and his own aircrew until he was "the last man standing."
   Tom was an avid golfer, tennis player and reader. He loved reading to his sons when they were little with himself in the middle and one boy on each side. His greatest joy was his grandchildren with whom he continued his tradition of reading aloud with one grandchild on each side and himself in the middle.
   Tom could "figure out" how to repair almost anything around the house or in his workshop where he and son Bob tinkered with many cars. The favorite by far was the vintage white Cadillac with red interior and a "Boomer Sooner" horn. Tom enjoyed driving this crowd-pleasing car in numerous local parades.
   The entire family treasures our memories of all Tom's wonderful stories, his love for and wonderful marriage with Betty, and all the values he taught and instilled in us. His wonderful smile, sense of humor, and laughter will always echo in our hearts.
   In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the American Cancer Society. Funeral service were held Saturday, 17 July 2011, at 10:00 am, at Advantage Funeral Home, Mid-Del Chapel, 415 North Air Depot Blvd., Midwest City, Oklahoma, followed by committal at Arlington Memory Gardens.
   (Ed. note: Laura Potts, Thomas' granddaughter, shared this newspaper clipping from the Evening Independence, 4 May 1945 as a .pdf file (1.11 MB). (The newspaper and blog links will each open in a new window, close that window to return to this page.) Laura also told me about her blog, "The Angry Historian":
   " Here is one of the last conversations I had with my grandfather. I asked him about a 1944 black and white photo on his desk, where he and his crew were sitting at a bar in Italy: http://theangryhistorian.blogspot.com/2010/12/link-to-our-past.html."

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