“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold all things are become new.” II Corinthians 5:17
Tomme (Thomas) E. Jackson of Evansville, formally of Owensboro, KY, took his final journey to be with our Lord on the 22nd day of January, 2020 at 12:23PM. He was 63 years old. Tomme was a member of Vineyard Community Church where he reveled in the thought that he was most likely the only blind Church Greeter in Evansville. People who knew him would ask how he knew them, and he would reply, “by your shadow.” Even while he was in pain, he had a smile and a hand-shake or hug for all who came in, and a joke for the pastors, encouraging words for others, and love for everyone, especially the Lord.
Tomme is survived by his wife of 39 years, Connie “Babe” (Grubb)Jackson, and children, Nathanael Jackson (Debbie), daughter Allana, Leanna Hughes-McDaniel (Clint), daughter Emma, all of Evansville, and Marcus Denton, our “second son,” of Newburgh. Also surviving are his Mother, Ruby Jackson, Sister Elizabeth Lewis (Bruce), Brother William Jackson (Patricia) all of Owensboro KY, Becky Tonini (Dan) of Independence, MO, Barbara Morris (Rusty) of Washington, IN, nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his Father Sidney R. Jackson, brother Freeman Jackson, and sister-in-law, Sandy Jackson.
In 1995, Tomme earned an Associate Degree from California College of Respiratory and was a licensed Respiratory Therapist Practitioner in Indiana. He furthered his education at the University of Southern Indiana and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and an Associate’s Degree in Sociology. He was also inducted into the Who’s Who in American Teachers, which honors the top 100 teachers in the country, from 2004-2007, and was also inducted into Who’s Who Among Respiratory Therapists. Tomme also received a Teaching Certificate from the Evansville/Vanderburgh School Corporation and taught medical classes at Indiana Business College in Evansville and Daymar Community College in Owensboro, KY. He worked at Deaconess Hospital for 15 years before going into teaching. But his biggest accomplishments were his commitment to the Lord and his family.
Tomme loved the Lord with all his heart and was always ready to share praises about how God had changed and blessed his life. He loved to pray for people and our ministry for the last nine years has been hospitals, doctors’ offices, labs and anyone who was in need of prayer. Tomme was the epitome of II Corinthians 5:17. His old man was buried the night we went to ER and discovered he had cancer. At that time he said, “Lord, I give up; I’m yours. Do with me what you want.” And oh, the change in him. He had been saved in 1980 before we were married but hadn’t completely yielded his life to the Lord and he struggled with his faith. It was because of the diagnosis of cancer that Tomme turned his life completely over. I won’t say this cancer journey has been easy, and there has been much pain and many tears. But he would always turn his focus back to Jesus to get him through the rough times. Once he asked God, “Why me Lord? He said God spoke to him and said, “why not?” He recognized that he was allowed to go through this in order to cause him to turn himself completely over to God and to be a living testimony for Christ. His absence will leave a huge void in our hearts as well as our church family, and a multitude of friends. His faith was amazing and he has ministered to friends and strangers alike. He simply wanted others to have the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) like he had, which comes only from asking Jesus to be Lord and Savior.
As our family shared with each other, each of us had sweet/funny memories. Nathanael remembers his Dad bringing him magnets from each state he traveled to on one of his earlier jobs. His plan was to make a map of the U.S.A. for Nathanael. We can’t forget Ren and Stimpy and the “cat hair balls,” which Nathanael loved but made Tomme and I sick to our stomachs. Nathanael just laughed at us. Tomme stood in line at 6AM for 3 hours once to buy Power Ranger tickets for Nathanael’s birthday. He was second in line. They also got front row seats to a WWF Wrestling event, and Tomme came home almost deaf, but Nathanael loved it. On the way home, they stopped at a fast food restaurant to get rib sandwiches. They were so bad they threw them out!
Debbie was fairly new to our family when, one day while it was raining very hard, he asked her, “if the outside is inside, does that make the inside the outside?” It blew Debbie’s mind and she walked out of the room. Because Tomme loved to tease people, later he again asked Debbie the same question with the same reaction and she would walk out of the room. She later realized teasing was Tomme’s way of accepting her into the family. Through the years, as they got to know each other better, love seasoned their relationship, and it became very precious. They’ve shared tender words with each other, and Debbie knew he loved her unconditionally.
Leanna fondly remembered Tomme carrying her through the entire Fall Festival because she was too sick to exert herself. He doted on her. She also thought of the excitement he always showed when he cared for Ali and Emma when they were babies and even until his passing. “For such a big man, he was so gentle with them,” she reminisced. On the lighter side, when Tomme and I were first married Leanna loved to comb his long hair and put bows and barrettes in it and put nail polish on his toenails. Breakfast was another memory, and it upset Tomme no end because Leanna would eat pizza for breakfast. “Pizza isn’t a breakfast food,” he would quip. Leanna won out and later Tomme realized it was no big deal. But he was a “new” Dad and didn’t understand.
All of us remember the “bad Dad” jokes, which we now miss hearing. They were often met with groans they were so bad. Ali and Emma just rolled their eyes, but they loved the jokes, and PopPop. Now we each come up with a joke or two, but it’s not the same. Yet we have another Dad, Nathanael, who has picked up the tradition which, he says, makes him feel old.
Tomme quickly found special nicknames for both girls. Ali was Bougs; Emma was Turtle. The names stuck and have to this day. While living in Owensboro, Bougs would visit on weekends. Our backyard was huge, so we got a pool, two climbing forts and a swing set and named it “Ali Park.” On Sundays at 6AM, Bougs would wake up, and PopPop would take her out to swing because she loved it so (even when it was cold). Then he would bring her in and I would get her ready for church and we’d all have breakfast together before heading out. Ali and Pop shared the scripture, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13), and Ali would remind him of it when he needed strength in a crisis and it has given her purpose and a closeness with him.
Emma, being younger than Ali, spent a lot of her early years propped on his lap, playing, singing and talking about bugs or anything else that came up, eventually falling asleep on his chest. As she grew, she often did the same bows and barrettes thing with his hair, except now his hair was well thinned out. When Emma was saved a few months ago, Pops gave her this scripture: “Love the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) After Tomme died, Emma read a scripture in Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” What a Hope.
Both Bougs and Turtle remember telling PopPop to keep growing his goatee because they wanted to dye and braid it…and they did. Pink the first time and turquoise the second. Then they would cut it off. He also let them put stickers on his arms or belly and pull them off and laugh when he cried ouch! Our church family loved the love he gave to his Bougs and Turtle and how far he would go to show them his love. Not only his beard, but also his hair–or shall we say wigs. Can those who knew Tomme picture him in a long blond wig? Or a blue Coraline wig? And who would sit through hours of Sponge Bob, Blues Clues, Fairly Odd Parents, Bubble Guppies and Barney, but a PopPop who adored his grandgirls. He was putty in their hands.
Marcus and Nathanael are still best friends. When he lived with us, for about 4 years, they would scuffle and sometimes fight, just as blood brothers do. We became like parents to him and love and corrected him just as we did Nathanael. We have a standing joke with him about his shoes. Enough said. He has always loved Tomme and considered him his Dad. What an honor for Tomme.
What I remember is the deep tenderness with which he treated me, and one that came out of a hard life and has been used to glorify God. His commitment and love first for His Lord and Savior, and secondly, his love for his family and friends, touched our lives in so many ways he will never been gone from our hearts. One of my fondest memories was us sitting on the porch while it rained and thundered. It gave us peace. Now the rain comes from our eyes as we each remember a larger than life man who made it his purpose to give unselfishly no matter what the cost, and loved unconditionally so the light of Christ shown to everyone.
We would like to thank all of our Vineyard family and Tres Dias families for their visits, love, emotional and spiritual support, help and prayers during Tomme’s sickness and after Tomme’s Home going. Also a special thank you to Heart to Heart Hospice for their compassion and support. We were so blessed by you. Thank you to our many friends for the love and prayers, including his ROTC high school friends, and my on-line Prayer Team who shared in my struggles, as they cried, supported and rejoiced with me when Tomme walked into the arms of Jesus.
At his request, Tomme was cremated and his body will go back to the dust God used to create Adam. But his spirit? Oh, it is rejoicing, and I imagine him running into the receiving arms of Jesus, then bowing before Him in awe. Tomme now rests in peace with His Lord and Savior. No more pain. No more sorrow. Just pure joy. And he can see perfectly. Yes, our lives have been richer because he lived. He will be sorely missed, but we have all been blessed beyond measure with his presence. Go with God, my Love. You are forever in our hearts.
There will be a Celebration of Life at a later date to be announced.
Simple Cremation Evansville was entrusted with his care.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21a)
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”(I Corinthians 15:55); “But thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (15:57)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7-8)