Wilmington, NC-It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that the patriarch of our family, Thomas (Tom) Guthrie McMillan, passed away at his home in Wilmington, NC, late afternoon on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Tom is survived by the love of his life, Toni McMillan, his wife of 55 years this March; his five children, Antoinette (partner Fraser), Kathryn (spouse Sean), Laura (partner Brian), and Thomas; his 11 grandchildren, Toni, Claxton, Jack, Owen, Zack, Hayden, Ella, Kyle, Oli, Luke, and Taj; and his two brothers, Bill (spouse Frances) and Bob (spouse Tia). Tom was preceded in death by daughter Margaret.
Tom will be remembered first as a devoted and loving husband, father, coach and grandfather. He is also cherished as a friend, confidant, and colleague to so many in the Wilmington, NC and Charleston, WV communities where he actively served, as he also did in the Military (US Coast Guard).
Born on Jan. 10, 1941, and raised in Charleston, WV, to Owen and Kathryn McMillan, “Nana and Candy,” Tom developed many interests and hobbies. He grew up outside Charleston in Kanawha City on the Kanawha River and lived a childhood experience the locals referred to as a “River Rat.” He had many friends and grew up in a wonderful neighborhood. He played basketball locally at Horace Mann Junior High School, was active at Kanawha United Presbyterian Church and then attended Christchurch School on the Rappahannock River east of Richmond, VA, during his high school years.
After high school Tom attended Randolph Macon College where he was an active member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and completed his Bachelors degree in Business Administration. After serving in the United States Coast Guard Tom had a successful career in financial services where he established trusted advisor relationships with clients across firms, Kanawha Valley Bank, Prudential Financial and Merrill Lynch. His greatest life achievement occurred in 1964 when he met and fell in love with Antoinette (Toni) Thomas, and together they raised four children on Loudon Heights Road in Charleston.
Tom enjoyed nothing more than spending time with his family and was proud of their participation in the Charleston community. His nephews, nieces and friends of his children were over at the house and in the neighborhood often and they all developed an appreciation for Tom’s kind, caring and nurturing personality.
Anybody who knew Tom knew that safety was always top mind for him. His children and their friends still recall that the final advice he would shout as they left the house was always, “THINK!” It was so obvious that Tom had a gift of ensuring those around him knew that he genuinely cared about their well-being. Whether passing along an article, writing a thoughtful note or never missing an opportunity to ask about a detail others might overlook, Tom was able to express his love so naturally. So many of us were lucky to experience his influence.
In 2003 Tom and Toni bought a lot of land and built their dream house in Wilmington, NC, where they have spent the last 20 years enjoying family and friends in Landfall and the greater Wilmington community. They envisioned a life where they could walk on the beach together every day and attend the various school and social events of their grandchildren in Wilmington and Concord, NC. That’s exactly what they did! We can’t tell you how many times people around town would tell us, “We saw your Mom and Dad walking on the North End of Wrightsville Beach today!” They loved to walk from the Surf Club, where they have many friends and meals, to Mason’s Inlet, and back. And they always did it together valuing the lifelong friendship and interest in one another. Tom not only loved Toni, but was in love with Toni, and that was so evident. They gave us all something to aspire to and made our day!
Beyond the beach they could be found together at their grandchildren’s events where Tom loved being on the sidelines of the soccer fields, cross country and track meets, basketball, baseball and lacrosse games, tennis matches, the golf course, school events, graduations, Senior night, grandparents’ days, surf and wake boarding viewings – the list goes on! Tom loved participating in the, some would say immature, jokes and musings of his grandchildren. Nothing would make him laugh like a casual reference to a bodily function made by a grandchild! Tom also looked forward to meeting friends for meals and restaurants at Landfall and The Surf Club and homes around town and valued hearing the stories about life and career experiences of his contemporaries. He was very good at keeping up with his long time friends for his entire life, especially on the phone. Always close to his heart were his G.R.A.S.S. buddies.
As a brother, Tom had a deep admiration and appreciation for Bill and Bob. He valued his relationships with his brothers and what it meant to be a brother. The fondness and respect in his voice was obvious when speaking about Bill’s medical career and role with Coastal AHEC, and Bob’s business career and achievements with Anheuser-Busch. More important was the pride he had in their lifelong relationships with their spouses, their children, and grandchildren. Tom was so grateful to have been one of three brothers and never took this dynamic for granted. It’s taught us all what it means to be a true brother, whether by blood or friendship.
We cannot honor Tom without talking about his experience as a volunteer. He was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Downtown Wilmington, NC, past President and member of the Rotary Club of Charleston, WV and served on the board and as the President of the Holowell Foundation in Lewisburg, WV. Tom could often be found on the sidewalks helping the Salvation Army and many other charitable events organized by Rotary. He was also a U.S. Coast Guard Hospital Corpsman First Class. He donated his time and energy to many events as a member of the New Hanover Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) – which was right up his alley! If you knew Tom, you knew that his first concern in any situation was the safety of all those around him. He wasn’t alive if he wasn’t worried, that’s just the way it was. Nobody was more prepared for the famous “Y2K” nonevent. Tom procured a 500-gallon drum for water and enough provisions and emergency kits for his extended family to survive Armageddon for many years. Some would say that was a waste of his time. Tom would tell you his family was safe no matter what and that’s all that mattered! There are countless other examples and that’s why we loved him.
Finally, although Tom loved the beach, he never lost his love for West Virginia. An avid sports fan of both the Mountaineers of WVU and the Thundering Herd of Marshall University, Tom had an interesting way of cheering for his teams. He would talk them up, read and research the players and the staff, banter with anybody who would listen about those Mountaineers. But when it came time for kickoff or tip-off, Tom was nowhere to be found. Whether it was superstition or that the games made him so nervous that he couldn’t bear to watch, Tom didn’t watch! He would get the updates from others and then start preparing for the next game! After moving to Wilmington Tom also adopted the UNCW Seahawks and loved attending basketball and soccer games on campus – for some reason he could bear to watch those, maybe the love/hate relationship wasn’t as deeply rooted?!
We loved him dearly and will miss him desperately. It brings us all peace and a big smile to know that Tom is now having a drink and a cigar with those that have passed before him. Worry no more, rest and relax as you deserve. Your legacy will be carried on with honor, grace, much love and humor!
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, a memorial gift honoring Tom can be made to either the United Service Organization (USO) (USO of North Carolina, 600 Airport Boulevard Suite 200, Morrisville, NC 27560 www.uso.org/donate/donate-in-honor (do not press on the red DONATE button in top right corner, scroll to bottom for memorial contribution) thank you!) or St. Therese Catholic Church. (St. Therese Catholic Church, 209 South Lumina Ave., Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480)
There will be a Celebration of Life Service for Tom on Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Kenan Chapel in the Landfall Memorial Gardens (address 510 Arboretum Drive, Wilmington, NC 28405).
Miseris Succerrere Disco!
The McMillan Family