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Thomas Berlien McCray passed away peacefully at home on Oct. 31. He had recently celebrated his 103rd birthday. The third of four children of Clara Enzminger and Robert Berlien McCray, Tom was born in Columbus, Nebraska on October 14, 1912.
After graduating from Kramer High School, Tom attended Doane College in Iowa, but withdrew when his father’s plumbing business failed during the Great Depression. It took Tom eight years to gain his Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University because he supported himself by playing the piano and accordion in traveling dance bands.
After graduation, Tom was drafted into the U.S. Army and served until the fall of 1941. He was recalled to active service several weeks later, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After attending officer candidate school, he trained with the 329th Fighter Group in Santa Ana. It was during a leave in San Francisco that he renewed his friendship with childhood friend Betty Gregorius. Friendship turned into love. He married Betty on April 8th 1943 in Alameda. Tom and Betty lived on Lido Isle, Newport Beach, until Tom was deployed to England in 1944, where he served as adjutant of the 479th Fighter Group. Tom returned to the United States in 1946, reacquainted himself with Betty, and met his first son, Tom Jr., who was born while Tom was serving overseas.
Tom and Betty settled in Long Beach, and Tom found employment with the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office. He achieved the position of Senior Building Appraiser, one of only four in the County.
The family was blessed with a second son, Robert, in 1949. The Air Force retained Tom in the reserves until 1977, at which time he had achieved the rank of Colonel. That year, Tom also retired from the County Assessor’s Office.
Tom and Betty moved to San Clemente, and spent the next 30 years traveling in Europe and all across the Midwest visiting relatives. Tom enjoyed his role as the piano playing, partying patriarch of the extended family. Between trips, Tom relaxed by playing golf at a high level into his mid-‘80s, and gardening past the century mark.
Tom is survived by his beloved wife of 72 years, Betty, his sons Thomas and Robert, his grandchildren Ryder, Katie and Glenna, and many beloved nieces and nephews.
A memorial mass will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church at 105 North La Esperanza, San Clemente, CA, followed by a reception. Donations in Tom’s memory may be made to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church (www.OLFChurch.net) or Disabled American Veterans (DAV) (www.dav.org). To leave condolences for the family, please visit www.lesneskimortuary.com.