THOMAS WYNNS GREGORY
1015 West 5th Street
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Thomas Wynns Gregory, 91, a lifelong resident of Halifax County, died at his home on Cedar Street in Roanoke Rapids early Friday, holding the hands of his beloved wife, Tina. Services will be at 2 PM, Saturday, June 15 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Halifax, with The Reverend Ben Duffey officiating. Burial will follow at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cemetery. A reception will follow at “The Pines”, 6755 Hwy 301, Halifax, NC.
"Tommy" was raised on the family homeplace north of Halifax, where his childhood playgrounds reached from Highway 301 through the pine-filled low grounds to the untamed Roanoke River, where he learned a love and respect for nature that influenced his entire life.
One of six sons born to the late Quentin and Nelle Haynes Gregory of Halifax, he was born on January 29, 1928, at the hospital in Richmond, Va., unlike his three older brothers, Quentin Jr., Edwin Haynes, and John Tillery who had been born in the family's hometown of Halifax. The story was told that "Miss" Nelle thought she'd change her luck by going to Richmond, and maybe get a little girl this time. But Thomas Wynns came along followed by (Dr.) Miles Cunningham and Robert Blackburn Gregory. Brothers John T. Gregory of Greensboro and Miles C. Gregory of Roanoke Rapids survive him.
Other survivors include his wife and devoted care-giver throughout his lengthy illness, Christina L. Gregory; his four daughters, Lyn G. Poythress of Roanoke Rapids; Janey M. Gregory (Ghany Belmaachi) of Indianapolis, IN; Mary Wynns Gregory (Carolyn Ogburn) of Marshall, and Nelle Haynes Gregory (Doug Keefer) of Asheville; and two step-children, Blair Smyth of Daleville, VA, and Sallie S. Cappellari (Ryan) of Roanoke, VA.
Also eight grandchildren: Jason Spivey of Rocky Mount, Ryan Spivey of Nashville, Kelley Poythress of Boone, Zakary Belmaachi of Seattle, WA; Maya and Quinn Keefer of Asheville; Melanie Smyth of Lynchburg, VA, and Banks Cappellari of Roanoke, VA.; and four great-grandchildren and hundreds of cousins, nieces, nephews and close friends who will miss him.
After attending area schools in Halifax and Weldon, he was graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA, where he was a student when his brother Haynes was killed in action during World War II. At the time of the funeral for his favored brother, his school was under quarantine for scarlet fever, and he was unable to come home to be with his family or to be consoled. This sorrow never left him.
Fifty years following his father's graduation in 1902, Tommy was graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of Zeta Psi Fraternity, as was his father. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force following his participation in UNC ROTC program.
During his summer jobs with tobacco companies, Tommy worked in South Georgia where he met the mother of his four daughters who also survives him, Jane Kelley Stephenson (Swain), formerly of Tifton, GA.
He returned to Halifax County in the mid 1950s and served as a vice president at the former Bank of Halifax in Weldon prior to the merger with Branch Banking & Trust Co. Later his interests included Christmas tree farming at the homeplace, The Pines, a labor of love that he shared with his good friend George "Buck" Holmes.
Tommy enjoyed a fairy tale childhood. His father, who had married late in life after spending years in China with British American Tobacco Co., even brought boxing gloves for his young sons to teach them sportsmanship while using up some of that youthful energy in a constructive and entertaining way. This sportsmanship training continued to influence him in many ways beginning with his high school years at EHS where he earned trophies in every sport offered at the school. His interest in sports never waned.
He knew the names of every tree and most wild growth in the lush low grounds between home and river, which he eagerly taught his children, some several times. This generosity of his time and his talents shaped the future choices made by the family, whether it was a surprise set of drafting tools to the daughter who'd become an architect or an appreciation for and love of trees and forestry to the son who's now a conservationist. He kept a garden into his late 80s and was famous for his brunswick stews which he'd make with its harvest. Woodworking began to replace most of his outdoor activities in his later years. He started making frames for Tina's art and continued by making beds and chests and tables for his entire family, as well as countless cutting boards for scores of folks. He wrote long, witty letters to his children their entire lives. He wrote his memoirs and gave copies to his children for which they are thankful.
Tommy was a positive person, a joy to be around, lighthearted, sincere and honest as they come. He was accepting, non-judgmental and always understanding and forgiving. A rare person, he was all these things and more. He had some faults but they are hard to recall. He loved his six children, adored his wife, and felt blessed to have been born in Halifax. As he wrote in the preface of his memoirs, "Ahhh, Halifax! First for freedom, first for fun!!! What a wonderful place to begin this life! Everyone should be so lucky! I was!! Tommy"
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Mark's Episcopal Cemetery in Halifax or to The Nature Conservancy Virginia.