Dr. Watling died at home as a result of Merkel cell cancer.
He was born in St. Louis, MO, the oldest child of Elizabeth Rosebrough and John C. Watling. He grew up in suburban Webster Groves and graduated from high school there in 1943. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a B-29 Flight Engineer in Arizona and Texas from 1944 through 1945. Returning to civilian life, he attended Drury College, in Springfield, MO, and graduated in 1949 with a B.A. in Sociology. He was a tenor in the College Choir, played viola in the Springfield Symphony, was a member of the college Debate Squad, and the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
In August,1948, Tom married Sara Nancy Hasler, the daughter of Erma Hollingsworth and Eli M. Hasler of Springfield, MO. His career as an educator commenced in January, 1949 when he was hired in Lebanon, MO to teach high school English. Then, for two years he taught Junior High English and Social Studies in Springfield. Recalled to active duty in the U.S. Air Force in 1951, during the Korean conflict, he was assigned the position of Flight Engineer on a B-36 (the huge 10-engined bomber) and was stationed at the Strategic Air Force Base in Ft. Worth, Texas. Following that 18-month assignment, and a return to Springfield, he continued to teach junior high English and Social Studies. In 1955, he completed the requirements for a Master’s degree in Education at Drury College and, in September of that year, was invited to join the faculty at Drury as an instructor in English. The following year, he was appointed Dean of Men.
In 1967, after the completion of a doctorate in Speech/Communication at the University of Denver, CO, Tom accepted a position as Associate Dean of Students at Stanislaus State College in Turlock, California. The newest campus of the California State system at that time had only two buildings and a student population of almost one thousand. In addition to responsibility for student activities and housing, he directed the Career Planning and Placement program and inaugurated a Career Library. Later, he was appointed to the faculty of the School of Business, where he advised students, taught the writing class for MBA candidates, and organized a “Business Week” program which provided scholarships for 100 area high-school juniors, allowing them to spend a week on campus focusing on the requirements for successful business and professional careers and emphasizing the importance of private enterprise in the American economy. He spent some 21 years on the Cal State campus, retiring in 1988.
Tom was a long-time member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), and the Western College Placement Association (WCPA). He served as President of the Stanislaus County Personnel Management Council in 1975, President of the Rotary Club of Turlock, 1977-78, and President of the California Educational Placement Association (CEPA) in 1980. In 1984, he was elected President of the Phi Delta Kappa chapter (National Educational Fraternity) on the Stanislaus College campus. He was honored by the “Best of Turlock” program in 1988 as “Educator of the Year.”
Watling held membership in the American Legion, the Korean War Veterans, and the Nature Conservancy. He was a member of the Board of the Stanislaus County YMCA and the Turlock Corps Salvation Army. After his retirement, he organized a Salvation Army after-school mentoring program for youngsters, and for some ten years served as a tutor in the Stanislaus County literacy program. He was a member of the Board of the Yosemite Area Boy Scouts, and a proud recipient of the “Silver Beaver” award. A long-time member of the United Methodist Church, he was a teacher, choir member, and Lay Leader of the Turlock congregation. In addition, he chaired the District Lay Speaking committee, and was elected Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the California/Nevada Conference. For several years he served as Secretary of the Turlock Rotary club and was honored by being named a “Paul Harris Fellow”. Tom especially enjoyed membership in the Turlock “Knife & Fork” Saturday lunch club.
His major hobbies included classical orchestral and choral music, the study of Semantics and human communication, camping and hiking in the Grand Canyon, and the restoration and enjoyment of old cars. He belonged to both the Franklin Automobile Club and the Packards International Motor Car Club.
Dr. Watling is survived by his three children: Susanna (Robert Verkuyl) of Utica, NY, Tom Jr. (Diane), and Arthur John “Jack” (Denice) of Turlock. There are three grandchildren: Jaclyn Joy (Peter), Haley and Matthew Watling, and two great-grandchildren: McLane Joy and his sister, Remington. He is also survived by his sister, Barbara Kunkel, of Eagle, ID. His wife, Nancy, died in January, 2012. They had celebrated sixty-three years together.
A Celebration of Life service is scheduled for Friday, June 30 at 10:30 A.M. at the First United Methodist Church in Turlock, Berkeley Ave. at Arbor. The memorial service may be viewed on the church website: fumcturlock.org
Burial will be scheduled at a later date in Springfield, MO.
Memorial Contributions to the TURLOCK GOSPEL MISSION, 437 S. Broadway, Turlock, CA 95380, or the WE CARE PROGRAM, P.O. Box 1291, Turlock, CA 95381, are suggested.