Thomas Paul Hancock, 85, of Niceville, Florida passed away on January 9, 2023 after a brief illness. Tom was born on January 7, 1938 to Samuel and Olga Hancock of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. A testament to the belief that it takes a village to raise kids, a kind benefactor provided a “scholarship” to the local YMCA to encourage Tom’s natural athletic abilities. After graduating from Richland High School in 1955, Tom was off to bigger things at Penn State University, courtesy of the USAF ROTC program. While studying Engineering, Tom played varsity basketball for the Nittany Lions, where his claim to fame was a feature photo in Jerry West’s “Mr. Clutch: The Jerry West Story.” If you spent any time with Tom, you know he was proud to point out that he was “in the book." Incase you didn’t know, Jerry West is the profile in the NBA logo still used today, and he played for rival West Virginia University. In 1957, Tom met Jeanie Grosh in English Literature class where he asked her to take notes for him due to his traveling with the team. Tom, knowing a good thing, swept her off her feet and married her the week of graduation, with his degree in Mechanical Engineering. Keeping his promise to show her the world, Tom, now a 2nd Lt in the US Air Force, took Jeanie to Nouasseur Air Base in Morocco, Africa. He spent 22 years on active duty traveling from Savannah, Georgia to Lubbock, Texas, where he earned his Master’s degree. He was stationed at Wright Patterson AFB where he spent years on the testing and fielding of the F-15 Strike Eagle. He continued to support the F-15 as the Air Force’s Program Integrator at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, Missouri. Tom’s final active duty assignment was at Eglin AFB, Florida where he retired in January 1982 and made a permanent home in the Shalimar/Niceville area. Tom continued his service to his country with an additional 23 years of Civil Service. He led the Air Force’s mission to add GPS accuracy to test, training, and fielded weapon systems. In his final project before retiring, Tom was instrumental in the success of AMRAAM’s production and fielding.
As a continuation of his program management mission and his love for children, Tom volunteered for years to judge Okaloosa County Science Fair projects. For years, he passionately led the National Defense Industrial Association’s scholarship program, paving the way by reviewing hundreds of teacher submitted Science Technology Engineering and Math proposals to enable the furtherance of STEM to the next generations. He proudly presented $100,000 in grants to local teachers.
As an example of Tom’s love of life, he participated in a team-building event where a square dance caller provided an evening of entertainment. Tom and Jeanie were hooked! They made lifelong friends as they traveled the US to visit state and national conventions and festivals. They even danced on the Capitol steps on one of those trips. Tom was always one to embrace leadership challenges. He was instrumental in securing a building for the dancers and served in many capacities from local club president to state insurance officer.
Tom’s natural leadership abilities were also present on the golf course where he showcased his ability to work a room. He could make business happen while playing a round with his peers or his superiors. He proudly ran multiple “gaggles” for several decades as he was never too busy for golf or his friends. Honorably, the “Hancock” gaggle will live on as a sign of their admiration.
Tom continued his love and support for Penn State by holding office in the local Penn State Alumni Association.
Tom’s greatest joy was his family. He and Jeanie enjoyed an active life and raised three wonderful children – Dennis, Stacey, and Lori. Even better, he loved, spoiled, and cheered for his six fabulous grandchildren and the five who were added through marriage. In the past 14 months, he was blessed with two adorable great-grandsons. His children were constantly amazed at his ability to attend every event, concert, play, track, and swim meet across two decades. He offered to chauffeur and judge field events when an extra set of hands was needed. As a true sign of love, he cheered for each of the kids college football teams (unless of course, they were playing Penn State).
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Samuel and Olga Hancock, older sister Donna (Hancock) and her husband Bob Gregory, and brother-in-law, Al Fronzoli. He was also preceded in death by his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Omer and Margaret Grosh. Tom leaves behind his loving wife of 62 years, Jeanie, son Dennis and Susan Hancock, daughter Stacey and Michael Hughes, and daughter Lori and Scott Ratliff. Surviving family includes sister Beverly and Harry Pontius, sister Sharon Fronzoli, sister Marcia and Lawrence Byrd, brother-in-law Richard and Donna Grosh. He is also survived by grandchildren Daniel and Elizabeth Hughes, Marisa (Hancock) and William Kortbein, Kristen (Ratliff) and Ian Tully, Ben Hughes and his fiancée Taylor McGlone, Jonathan and Jordyn Ratliff, and Tessa Hancock as well as great-grandsons Adam Kortbein and Wesley Tully. And can’t forget the six grand-dogs and one grand-cat. He was also a wonderful uncle to eight nieces and nephews and a truly great-uncle to fifteen great-nieces and great-nephews.
Friends and family thought Tom was one of those people everyone liked. He was funny, never met a stranger, and left people feeling good they had met him. His family could be heard telling folks that "if you met Tom Hancock you would always remember him." He was gracious and thankful for all of his blessings and naturally cared for people.
The family would like to recognize and thank the amazing care teams at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center’s ER and CVICU, with a special shout-out to Patrick and Carlee in the ER and Ken, Brittany, Audrey, Ashley and Tim in the CVICU. The team led by Helena, Antonio, and Carlee were loving, compassionate, and will be forever be in our hearts for their treatment of Tom in his final hours.
In honor of Thomas Hancock’s 45 years of service to our country, the family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to either the Tunnel to Towers Foundation or the Wounded Warrior Project.
Wounded Warrior Project
7020 A.C. Skinner Parkway, Suite 100, Jacksonville FL 32256