Thomas Wayne (Tommy) Foley was born August 16, 1949 to Jim Oliver and Ruby Jane Durant Foley. He was born at home (the old Richter place) in Jewett.
Tommy passed away on October 5, 2020 at the Temple Veterans Hospital due to respiratory and cardiac complications with Covid 19. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Phyllis, four children: Carla Foley and husband Kevin Hanz, T.J. Foley and wife Debra, Steven Foley and wife, Alissa Bjerkhoel and Carmen Foley. Grandchildren are: Charlotte Hanz, Caroline Hanz, Emma Matchett, Audrey Foley, Everly Foley and Cruz Foley. He is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Jimmy and Jean Foley, sisters and brothers-in-laws: Judy and Wayne Cullefer and Alisa Foley and Mike Stevenson, brother-in-laws: James Ainsworth and Jeff Speer (Robin). Uncle: Joe Durant (Lois). Nieces and nephew include: Jamie Watson (Mike), Connie Spence (Charlie), Tina Clark (John), Kelly Theis (Jeff) and Taber Foley (Katie).
Great-nieces/nephews are: Jessica Turner (Kevin), Corby Watson (Lindsey), Clayton Watson (Melissa), Ceanne Waldrip (Ben), Jimbo Spence (Courtney), Charlcee Spence (Alex), John Clark, (Brittany), Tomas Clark, (Megan), Cody and Kevin Blakeslee and a host of other close friends and family.
Tommy was preceded in death by his parents, Oliver and Ruby Jane Foley, and nephew Jim Kinard Foley.
He lived in Jewett with his family until moving to Clute, Texas. Then the Foley family moved back to Jewett in 1963 when Tommy’s Dad became disabled. He and his brother Jimmy worked for Elvis Story at the Buffalo Auction Sale from the time he was 12 years old to help support their family. As a teenager, he worked in the watermelon fields, hauling hay, cutting wood and any other jobs available. Tommy attended Junior High and High School at Leon.
After high school in September 1969 he received his invitation from Uncle Sam to serve in the US Army. He trained at Ft. Bliss, Texas, Ft. Huchuca, Arizona and Germany. After he got his orders for Viet Nam, he came home for a few days. He tried to see all of his relatives to say his goodbyes and made a special trip to see his great uncle, Billy Durant in Jewett. His Uncle Billy gave him a metal horse shoe and told him to put it in his billfold and bring it back to him when he returned home again.
From 1970-71 he was educated to a new way of life in Viet Nam. He served in Da Nang, Chu Lai, Siagon, Central Highlands, Hawk Hill and many others that I can not remember. He was assigned to the Infantry division. Having lived the country life, growing up in the woods, hunting deer, squirrels, coons and being a good shot with his rifle helped tremendously. Many of his buddies were city boys and had no survival skills. Tommy was a good leader and had control of sixty men when they went “out into the field.” He could talk them into doing just about anything but made them do nothing.
On July 26, 1970, he received the Bronze Star Metal for distinguishing himself through meritorious service in connection with military operations against hostile forces in Vietman. The metal adopted in 1944, recognizes outstanding acheivement. Spec. Foley received the award while assigned as a Cannoneer in Battery C, 3rd Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Division 82nd Artillery.
When Tommy returned from Viet Nam one year later, he visited with his Uncle Billy who was very ill. He removed the horseshoe from his billfold and gave it back to his uncle. Uncle Billy held it and told Tommy that since it had brought him back home safely, that he needed to just keep it. Uncle Billy died the next day. Tommy never took the horseshoe out of his billfold except when he needed a new billfold. The horseshoe made an impression that could be seen on all of his 501 Levis left side back pocket. All of the kids knew about the horseshoe but he never took it out for show.
A couple of months after Tommy came home from Viet Nam he received a Polaroid picture of a large building with a big sign on it that read: “Fort Foley”. The fort was named by those men that he had taken care of. He was very proud of that picture because in 1971 to take a picture in the field and get it mailed was not an easy chore. He was very proud of his military service and life time friends that he made there. He remained friends with Mike Downing from Michigan. Mike came to Texas in the late 70’s for a visit.
His favorite Viet Nam story to tell was that he was chosen to escort Miss Texas, Bellinda Myrek on August 17, 1971. Miss Texas and Miss America, Phyllis George, came with the USO Mrs. America Show to Saigon. She gave Tommy her name place card with a wonderful note on the back that read, “Hi, Tom. To the nicest escort I’ve had yet. May God bless you always. Hurry home soon. Be good. Love ya, Bellinda Myrek, Miss Texas, August 17, 1970-71.
Next August will be the 50th Anniversary of the show and Tommy had already said that he wanted to reconnect with her if possible. As fate would have it, we were able to locate Miss Myrek via Facebook and have been exchanging text with her.
After returning home from his military service, Tommy worked at Baskins’s Lumber Yard in Jewett building houses with Lynn Rogers. His next job that he loved was cowboying at Granda Ranch and worked with Curtis Neyland for four years at Leon County Precinct 4. He was a Master Mason of the Jewett Masonic Lodge # 427 and a Charter Member of the Jewett VFW Post 3542. Tommy served as Quarter Master of the Post the first year that it was established.
In 1981 he got a job for Nucor Steel. He began in the roll mill but soon made his way into the maintenance department. He took pride in his work but always managed to have fun and lots of friendly conversations while there. He loved the idea that he cleaned the Scale Pit on an ancient piece of equipment and he thought that there was no one that could do the job as good as he could. In 2000 Tommy suffered his first heart attack but returned to work and was able to continue doing his job. His second heart attack was in 2001 and he reluctantly retired with 20 years service from Nucor. On good days he tried to help his oldest son, T.J. who was venturing into the hay business. In 2007 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had one third of his lung removed. The doctor said he was lucky that it was carcinoid cancer, the “good” kind. His next major problem was squamous cell cacinoma of his larynx (throat cancer). He had surgery at the Dallas Veterans Hospital on Christmas Eve and ended up with his first removable trach. After a couple of years the cancer returned and he was told that they could not do anything for him so Dr. Nolan Shipman, ENT in Bryan, made several calls and helped Tommy get into MD Anderson in Houston. In June 2011 the family traveled to Houston for extensive surgery that was supposed to last some twenty hours with Dr. Randall Weber, head of the Head and Neck Department. They began surgery but after accessing the severity of the disease, there was nothing that could be done. The family was told with radiation and chemo, he may have six months to live. Treatments began with many problems and sickness. He was on a feeding tube for two years but he was determined that one day he would be able to eat a steak at the Brandin’ Iron Café. During this time, he also had been scheduled for open heart surgery but ended up with a total of nine stents in his heart.
When he went to sleep for his last time, Tommy had been cancer free for over nine years. He had the opportunity to love and enjoy six grandchildren whom he adored.
Tommy was known for his great personality, generosity and helping everyone who needed anything including strangers on the highway. He enjoyed telling jokes, hugging all of the “good –looking” women and aggravating his grandchildren/ nieces and nephews. He spent many Saturday nights at the Elkhart Horse Sale with James Ainsworth, his brother-in-law and best friend. In his younger days he introduced Phyllis’s little brother, Jeff Speer to work hard. He was an expert with a chain saw and could cut and deliver a cord of wood in one day with Jeff’s help to stack the brush!
Tommy and Phyllis were married on June 16, 1973 after she graduated from college. He always said that he needed to make sure that she could make him “a good living “before he would marry her. One of Tommy’s favorite bedtime stories to tell was the story of The Three Little Wells. One night when Phyllis couldn’t sleep, she asked him to please tell her a bedtime story. He asked her if she had ever heard the story of The Three Little Wells. She said that she had not so he began the story: “Well, well, well, go to sleep! And laughed!
They began their family in 1978 and had four children. He worked extra hard to make sure that there would be money to send them to college so that they could get a good education. After his work day ended each day at Nucor Steel, he hauled a load of gravel in his Pumpkin Orange dump truck to make extra money. Everyone knew and recognized Tommy and his orange pumpkin.
Tommy and Phyllis had a wonderful marriage and tried to be good examples for their family and friends. He was one of a kind and will be missed by all who knew and loved him. May God Bless and Keep him in His loving arms forever.