Thomas Eugene McDonald served in two wars, helped launch countless successful careers, and positively impacted the lives of all who knew him by the time he went home to be with the Lord on February 27, 2021.
“Tommy” (as his parents and close cousins of the Figart and Bland clans called him) was born to Kenneth Scott and Ella Bland McDonald in Red Fork, Oklahoma on November 28, 1933. Regardless of the success he accumulated, he remained a West Tulsa “River Rat” until the day he died, insisting on keeping his roots firmly planted west of the Arkansas River.
After graduating from Daniel Webster High School, Tom joined the United States Navy. By age 19, he’d completed flight school in Pensacola, Florida, and qualified for aircraft carrier landings. Flying F4U Corsair, Catalina sea planes, DC-3, DC-4, DC-6, and other aircraft, Tom served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Tom began his first family with a young mother and her daughter, Allyson, whom Tom adopted and raised as his own. Soon after, Tom welcomed his first-born child, Douglas McDonald, in 1960.
While serving in the U.S. Naval Electronics Lab, Tom studied mathematics at San Diego State University, then graduated from the University of Tulsa. A born innovator and inventor, he was among the first engineers to write classified computer software for submarine sonar and anti-submarine warfare. Many of his engineering innovations are still in use in some form today.
Tom retired from the Navy with the rank of Lt. Commander in 1974 and launched a successful career as an engineer.
He grew his family by five children when he married Miyoko Sasaki Marler in 1978. They and a handful of Tom’s fellow engineers turned the lemon of corporate downsizing and layoffs into the lemonade of Unicorp Systems, Inc., an operation that would employ and enrich hundreds of professionals and stimulate the sagging economy of Tom’s old West Tulsa stomping grounds. Dilapidated, eyesore properties reemerged as successful centers of commerce, and Tom and Miyoko’s shared dream helped plant the seeds of success for all who shared their journey.
Tom and Miyoko traversed the world together - by planes, trains, ships, and automobiles. They were constantly off on some new, well-deserved adventure, until Miyoko’s body and Tom’s mind would no longer allow it. By the time he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, Tom already knew his memory was fading. He had the foresight, strength, and dignity to voluntarily surrender his airplane and vehicles, and to entrust his care and freedoms to the children he had sacrificed and cared for so long.
The pain of losing his beloved Miyoko in 2015 was only assuaged by advancing dementia. But even as his mind surrendered the last of his memories, Tom maintained his dignity, his sense of wonder and gratitude, his sense of humor, and his love for life. Until the end, he was stimulated by the mere mention of Miyoko, his children, grandchildren, and “puppies.” (Anyone who knows Tom and Miyoko, knows they named every dog “Puppi”.)
Tom gave generously to others, whether family or friends in need, his West Tulsa alma mater, the Miss Oklahoma Scholarship Program, or other worthy causes. His contributions and achievements were only matched by his humility and grace. Never one to toot his own horn, Tom was happiest when basking in the glow of those he loved – many of whom survive him to continue his legacy of kindness, decency, and generosity.
Tom is survived by his children, Allyson McDonald, Doug McDonald, Janice Vanek and husband Steve of Dallas, TX; Cyndie Marler of Santa Fe, NM; Kimberly Stevenson and husband Paul of Dallas, TX; Tami Marler and husband Danny Elliott of Coweta, OK; and Charles Robert “Chuck” Marler II of Tulsa, OK. Those who called Tom “Grumps” and “Grandpa” are Keegan Romo, Harmony Romo, Devin McDonald, Michelle McDonald, Travis McDonald, Andrea Hansen-Phillips, Adam Hansen, Tim Humphries, Macullen Nadurak, Kymberli Heckenkemper Tinervia, Grant Heckenkemper, Cole Heckenkemper, Charles Robert “Chaz” Marler III, Shane Marler and Channing Wannemacher. Great-grandchildren including Presley Lewis, Ryan and Aria McDonald, Tommy Hansen, Allie Hansen, Jack Phillips, and Harrison Phillips.
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