On Tuesday, May 15, 2019, Tom Jones, loving husband and father of two children, and grandfather of one passed away, at the age of 78. Tom was born on October 1, 1940 in Beaufort, North Carolina to Ruth and Paul Jones. He married Jacquelyn Young in 1962. They reared two children, Christy and Paul. Tom received his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University in 1962. He later obtained his master’s degree in aerospace engineering and was employed by NASA from 1962-2001.
At NASA, Tom was a significant contributor to various successful space research projects. As a structural analyst, he worked to assure the integrity of several important scientific spacecraft. This work involved the design, development, analysis, testing, and integration of structural components and systems. In addition to managing development efforts, he served as a valued mentor to young engineers. He played key roles in his work on the space shuttle. Tom was the project manager in the development of the Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE) during the late 80’s and early 90’s. HALOE was one of ten atmospheric science experiments launched aboard the Upper Atmospheric Satellite in late 1991. Tom was also key contributor to the CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) experiment, which was a joint effort with France. Although complex, in simple terms, this experiment is primarily a study of the clouds and atmospheric aerosols and their role in affecting the earth’s weather. As always, he had a foresight into the future to see the effects of what global warming and other climate changes could have on the future of this planet. The experiment was launched in 2006 and is still collecting information today in orbit. For years at NASA, the joke was, “If Tom Jones is not in his office, he is receiving an award.”
Tom was very unassuming about his accomplishments at NASA, and most people, including his family, did not know the extent of them until his passing. In contrast to being an unassuming rocket scientist, everyone could tell that he was impassioned by his role as a grandfather. Tom is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jackie, two children, Christy and Paul, granddaughter, Abby, siblings, Paula and Robert, and multiple nieces and nephews. He died in his home with his family around him after an almost two-decade battle with Parkinson’s disease, which he fought courageously and with great dignity.