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Remembering Tom Garner

By: President Matt Proctor

Memo to the Ozark Family:

Some of you may have already heard the bittersweet news that Tom Garner, a member of our IT Department, passed away last night at Freeman Hospital. We are grateful that Tom has now been relieved from years of health challenges and received a “rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). But we are also deeply saddened at his absence.

Every day, as I walked past Tom’s office on the way to mine, I saw in his window a picture of young Tom in Vietnam in his army fatigues. “Service” seems a fitting word to describe Tom. After serving our country in the Army for 35 years, Tom and his wife Liz served as dorm parents in both Alumni and Strong Halls. Tom also served for a time as our men’s soccer coach, and throughout his tenure, Tom served in our IT Department, writing software. (After the May 2011 tornado, he quickly wrote a program to schedule the use of our dorm rooms for 3000+ volunteers that summer.)

In fact, when I think of Tom, the phrase “service with a smile” comes to mind because of his joyful attitude, even in difficult circumstances. He was a big, burly ex-military man (my kids—who’ve been in multiple OCC musicals with Tom—say he was always cast as a policeman), but people never felt intimidated by Tom because of his humor, laughter, and every-ready smile. He was a gentle soul, and his service was always given in that spirit of Christ.

Tom’s family was with him last evening, singing “Amazing Grace” as he was ushered into heaven, and though we will miss him, we rejoice because of Tom’s “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3). I assured his wife Liz that the Ozark family would keep their family in prayer. (Tom’s grandson Zach just enrolled as a freshman here at Ozark this fall.) Please join me in thanking the Lord for Tom and asking God to give the Garner family his strength, comfort, and peace.

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