3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Friday, August 21, 2020
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La Habra, California, United States
Obituary of Thomas Michael Springston
Tom Springston: A Love for Flying Anything that could Fly (11/1/1945 - 7/30/2020) Tom was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia on November 1, 1945. His father was an Air Force Pilot, so he grew up with a love for planes. With a draft card in his pocket, he volunteered to be a helicopter pilot. He loved flying helicopters. He began his time in Vietnam performing medical evacuations and was subsequently transferred to a gunship platoon in Da Nang. He was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. After his tour in Vietnam, he was stationed in Germany for a year. He was given the choice to return to Vietnam or to leave the military. He chose to leave. He moved to Reno, Nevada, and enrolled in college at the University of Nevada at Reno, on the GI bill studying Medicine. While still in college he opened a free baby clinic at Stead, Nevada, and joined the Army National Guard flying helicopters. He also obtained his fixed-wing airplane license and flew the mail at night from Reno to Las Vegas. In 1980 he returned to his love of flying with a full-time contract for the forest service to fight fires in California. As part of his transition into the Forest Dept, he went to Bell helicopter training in Galveston, TX, and flew Medivac for them. When the fire season was over, he took a contract flying helicopters to offshore rigs and flying swing loads for several oil companies in Southeast Asia. When the oil business in Southeast Asia began to decline, he took a new contract in Santa Maria, CA allowing him and his family to return to the USA. His duties there included managing the air station and ferrying oil rig crews. His next contract was with AirSpur ferrying passengers between LAX and surrounding airports. In 1984 AirSpur discontinued their helicopter transport business and Tom began flying passengers to Catalina from San Pedro, took a short firefighting contract in Alaska, and then flew for Caltrans during the Los Angeles Olympics. Seeking longer-term employment he responded to a job posting for a manager pilot position with a private company in Long Beach. Over time his duties expanded and he was promoted to Vice President. By then he was running operations so his flying time became so limited that he ceased to be able to stay current and stopped flying for them altogether. After almost 10 years with the company, he decided to go back to college to finish his bachelor's and Master’s degrees alongside his son at Chapman University. He started a small business providing embroidery and promotional products and was even awarded a patent for a velvet bag he designed for Patron Tequila. Although he had not been able to make a living flying for almost 20 years, he still yearned to fly again and give back his knowledge to others. He discovered a way to do exactly this with the Experimental Aircraft Association. At EAA, he learned how to fly a glider and worked with their scouts' program. He met many other pilots and made many new friends. He eventually bought 2 partnerships in airplanes and was very happy to be flying regularly again. He really loved to fly. At 71 years old he saw an opportunity to fly a King Air for the Cal medfly program. He took his flight medical and started training to fly another type of aircraft on a flight simulator at home and at Cypress College. Everything was going great! Then he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, an incurable lung disease with a prognosis of 3-5 years. Idiopathic is used to describe a disease when the cause is unknown. Tom believed strongly that his disease was caused by Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. He started a long fight with the VA to acknowledge this and eventually gained support from an independent physician assigned to him by the VA. We currently know of only 2 other cases where the government has acknowledged Agent Orange as causing IPF in a serviceman resulting in death. His wife continues this fight. Tom learned of a promising new drug currently in phase 2 of clinical trials. He worked with a local Pulmonologist to get a test center approved in California that will give hope to others with this disease in the future. Tom is survived by his wife Laura, a daughter Michelle, a son Robert (Bobby), 5 grandchildren, his mother Martha, his 2 sisters Carole and Jacque, and his brother Karl. And a very large extended family and his many friends. Tom will be forever missed by all who knew and loved Him...
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