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Nature 36

Thomas S. DeLong

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Thomas Stover DeLong, 98, of Sinking Spring, passed away peacefully in his apartment at Keystone Villa of Ephrata May 29, 2019. He was the devoted and loving husband of almost 68 years of Ann (VanOrder) DeLong. 

Born in Burlington, Iowa on February 4, 1921, Tom was the son of the late Charles Aubrey and Mary Eve (Hassinger) DeLong, who moved to the Forester’s Cottage at Nolde Forest, Cumru Township when Tom was a youngster. He is a 1939 graduate of Shillington High School and remembers fondly his three-mile round-trip walk with his sisters from Nolde’s to school.

After graduation, Tom left Berks County for Duke University in Durham, NC where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry. While at Duke, Tom was elected President of his fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma.

He was called to active service in 1943 and commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Force. He spent six months in intensive training at Yale University in New Haven, CT to become a Cryptographic Security Officer, then deployed from Los Angeles on the retrofitted Queen Elizabeth II which carried over 5000 service men to India.  Tom completed his military duty at Army Air Force headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1946, returning via the Port of New York City. Tom fondly remembers running to the top of the troop ship to be one of the first to catch sight of the Statue of Liberty.

Tom returned to his studies of Forestry at Duke University and was awarded both his masters and his doctoral degrees (Ph.D.).  Following his commencement at Duke, Dr. Thomas S. DeLong returned to Berks County, having purchased his parents’ farm in Brecknock Township. He commuted to Harrisburg to work for the Forest and Waters Dept. of the State of Pennsylvania as the Supervisor of all Pennsylvania’s state tree nurseries until his early retirement in 1977. 

In addition to his full-time job in Harrisburg, Tom and his wife owned and operated DeLong Christmas Tree Farm, founded in 1941.Tom was active in the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association and was proud of his twenty-five year business relationship with Longwood Gardens that resulted in the farm’s largest (up to 30’) trees being professionally decorated in Longwood’s annual Christmas display.

When he retired from the day to day operation of the family farm in his seventies, Tom founded an internet start-up company and named his company Tom DeLong Books.  His interest in antiquarian books was focused on western writers, primarily Zane Grey. Tom was one of the early founders of the Zane Grey West Society. Tom also maintained a booth at Heritage Antiques in Adamstown, Lancaster County and set up at Shupp’s Grove for many years.

Tom was a member of Immanuel United Church of Christ, Shillington and enjoyed presenting a Fraser Fir to his church each Christmas season. He was also a Friend of Nolde Forest www.dcnr.pa.gov participating in their monthly book club well into his 90’s.

In addition to his wife, Tom is survived by his children: daughters, Jean DeLong Custer, Sinking Spring; and Nancie DeLong Minicozzi, wife of Rick, Mohnton.  Two grandchildren: Heidi Lee Minicozzi and Robert Thomas “R.T.” Custer; and four great grandchildren: Kira Ann Sell, Connor Thomas Sites, SawyerThomas Custer, and Wesley Everett Custer (born Memorial Day 2019).  Also surviving is a sister, Janice Diehm, Wyomissing, and eleven nieces and nephews.

            A memorial service for Tom will be held Saturday, June 22, at 11a.m. at St. Peter United Church of Christ,1920 Ridge Road, Pottstown, PA 19465. Tom’s oldest daughter, The Reverend Jean DeLong Custer will officiate. See www.stpeterucc.org for directions to the Chester County church. The family will receive relatives and friends in the church sanctuary from 10a.m. to 11a.m. for visitation.  Interment at Wyomissing Cemetery will follow at a later date.

            In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Tom DeLong’s memory to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, 1700 Hawk Mountain Road, Kempton, PA 19529 (hawkmountain.org), or the Disabled American Veterans (DAV.org) 3725 Alexandria Pike, Coldspring, KY 41076.

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