2019 Grand Marshal

Tom Tomlinson named Grand Marshal for St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade

By Greta Guest Rubello

Thomas Tomlinson, a World War II and Korean War veteran, will lead the 67th annual St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade as its Grand Marshal on May 26.

Tomlinson, 94, a U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant, was chosen by the St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade Committee for his long record of service to his country and to his community where he has lived since 1955.

“We are excited to continue the tradition of honoring veterans in our Memorial Day Parade. Mr Tomlinson is part of the Greatest Generation, who liberated millions of people and established America as the industrial power of the world,” said St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby. “I am thrilled to have Mr. Tomlinson as our Grand Marshal.”

Tomlinson was wounded in both wars and earned two Purple Hearts.

Cheryl Furdos, parade chairwoman, said: “Mr. Tomlinson is an outstanding example of what we look for in a Grand Marshal. He notably served his country then returned to serve his community and help his fellow veterans. This is someone we can all look up to and we are grateful to be able to honor him in the 67th Memorial Day Parade as we thank him for his service.”

Tomlinson was born and raised in Detroit. During his senior year at Denby High School, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He left school at 17 and joined the Marine Corps. He was shipped out by cattle boat from California to New Zealand. From there, was sent to Japan where he served with the 2nd Marine Division, his family said.

He served during the World War II Pacific campaign on Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa, and finally in the occupation forces in Nagasaki after the second atomic bomb was dropped. He earned his first Purple Heart during the fighting on Saipan.

At the end of the war, Tomlinson returned to Detroit, got married to high school sweetheart June, and started a family. At this time he was a reservist with the 1st Marine Division. Shortly after his return to civilian life, North Korea crossed the 38th parallel to South Korea… the beginning of the Korean War. Tomlinson was called back to service.

When he arrived in Korea, he was immediately sent north to the Chinese/Korean border, and fought at the Chosin Reservoir, known for the brutally cold conditions. He was awarded a second Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War.

Once home, he and June moved their family from Detroit to St. Clair Shores. Here he continued his service to the cause of veterans. He became a local, state and eventually national vice commander of the Disabled American Veterans. He was also an active member and service officer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bruce Post, Chapter 1146, for over 30 years.

“My dad was a serviceman. He served his country. He served this city. He served Macomb County,” said his daughter, Cathy Tomlinson Wood. “And most importantly, he served the veterans throughout his life.”

Wood said her father attended Michigan State University for a year before going to work at Michigan Bell, now known as AT&T. He retired from the company in 1989.

Tomlinson also served as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs for Macomb County. He lobbied in Lansing to secure funding for veterans from a state fund. He also served as a multiple term St. Clair Shores councilman in the mid-1960s and then went on to serve as a Macomb County commissioner.

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Flanagan of the U.S. Marine Corps, who grew up with Tomlinson’s son said he learned about right and wrong and integrity from Tomlinson. Years later, Tomlinson would pin two silver stars on Flanagan’s collar during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“Tom represents so much of what our country stands for. He asks no recognition for his service, like so many Americans who served in the armed forces,” Flanagan said in a letter recommending Tomlinson for Grand Marshal. “He will represent all veterans with pride and dignity. He will represent all that is good about America.”