Thomas “Terry” Watson age 71 born in the city of Philadelphia, PA on January 2, 1948 to Thomas J. Watson and Grace A. Janalunas, passed from our ranks in Gilbert, SC after a long illness.
In 1948 the Watson family lived on spring Garden St. then Green St. in Philadelphia before moving to Pam Springs, Deptford Twp. Tom was an adventurer and loved the woods and being outdoors. His favorite childhood passions were baseball and fishing, and he played in the Deptford Twp. Little League program for 7 years He attended Deptford Township schools and graduated from Deptford Twp. High School in 1966 as the “Most School Spirited” male student, was a member of the student council, lettered in Freshman Football and Junior Varsity Basketball. During high school he worked after school, weekends and during the summers at the former Gaudio’s Brothers Garden Center in Woodbury.
Wanting to pursue a career in law enforcement Tom enlisted in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps on October 3, 1966 attended basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ and the Army Military Police School at Ft. Gordon, GA. In early 1967 his first duty station was with the 2nd MP Company, 2nd Infantry Division in northwestern South Korea. In Korea at the age of 19 he was too young to qualify for Officers Candidate School and based on his enlistment examination scores was offered an appointment at the U.S. Army West Point Military. Wanting to serve as an enlisted man he graciously turned down the appointment. He was assigned to patrol duty at Camp Custer and later transferred to the Security Platoon at division headquarters, Camp Howze. After 11 months Tom volunteered for duty in Vietnam and reassigned to Bravo Company, 720th MP Battalion, 89 MP Group, 18th MP Brigade located at Long Binh in III Corps Tactical Zone in Bien Hoa Province of South Vietnam in March 1968.
At the time Bravo Co. was assigned to “Operation Stabilize” a counterinsurgency pacification mission. His first assignment was as a member of a liaison team living and working with village Popular Forces Platoon in Long Hung, then transferred and promoted to corporal as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the liaison team at Long Binh Tan until July 1968 when he was reassigned as a squad leader of an ambush and reconnaissance team until March of 1969. On February 23, 1969 he was recommended for and awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor during the Post Ted Offensive of Long Binh.
Tom finished his enlistment with the 559th MP Company at the Army Continental Command HQ in Ft. Monroe, VA wan was honorably discharged on October 2, 1969. His other awards consisted of the Army Good Conduct, National Defense Service, Armed Forces Expeditionary, Vietnam Service with silver-star attachment, Vietnam Campaign and South Korean Defense Service medals, and the Army Meritorious Service Unit Citation and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation ribbons. He credits his 3 years in Military Police Corps as the foundation of his successful civil law enforcement career.
Upon his discharge Tom found employment with Gaudio’s Brothers, then Piper Construction while applying for police work with various local municipal departments.
In April 1970 Tom married Virginia Donapel who was also a graduate of the class of 1966. They made their home in Deptford raising a son and daughter. That same year he joined the Glassboro Police Department as a patrol man and after two years was promoted to detective. After 7 years he left Glassboro and joined the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office as a County Detective working in the Major Crimes-Homicide Unit for eleven years before being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant of Detectives and assigned as the supervisor of the Special Investigations Unit and newly formed Countywide Narcotics Task Force. After several years he was appointed to the rank of Captain of Investigators as the Operations Officer and later appointed to the rank of Chief of County Investigators. Tom retired from law enforcement on December 31, 1996. During his career Tom was awarded the Wound Medal and received numerous commendations and letters of appreciation from the citizenry and other law enforcement agencies. Tom served as an officer in several regional and statewide law enforcement organizations and was a Lifetime Member of Gloucester County PBA Local 178.
A year later Tom and Virginia moved to McCormick, SC for the low tax rate, small town atmosphere and warmer winters where they lived by Clarks Hill Lake for over 17 years. His time was spent outdoors landscaping, gardening and fishing. During this time Tom joined the 720th MP Battalion Reunion Association, served as its Vice President then President for 11 years, and its history project manager for 15 years. It was during this time he authored and published two books- Vietnam Journal “The 720the MP Battalion at War” and Vietnam Journal “Operation Stabilized.” In 2015 they moved to Lake Murray in Gilbert, SC.
Tom’s mother and father preceded him in death and he is survived by his loving wife of 49 years, Virginia Donapel-Watson, a brother Jana D. Watson, sister in law Joan of Pitman, NJ, a sister Gail A. Watson-DeVault of Mullica Hill, his son Thomas T. Watson, Jr. of Deptford, his daughter Lisa A. Watson and her partner Edward Hartzel of Horsham, PA and a grandson Ritner Thomas Hartzel.
There will be no visitation of funeral. Tom’s wish was to be cremated. His family will host a “celebration of his life” at a future date. All of Tom’s friends, coworkers and acquaintances are invited to attend.
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