Colonel (Deacon) Tom C. McConnell

14 March, 194628 September, 2021

Thomas Craig McConnell, 75, known affectionately as COL Mac or Deacon Tom, went home to be with the Lord Tuesday, 28 Sept 2021.

COL Mac, a native of North Carolina, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1968. His 26-year military career as a Signal and Aviation officer included combat in Panama, national/international/joint/allied overseas assignments in Germany, Korea, and The Netherlands, company and battalion commands in Germany, and assignments in Washington, D.C. on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon and as an Intragovernmental Fellow with the FAA. The colonel earned an MSBA from Boston University and graduated from both the Armed Forces Staff and Army War Colleges.

After military retirement, the colonel began a 24-year career in secondary education where he served three years at Central High School as Senior Army Instructor and twenty-one years as Hamilton County's Director of Junior ROTC and the Department of Defense Coordinator of JROTC for the state of Tennessee. He was ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church in 2007 and served at St. Jude and at the Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul in Chattanooga, TN.

Earned specialties include Ranger, Airborne/Jumpmaster, Senior Aviator, Air Traffic Control and Management, Joint Command and Control Planning and Operations. Awards and decorations include Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award and the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge.

Civic awards/activities include International Biltmore Who’s Who Registry of Education Executives and Professionals, Who’s Who Among High School Teachers, Jaycees Outstanding Young Man of America, 2010-2011 JROTC Director of the Year US Army Cadet Command; served as an Officer or Director on the Boards of the Military Officers Association, Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association, West Point Alumni Society of Greater Chattanooga, Tennessee Community Resource Board, Freedom Foundation, Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition, Chattanooga Area Veterans Council, and Kiwanis International where he was named a George F. Hixon Fellow; served as a member of the John Sevier Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, Navy League, Military Order of the World Wars, Association of Graduates U.S. Military Academy, Clan Donald Society, Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Guild, Walden Club, Valley Brook Golf and Country Club, Charter Member of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, recipient of the US Army Signal Regimental Order of Mercury, inducted into the Mount Holly Athletic Hall of Fame, and was a 3rd Order Dominican.

In addition to his responsibilities in public education, COL Mac also served as Military Chairman of Chattanooga’s 70th Armed Forces Day Parade, as the Coordinator of West Point Admissions for Tennessee’s Third Congressional District, as well as member of the Congressman’s Military Advisory Committee; and Deacon Tom created & directed Prison Ministries for the Chattanooga Deanery of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Brenda Hart McConnell; two daughters in Chattanooga, Mary Catherine and Margaret Ann; two sons, John David in Florida and Mark Christopher in Virginia; three granddaughters, Sophia Marie, Ella Rose, Cecilia Marie, and one grandson Aedan John.

Mr. McConnell will lie in state from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. with a Vigil Service at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, 8 Oct 2021, at the Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul with Deacons Armor Hicks, and Gaspar DeGaetano officiating. The Requiem Funeral Mass will be Saturday, 9 Oct 2021, 11:00 a.m. at the Basilica with Father David Carter officiating. A Private Burial with military honors will be Monday 11 Oct 2021, 10:00 a.m. at the Chattanooga National Cemetery for family and church clergy.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 214 East 8th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402.


  • Basillica of Staints Peter and Paul Catholic Church


  • Body to Lie in State

    Friday, 8 October , 2021

  • Vigil Service

    Friday, 8 October , 2021

  • Mass

    Saturday, 9 October , 2021

  • Committal With Full Military Honors

    Monday, 11 October , 2021


Colonel (Deacon) Tom C. McConnell

have a memory or condolence to add?

George McConnell

10 November 2021

To my Big Brother-

Paul Jette

7 October 2021

Our deepest condolences for the loss of Tom. Deepest appreciation for my involvement with prison ministries because of Tom.
Prayers for you and the family during this time.
Paul and Vicki Jette

Sacha McGowan

6 October 2021

Col McConnell, my hero. Col was my JROTC instructor at Central High School and continued to be an inspiration well into adulthood. So many funny stories I can think of that make me laugh over 25 years later. One story is that he came to Central right after retiring from the military. Going from soldiers to high school kids would have been quite a challenge for most, but he took it all in stride. He was constantly having to run cadets out of his office because he didn’t have room to work in his tiny office, but cadets just gravitated toward him as he was a natural leader with teenagers. I remember he had a tiny white Geo Metro economy car, and cadets would pick it up from his parking spot and sit it on the sidewalk- he thought that was hilarious. I remember him dancing the Macarena at our military ball with the other instructors, seems like he lost a bet with cadets possibly but it sure was funny. I was the first female battalion commander at Central High School in decades. When I nervously told him my junior year I wanted the role, he absolutely supported me and instilled so much confidence in me to pursue my dream. Col. loved a good practical joke. Many years later (probably 15 years after I graduated), Col. would get his car worked on at my husband’s auto shop. Him and my husband devised a plan to tell me he had picked his car up and it had broken down. He called me asking what I was going to do, that he needed towed and he was in Kentucky broke down. I called him back and he was hysterically laughing, as he and my husband had really got me good. Col. McConnell pinned my brother’s 2nd LT bars on him when he got his commission in the Army during his pinning ceremony at MTSU. I know my brother was so proud to have his hero share this honor with him.
Col. absolutely helped shape me as a person, and I am forever grateful for his caring nature, service to our country, and his humility and humor.
Many thoughts to Brenda and his entire family


6 October 2021

On behalf of the entire JROTC family, Colonel McConnell will be missed! His contributions and successes are too numerous to mention.

LTC (Retired) Bill Brooks

Hans Rose

3 October 2021

I had the pleasure of getting to know Col. McConnell when we taught together at Central High School. He was one of the absolute nicest, most professional persons I have ever worked with. I saw him about town on several occasions after I left Central and he would always make sure to say, “Hi” and we would catch up a little. I am so sad to hear of his passing. Please know that his family will be in my prayers.

Evelyn Potts

2 October 2021

My memories of Deacon Tom are that he was a very kind and thoughtful man. He was well loved by those who knew him and willing to help in any way he could.
He will be missed. I will keep him in my prayers and pray through the intercession of St. Dominic for the repose of his soul.
May he rest in peace.
Brenda, his wife, was always kind and thoughtful. She, too, will be in my prayers.

Donna Rice

2 October 2021

I just loved COL Mac! I worked in the Army JROTC Headquarters as the Chief of Education when his predecessor retired. COL Mac invited me to attend the retirement ceremony and I stayed with him and Brenda in their penthouse. They were so welcoming and sincere. He was also instrumental in changing the direction of the curriculum by allowing me to hold a Developing a Curriculum (DACUM) workshop with cadets who had recently graduated. They helped us to weigh different parts of the curriculum according to what served them the best while they were in school and afterward. Though I have not seen them in years, I will miss him terribly and hope I have the opportunity to see Brenda again soon!

Mechtild Boles

30 September 2021

Dear Brenda & Family,

"For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. '” — Jeremiah 29:11.

I know that you and your family will miss Tom and lament that he was taken from you prematurely. I especially feel your pain. I will remember him as a generous, cheerful Christian who was good to people and also to me.
It would have been nice if he could have stayed around, but God thought that he had toiled enough and took him home where there are no more hardships and tears. God had a great plan for him. He will be with Him now in heaven. A place where he will live forever. A place that we all long for. He just got there a little earlier than we expected, and he is waiting now for his family to join him in Eternal Happiness. This is our faith. Tom is in good hands; He is now in the hands of God.

Brenda, I am so sorry for your loss here on earth, but you can look forward to a life again with Tom in Eternity where every tear will be wiped away.

In Sympathy,


MSgt Doug Burhans

30 September 2021

I am heartbroken! Colonel Mac had a huge impact on me getting hired at Hixson. He supported me through my quest to improve our JROTC program.

I now have the honor and opportunity to mentor his granddaughter, as she is a Cadet in our program.

Colonel... I miss you already!

Hunter Ware

29 September 2021

I always had what I thought was a special relationship with uncle Tommy. We were the only ones from our extended families who served, aside from his father and my grandfather, his name sake, Tom McConnell. He went to West Point, I went to Annapolis, separated by 25 years. Maybe you can imagine the loving rivalry that followed from that, a soldier and a sailor constantly bragging about who would win the football game this year.
We would have our annual bet, and it was always an expensive bottle of whiskey. He was such a gentleman, always paid his debts, and I reciprocated in kind.
The first year that we ever bet, and before we had upgraded to whiskey, he won my United States Naval Academy bathrobe. I always smile when I think of the picture he sent of him lounging in it, like a king standing over conquered territory.
Later, he sent me what would become one of my prized possessions: his class jacket from West Point with his graduation year in blazoned on the chest. It was so “old-school cool“. I wore it one year when I was still in school, during “beat Army” week, and I felt like the coolest kid on campus.
He was one of the funniest guys I knew, Quick with a joke and a smile, and he and Brenda always made me feel welcome at their home. He has always had a heart for service, and so it was no surprise when I learned of his leadership role of the local junior ROTC unit.
I will miss him a lot. I will remember him always.
I love you, Uncle Tommy.

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