Tommy L. Armstrong
June 22, 1931 – January 3, 2020
After a brief illness, Tommy L. Armstrong laid his head to rest for the final time on January 3, 2020. His was a long and purposeful life that began in rural Texas, included experiences around the world and came to a peaceful end in southwest Florida.
Beckville, Texas claims this native son, who was born there on June 22nd of 1931. At the ripe old age of 17, he left his parents and sister Hazel to join the U.S. Navy and began a 27-year voyage aboard ships such as the USS Norris to ports of call all over the world. Heavy machinery was his world when he was embarked, but that gave way quickly to his home life ashore. He met and married Shirley Garell in 1952, when he was assigned to the Navy base at Newport Rhode Island, and together they raised three sons: Ronnie, Tommy and Kyle. His rural Texas roots showed wherever they were assigned, as Tommy planted acres of vegetable gardens and occasionally filled chicken coops.
Philadelphia Naval Station was where Chief Armstrong retired and became Mister Armstrong. He spent many years in that area, settling on Somerset Road in Deptford, NJ and lending his heavy machinery expertise to Will’s Eye Hospital. His boys went on to careers in firefighting, culinary arts and carpentry. Assured these now grown men were well-established, Tom and Shirley moved to warmer climes in Lehigh Acres, Florida in late 1980s. Vegetable gardens gave way to tending a small citrus grove in the backyard, hosting family and friends in the shade of those trees on the lanai and occasionally working in a local pool maintenance company. He was an immediate and passionate Florida Gators fan and hosted many years of family visits for Red Sox spring training.
When his world was rocked by the passing of his beloved Shirley, Tom settled into a quiet bachelor existence until his misfortune was completely reversed. Divine intervention brought him the gift of new love, in the form of fellow church member Betty Middleton.
They married in a quiet ceremony at dawn on the lanai in Lehigh Acres, counting their lucky stars that they had found a second soul mate, later in life. In many a year to follow—especially in May—Tom and Betty took to the road in their van, meandering from Florida to Omaha, Nebraska, to visit Betty’s four daughters who live there and to attend the College World Series that’s played there each June. Lately they’ve stayed closer to home, relishing the love and support of Betty’s daughter, Bonnie who lives in Fort Myers, and reminiscing about days they spent traveling the US, hosting family and for Tom, recalling how the salt from sailing the high seas never completely left him.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Betty Armstrong; his son Ronnie from Woodbury, NJ; his sister Hazel (still living in rural Texas); stepdaughters Bonnie Bridges, Becky Ficenec, Barbara Parry, Brenda Cupps and Beverly Becker; and many loving grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Graveside services will be held at Hodges Funeral Home at Lee Memorial Park, 12777 State Road 82, Ft Myers, FL 33913 on Friday, January 24th at 11am.
For information, please call 239-334-4880.
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Hodges Funeral Home at Lee Memorial Park
12777 State Road 82