Thomas R. Elkinton
April 15, 1946 – May 11, 2019
Thomas Richard Elkinton
Thomas Richard Elkinton was born in Seattle, Washington, April 15, 1946, to Richard and Elisabeth (Robertson) Elkinton. The family lived on Bainbridge Island for a while before moving to the mainland. There Thom fell in love—with machining—during a Puyallup High School shop class. Not long after graduation in 1964, Thom joined the US Air Force and requested machining as his career field. Instead he was assigned to aircraft maintenance to work on ejection seats. During two tours of duty in Vietnam, he likely became exposed to Agent Orange, which would have a disastrous effect on his health decades later. After four years of active duty, Thom went to work for Kaiser Steel, in California, as a journeyman machinist. In 1970 he attained a Certificate in Machine Shop Technology from San Bernardino Valley College. But then, restless and unsettled, he decided to reenlist, this time with the Navy Seabees. Thom actually hoped to go back to Vietnam; instead he was sent to Midway Island. There, Thom’s life changed dramatically one night, when his Chief explained to him the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shortly before midnight, February 18, 1973, Thom prayed his first prayer, and the tremendous weight of sin was lifted from him. During his next deployment, to Puerto Rico, Thom was mentored by Frank Hooper, a superb Christian pastor, who encouraged Scripture memorization and modeled personal evangelistic outreach. At this point, Thom’s ability to bring God’s Word into conversation began. Over the years he has amazed family and friends with his ability to recall pertinent verses and bring his testimony into a conversation with someone he has just met. After four years with the Seabees, in 1974, Thom enrolled at Western Bible College and served as freshman class president. His interest in Christian missions was kindled at this time. His interest in machining was also renewed. From 1978 to 1989, Thom worked with the Martin Marietta Astronautics Group (now Lockheed Martin), in the Prototype Development Shop in Denver, Colorado. Thom steadily advanced from Research and Design Technician to Senior Engineer, fabricating everything from models and mockups to satellite flight hardware. Some of his completed parts were used by astronauts during space walks. During that time Thom attended night school at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO, attaining an Associate Degree of Applied Science and Mechanical Design Technology. He also earned Colorado State teaching credentials and taught classes in Industrial Arts. In 1989, Thom moved to Bozeman, Montana, and worked for Midwest Industries, setting up and running their machine shop and welding equipment. Two years later he was hired by Big Sky Laser Technologies to set up, program, and run machinery to develop and produce mechanical parts from CAD drawings. As the manufacturing consultant for the engineering department, Thom’s metal-crafting skills were put to use in creating newly designed parts for the emerging field of laser technology. Thom’s military career continued from 1984 to 1992, with the Colorado Air National Guard and then the Montana Army National Guard. He was an honor graduate of the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy, achieved the rank of Technical Sergeant, and over the course of his military service was awarded 18 medals and ribbons. In 1999, Thom experienced a call to dedicate his skills and time to the Lord’s work. This led him to leave Montana and move to North Carolina. As a volunteer machinist at the JAARS Center in Waxhaw, Thom created tools and replacement parts for mission aircraft. These planes can take off and land on short jungle and mountaintop strips, enabling Bible translators to reach isolated people groups in remote areas of the world. Thom also traveled to some of those areas on short-term trips to help in various practical ways. Missionaries in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Bolivia, Mozambique, and Ethiopia sent letters of appreciation for his many acts of service and financial generosity. Eventually, Agent Orange caught up with Thom. For more than 11 years he battled Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Lymphoma, through various chemo and drug therapies. But Thom was not one to quit; he continued to honor God to the very end, in response to his life verse: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). Many people from the JAARS community and local church benefitted from Thom’s expert and willing service. With his Bobcat equipment, Thom cleared land and created driveways. Occasionally he trailered his Bobcat and went elsewhere. He dug a cattle pond for his good friend George in Montana; he assisted victims of Hurricane Katrina; and he helped clean up after the tornado in Joplin, Missouri. For several years Thom taught adult Sunday school at Waxhaw Bible Church. He also served as an unofficial elder and wise counselor to men, both within and outside of church. He led some men to the Lord and mentored others. Many people considered Thom their good and trusted friend. But none were loved by Thom more than his own family, especially his wife of nearly 19 years, Kristin, and his children: Beverly, Gabriel, and Joseph. Thom was lovingly proud of his grandchildren: Courtney, Keaton, Abigail, Joseph, Gabriel, Grace, Judah, Silas, and Jonathan. And his love and kindness extended to his step-children, Heather and Brian, and their children as well: Simeon, Micah, Dalton, Dylan, and Elizabeth. He also leaves behind his brother Ben, his Aunt Joy, and several cousins. We who are left behind are sad over the loss of Thom from our lives. But we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope,” for we know we will see him again one day. Meanwhile, we’d like to imagine he is busy grading streets of gold or some other meaningful work for the Lord. Perhaps one day soon, we will see Thom with the saints who will come riding on the clouds when Jesus returns for His church.
- Memorial Service Monday, May 20, 2019