Thomas Lawton Cronley
March 25, 1932 – November 18, 2020
Thomas Lawton Cronley, born March 25, 1932 in St. Louis and a resident of the Atlanta area since 1960, passed away at his home on November 18. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary Ann, six children, ten grandchildren and four great granchildren.
Tom spent his childhood in the Ladue and Brentwood communities of St. Louis. His father James Richard Cronley died in 1948, leaving a 16 year old boy alone with a mother who had never worked outside the home. His three older brothers Jim, Jerry, and Bob, married and on their own, were of limited help, so Tom went to work to keep he and his mother in a home. Despite having to work, he still graduated from St. Louis University High School, then earned a B.S.E.E. degree from St. Louis University. He continued to assist in his mother’s support until her death in 1985.
Growing up during World War II, young Tom was fascinated by planes built at the McDonnell Aircraft plant in St. Louis, producer of some of the nation’s first jets. His father had a long Army career spanning the first World War, and all three brothers served in the Navy during the second World War. Because of spinal injuries as a passenger in an auto accident, Tom was unable to serve in the military. He pursued a career in aviation.
Tom married Mary Ann McCullom in St. Louis on January 29, 1955. They soon left for Tom’s new career with Sperry Gyroscope (eventually part of Honeywell and now Lockheed Martin), a pioneer in aircraft autopilots. He trained in Long Island, then moved to Patuxent River, MD, then the Los Angeles area, where he worked as a field engineer on Douglas Aircraft. From Los Angeles he also did work at Fort Huachuca, AZ. They started their family as the first two children were born in California.
Sperry assigned Tom to work with Delta Airlines, who used their equipment on the earliest passenger jets, and moved the family to Atlanta. After several years there he joined the growing Lockheed Aircraft, working on the C-141, C-5, C-130J, Advanced Radar Test Bed, and many other programs. After taking an early retirement, he continued to work after his retirement as an expert consultant on various contracts with D.C. area contractors as well as Lockheed.
Tom loved his six children and was deeply involved in their lives: Matt Cronley, b. 1958 (Laurie); Ann Piazza, b. 1959, mother to Ruth Siddiqi, grandmother to Pari Siddiqui, mother to Joyce Gallagher, grandmother to Bayden and Jaylen Foster, and Thomas Hanley, mother to John Piazza (Sarah) and grandmother to Owen John Piazza; Joe Cronley, b. 1961, father to Joseph, Francis, John and Zeke Cronley; John Cronley, b. 1963 (Mary Ann), father to Charlotte and Camille Cronley; Catherine Cronley, b. 1966, mother to Ryan Cheeks; and Maureen Cronley, b. 1967. Niani Seales, b. 1981, considered him her grandfather.
After his children left the home, Tom became a pilot himself, qualifying in Cessna 172 and 182, and Piper Cherokee aircraft. He enjoyed traveling from the D.C. area to Atlanta and South Carolina to visit children. He only stopped flying when his cardiac health impacted his abilities.
They eventually purchased a motorhome and traveled North America, spending months at a time away from home. They saw National and State parks through all the lower 48 states and extensively in Canada, reliving their youthful travels.
When home, Tom was deeply devoted to his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He was a constant presence in their lives, always available whenever anyone needed assistance, and attended countless events, performances, and athletic contests.
None of Tom’s children pursued engineering schools, yet all of them learned practical skills of observation, analysis and diagnosis of problems ranging from children’s behavior to household mechanical objects. This enabled them all to go well beyond their comfort areas to take on challenges that would stymie their peers. His children and grandchildren have inherited a fearless willingness to take on projects, adopt broken items and fix them, and maintain complex systems without assistance. All six of his children know that he is the first call when an item does not start or you cannot make a device work as intended. All six, even most grandchildren, know that the first question they will be asked in response is, “Do you have a schematic?” If you grew up in Tom’s house, you had to know what a schematic is.
Memorial services will be Saturday, November 21 at 2 pm, Woodstock Funeral Home. For those unable to attend the service, it will be streamed live on the Woodstock Funeral Home Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/134563673261373
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Thomas Lawton Cronley
November 22, 2020
Deepest condolences to the Atlanta branch of the Cronleys. I did not know my Uncle Tom. Met him him maybe twice over the years. Reading this beautiful
obituary I sure wish I had known him better!
God Bless you Mary Ann an the rest of your clan.
Marlene Palmer (Meagher)
November 22, 2020
I was sorry to read of Tom’s passing in the paper recently.
You and Tom were early promoters of communicating with people of all colors and faiths and it has always been an important memory for me that you asked Bill and I to be a part of your couples group.
W e have taken different paths but having that experience will stay with me forever.
November 20, 2020
November 20, 2020
On November 18, 2020 Heaven gained an Angel. Tom Cronley you will truly be missed by many. Gone from our sight, but never gone from our hearts. Job well done. A man of few words but a kind, mighty, and humble presence. I became apart of the Cronley family because of Catherine and Ryan when I was about 7 or 8yrs old. Tom and MaryAnn would always welcome me with open arms as if I was one of their grandchildren. Thank you, Tom for taking me flying around Atlanta one summer, one of the coolest experience of my childhood. Thank you for always being kind and helpful to me. Thank you for meeting and marrying MaryAnn. Thank you for help creating Catherine which allowed me to have some incredible experiences and create some wonderful memories with all of the Cronley's. I am so thankful my son Rain and I got a chance to experience a Cronley's Christmas in 2018. I will forever cherish those memories. I love you and pray that you continue to peacefully fly high. You will forever live on in our hearts. Sending from long distance lots of Love and comforting hugs to your wife MaryAnn. Prayers for strength and comfort during this difficult time goes out to MaryAnn, The Children, Grandchildren, and Great grandchildren. May Tom Cronley Rest in Peace, Power, and Paradise for eternity!!!
With heartfelt condolences,
November 19, 2020
Tom was always a man I looked up to. He was kind and sweet to a little girl who he barely knew. He always showed compassion and was always trying to teach.
I’ll forever be thankful that I was blessed to know him for even a short while. He made a very big impact on my perception of what men should be. I’m very blessed to have known Tom.
Thank you both for letting me be a part of your lives.
Forever your family
November 19, 2020
I've always felt honored my parents named me after my dad's younger brother. He was a kind and gentle man. We're keeping Mary Ann and all our cousins in our prayers.
- Jim's son Tom