Thomas Johnston Dimmock, former governor of the Carolinas District of the Kiwanis Club, active member of Trinity Baptist Church, lawyer, husband, father and friend, died suddenly on January 21. He was 65.
Tom, as he was known to the thousands he loved and served, will be remembered during a visitation with his family on Saturday, January 24, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh. A memorial service will be held at Trinity on Sunday, January 25, at 4 p.m., with Dr. Jeff Roberts officiating. Interment of his ashes will be in the Trinity Columbarium.
Tom is survived by his wife of 41 years, Boyd King Dimmock, of Raleigh; two daughters and sons-in-law, Julie Anna and Ben Kaufman of Raleigh, and Laurie and Brian Nappier of Huntersville; and three much-loved grandchildren, Annalise Nappier, Micah Kaufman and Vivian Nappier.
Tom also leaves behind two sisters and brothers-in-law, Martha Campbell and husband Gill, and Ellen Begley and husband Mike, all of Black Mountain; one brother and sister-in-law, Frank Dimmock and wife Nancy, of Louisville, Kentucky; and two brothers- and sisters-in-law, Bob King and wife Penny, of New Bern, and Bill King and wife Julie, of Raleigh. A host of nieces and nephews, and a large community of friends, also mourn him.
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Born in Elkins, West Virginia, into a family of active and international pastors, caregivers and missionaries, Tom was a man of action and principle, never known to rest when there were goals to be met, wrongs to be righted, or problems to be solved. He had a specific gift for seeing and working on levels both global and local, public and private. Constantly in motion, with a big laugh and big smile, he could be found in one moment speaking to an auditorium of thousands about the necessity of a global children’s health campaign, then working behind the scenes in the next to wash dishes or pack cars.
In the days before he died, he led 40 teenagers to do yard work at Haven House, a shelter for homeless teenagers; helped to found a new Key Club; and biked 35 miles along the Neuse River greenway.
Tom was a proud 1971 graduate of N.C. State University, where he majored in economics, and in 1975 he earned his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Tom chose a career in law because he believed in helping the “little guy,” working in both defense and family law as well as serving as an adviser to the Family Law section of the North Carolina Bar Association. He founded his own firm and in later years crafted countless wills pro bono for friends and family.
Both Tom and Boyd were part of the bedrock of Trinity Baptist Church, joining just after their marriage in 1973 and immediately jumping in to teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, and serve on numerous committees. Over the course of the years, Tom ministered to others as a deacon, trustee and trustees chairman, endowment committee member, Habitat for Humanity leader, and teacher of Sunday School and Bible study. His Sunday School class, known simply as the “Tom Dimmock Class,” has members going back some 40 years.
In the sanctuary choir, Tom was known for his wide smile and love of belting out every last note. Two years ago, when the Trinity choir made their stage debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Tom was the first to be spotted by family members sitting very far away in the cheap seats – not because he could be heard from that distance, but due to the fact that Tom and his hymnbook danced with each downbeat, his entire body in song.
Tom believed he was blessed and felt called to give back, helping to found the Kiwanis Club of Wake Forest some 30 years ago. A charter member and president, he led his fellow Kiwanians in countless projects to meet the Kiwanis mission of “improving the world, one child and one community at a time.” Tom went on to serve as both governor and lieutenant governor of the Carolinas District, which covers both North and South Carolina and includes some 180 Kiwanis clubs and 6,000 members, many of which Tom help start or recruit. He was then elected a trustee of Kiwanis International, where he worked for three years. In 2012, he won the Carolinas District’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. At the time of his death, he was serving as Carolinas District parliamentarian and as co-chair of the Project Eliminate campaign, having raised more than $3 million to eradicate maternal and child tetanus.
He was also a member of the board of directors and parliamentarian for the North Carolina State Convention and lawyer for the North Carolina Baptist Foundation. He was an Eagle Scout and served his country in the U.S. Army Reserve.
A lifelong Wolfpacker, Tom first met Boyd when he was a student at N.C. State, and she at Meredith College. The story told about their introduction is that Boyd put a visitor’s card in the offering plate at West Raleigh Presbyterian Church after visiting one Sunday with a roommate, and Tom, the son of the church pastor, went through the offering plates and dug it out. The two went out for ice cream but were not solidified as a pair until a few months later, when Boyd needed 500 chicken feathers for a Meredith class competition. Never one to be deterred, Tom traveled to an area chicken farm and found them for her.
Other Wolfpack fans may know Tom for one of his doings: The crowd sound meter that for many years hung from the ceiling at Reynolds Coliseum. A box with some 15 lights that would turn on as the fan cheers grew louder, the meter got its start in Tom’s basement, where he built it with a friend. (Another little-known fact: The lights were not actually triggered by crowd decibel levels, but by a third friend who sat in the rafters and lit them up as he saw fit.)
Tom was known for having two speeds, “on” and “off,” and while he loved nothing more than a good nap on the porch, throughout life he was decidedly more “on” – spending his recent years doing nothing less than church mission trips to New Orleans, New Jersey, Honduras, Cuba, Belize and Peru to assist with hurricane recovery and building projects; Kiwanis initiatives including campaigns to eliminate not only tetanus but spinal bifida and iodine deficiency; and countless service projects such as working at the thrift shop for North Raleigh Ministries or taking the night shift at the Wake Hospitality Services shelter.
He and Boyd were always off to their next travel adventure, be it a 41st anniversary “honeymoon trip” this past year to New Zealand, frequent family trips abroad and stateside with his beloved daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren, or a year-long, 7,500-mile boat journey with Boyd and numerous family members and friends around the “Great Loop” – up the coast of the Carolinas to New York, through the Saint Lawrence Seaway across Canada, then down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. Along with Boyd, he made it a point to stay close to his siblings, nieces and nephews, be it traveling to family homes in the mountains of Montreat, the shores of Lake Gaston, or the beaches of Emerald Isle, where Tom would often be found spending “vacation” time raking leaves or staking storm fence.
In recent years Tom especially delighted in his newfound role as “Granddaddy” -- measured out in pride and joy through trips to the park, babysitting nights, Girl Scout cookie sales, and piggyback rides. In addition to Annalise, Micah and Vivian, Tom was expecting two new granddaughters to be born this spring, and a sixth grandchild to be adopted in coming months from Malawi. To celebrate the New Year, Tom took the entire family to Washington, D.C., for five days, taking special pleasure in getting to upgrade his rental vehicle from “family van” to “mini-bus.”
Tom’s gift to his grandchildren and to us all was his overwhelming generosity, unflagging support, and unfailing confidence that we can and will all rise to our best selves and make a difference in this world. He assumed the best of all people and situations -- and he had an uncanny knack and humor that convinced us to see the best, too.
In honor of Tom’s memory, contributions may be made to the Tom Dimmock Missions Scholarship at Trinity Baptist Church.