George Thomas Chapman, III – Tom, or Thomas, or Grumpy – died Monday, March 21, 2022. Thomas was predeceased by his parents, George Thomas Chapman, II and Mary Reynolds Chapman. He is survived by his beloved wife, Cherry Marshman Chapman and his devoted sister, Catherine Callahan “Cat” Chapman. Thomas and Cherry raised a close-knit family of sons, daughters, and grandchildren: Joshua Chapman and his wife, Giuliana, and their sons Phineas and Jupiter; Sara Freeman and her husband, Joshua, and their daughters Hazel and Isabelle; Maya Crite and her husband, TJ, their daughters Tyana and Dimaiah, and their sons Tre and Tyrik; Seth Chapman and his partner Kiara Jaye, their daughter McKenzie and son Seth, Jr.; Brittany Chapman and her daughter Leilani; and her maid of honor, Sonoko Konishi, and her husband, Ewan Johnson.
Thomas’ parents, George and Mary, were from Henryetta, Oklahoma. George joined the navy, served in combat in the Pacific theater of World War II, and went on to a full career as a naval commander. As a Navy family, the Chapmans have lived everywhere from California to Cuba, traveled extensively, met amazing people, and participated firsthand in major world events. Thomas had a boundless appetite for knowledge; he attributed this to his vibrant childhood and his parents, who encouraged him and Catherine to enjoy travel, getting to know new people and having new experiences.
Beginning in 1958, Thomas served as a congressional page on the Oklahoma delegation, eventually directly serving Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson. Thomas worked for LBJ’s presidential campaign in 1960, and later that same year he and another page hand-delivered the Electoral College votes that resulted in victory for John F. Kennedy.
Thomas received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia. There he had a brief and unremarkable career as a nose-patcher, but had much more fun hanging out in folk music cafes and playing the jazz flute. Thomas also worked at WUVA, where he eventually served as director of information and public affairs.
After graduating, Thomas went to teach English at Louisa County High School in Virginia. This was soon after integration, and after realizing that most students, black and white, had never been exposed to authors of color, Thomas adjusted the curriculum to include African American literature. He experienced an immediate and hostile response: the sheriff pulled his daughter out of class, crosses were burned on Thomas’s lawn and attempts were made to run him off the road, but he continued to engage with his students on racial issues.
Thomas married the love of his life, Cherry, on April 10, 1971. However, Thomas knew the exact date and time he first met Cherry and has celebrated that day for fifty-three years. monitoring. Cherry trained as a social worker and shared Thomas’ commitment to helping others. She is also a talented artist from a family of artists and a career teacher of remarkable patience and creativity. They complemented each other perfectly; meeting her was the happiest event of her life.
Thomas and Cherry settled in Roanoke, Virginia when Thomas followed his mentor George Garrett to pursue his mastery of Hollins College’s renowned creative writing program. Thomas and Cherry then accepted positions at a group home for teenagers. Through this work, Thomas developed an interest in teen substance abuse and substance abuse and eventually became the Director of Administration for Roanoke Valley Mental Health Services (now Blue Ridge Community Services), where he will work until retirement. During his career, Thomas was particularly proud of his work overhauling his agency’s accounting system; over time, the entire state adopted a new accounting system modeled after the system he developed. Although he was trained as a poet and not a statistician, Thomas served on the Southern Regional Council on Mental Health Statistics for many years, eventually serving as president.
Thomas has served on several boards, including Offender Aid and Restoration and the Manpower Board of the Virginia Department of Labor. He was especially proud of his more than 33 years of service on the Board of Directors of Freedom First Credit Union, whose commitment to helping create a more inclusive society in which all people, regardless of color or race social class, are treated with dignity and respect and enjoy the equal opportunities he takes to heart. He helped lead Freedom First’s evolution into a community development financial institution with a mission to rebuild the businesses, housing, volunteer organizations and services essential to revitalizing our country’s poor and working-class neighborhoods.
Thomas was most passionate about improving the well-being of children. He served as “Big Brother”, and he and Cherry became foster parents and adoption advocates. His involvement in the sporting interests of his children even led him to become a coach and then to become the athletic director of Virginia Western Community College.
Thomas loved music, literature and food. His tastes were broad and deep. He was brilliant and kind, forgiving and humble. He loved each of his children for who they were, and his love was unconditional and limitless. For all he did for the world, for all the countless friends he made – and he found a way to befriend almost everyone he met – he was a father and a husband before anything else.
Thomas, now is the time to rest. We miss you. And we love you dearly. Forever and ever.
The family is requesting that donations be made in their name to Community School, 7815 Williamson Rd, Roanoke, VA 24019.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date.
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Posted by Moore-Blanchard Funerals & Cremations on March 26, 2022.