Thomas Larsen Lode, Jr. passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 21, 2013 at home with his family. He was 95 years old. He was born Finn Egon Lindtner Olsen in Stavanger, Norway on January 15, 1918. He was raised by his aunt and uncle. When he was 8 years old, the new family emigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. They started a new life in America and throughout his life he was a proud American and also proud of his Norwegian heritage.
Thomas graduated from San Jose State University in 1941 with a degree in Business Administration and Economics and became a management trainee for the JC Penney Company. He was drafted in 1942, but college graduates who were not American citizens could not be trained as officers. He entered the Army as a Private at Camp Ripley, Minnesota in Nov. 1942 in the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate). This special battalion of 1,001 Norwegian speaking men was formed for the potential invasion of Europe through Norway. They had extensive skiing, winter survival, intelligence and infantry training in Camp Hale, Colorado. Shortly before leaving for England in August 1943, he became an American citizen and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. In June 1944, the 99th joined the invasion of Normandy and they participated in the 5 major battles in Europe: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Central Europe, and the full duration of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. In 1945, the 99th became part of the 474th Infantry Regiment and they were sent to Oslo, Norway for 5 months after the war to repatriate the country. When the King of Norway returned to the country after the war, Thomas was part of his honor guard. At the end of the war he received the Good Conduct Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was most proud of his Combat Infantryman Badge.
After being discharged from the Army, Thomas returned home to California and proposed to his future wife Lillian Christophersen. They first met at the age of 8 when he arrived in America. They were married for 60 years before her death in 2006.
Thomas is survived by 2 daughters, Kären Lode Nady (Louie) living in Daphne, AL, and Marette Myers (Earl) residents of Willits, CA. Thomas and Lillian were both proud of their 3 grandchildren, András Nady (Berkeley), Christian Myers (Erin) Walnut Creek, CA and Kirsten Myers Shipp (Jeffrey) Katy, TX. Thomas also leaves 2 great-grandchildren, Lillian Marie Myers and Finn Sawyer Shipp. He was delighted to meet his namesake Finn in January when 4 generations of the family celebrated his 95th birthday. Thomas passed away knowing that a 3rd great-grandchild was due to be born any day.
Thomas was very proud of his accomplishments in business and his successful management career of 34 years with the JC Penney Company. He moved many times during his career and was active in each community where he lived and worked. He served as the Chairman of several Salvation Army Advisory Boards, Chairman of the California Republican Central Committee, Board of Directors of United Way, founding member of Santa Maria Valley Boys Club, Member of Military Affairs Committee of Vandenburg Air Force Base, President of Retail Merchants Associations in 5 different cities. After retirement and moving to Clearlake, he became a member of Commonwealth Club San Francisco, and Foreman of the Grand Jury in Lake County, California. Throughout his business career he was a member of Rotary International. Thomas was a resident of Clearlake for 38 years.
In May 2011, Thomas and the other remaining members of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) were awarded the 'Deltagermedaljen', a Norwegian WWII medal, and received a Diploma signed by the King of Norway in thanks for their war service. The moving ceremony was held at the Norwegian Ambassador's residence in Washington, DC. It was a proud day for him and his family.
The family will gather this summer in Clearlake to celebrate his life. The family suggests memorials to Thomas' favorite charity, the Salvation Army, or to the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) Educational Foundation. Over the last few years, he has been very engaged in preserving the history of his special army unit the 99th and keeping its memory alive. Their website is www.99battalion.org.
Thomas had a wonderful experience as a child at a Salvation Army summer camp and for decades has sponsored a child annually to Camp Del Oro. Their address is C/O Salvation Army, PO Box 348000 Sacramento, CA 95834.
Thomas remained engaged in current events until the end of his life. His keen memory and special spark was a delight to his family and friends. He enjoyed his weekly Sunday lunch at the Main Street Café where he could keep everyone informed about the latest family news. He will be missed by everyone who knew him.