"because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1: 78 & 79.
On a cool and peaceful morning in the small Mississippi Delta town of Shelby, Thomas Benton Erwin age 73, lately of Greenville, MS passed away. 11 November bears significance and precious meaning for his country and now, for his family and friends who cherish the life he lived and will remember always the friend, son, brother, husband, uncle, Daddy and "YaYa" he was.
Visitation will be held 9:00 AM until 10:00 AM Tuesday, 14 November 2023 at Cleveland Funeral Home. A Celebration of Life Memorial Service will follow at 10:00 AM in the Cleveland Funeral Home Chapel. Dr. Jay Richardson will officiate the service.
Born to Charles Willis, Jr. and Lynette McClure Erwin in the evening on 27 May 1950, Tom grew up among the aisles and shelves of his grandfather's hardware store in downtown Duncan, exploring the bayou with his brothers, Charles and John, on the hunt for whatever game was in season, and training the hounds he raised to be helpful and diligent hunting companions. He delivered the town’s newspapers every morning on his bicycle during his high school years, learning the bumps and curves of every sidewalk and crisscrossing street in town. He found peace and joy in being outside no matter the season.
While attending Duncan Elementary School, Tom found a productive outlet for his love of nature in the Boy Scouts, earning his Eagle Scout and the Bronze Palm before his 18th birthday. In addition to his distinction as an Eagle Scout, Tom was proud to have earned God and Country award as well as medals for completing National Military Park hikes at Vicksburg and Shiloh and the American Legion God and Country School Award.
Tom is a 1968 Shelby High School graduate where he played football and developed as a true weightlifting competitor, winning the state level Weightlifting award his senior year. While completing his Associate of Arts degree at Mississippi Delta Community College, Tom was entrusted with picking up, delivering to school and returning home students from Duncan to Skene who were enrolled at Bayou Academy.
Tom pursued a business degree from Delta State College, earning his Bachelor of Business Administration in 1972. Throughout his higher education career, driving the school bus during the four years and then two summers spent selling encyclopedias covered all of his expenses with a little left over to purchase a Volkswagen. He lived at home, provided safe and reliable care to students daily for four years, earned his degrees and ended his college career debt free, well-educated and eager to begin life’s adventures.
Working alongside his childhood friend, Wayne Butler, Tom recognized that the love for nature that had always been a part of him translated into a keen awareness for farming some of the Mississippi Delta’s favorite crops. Compared with seasoned men who had decades of experience farming, Tom’s natural ability to recognize a problem area and work out a viable solution was greatly admired. Never assuming his plans were best, Tom enjoyed the collaborative work and mutual respect that farming in the 1970s required.
From farming, Tom decided to give that business degree a workout, signing on as a local and regional salesman for Thompson Hayward. From Thompson Hayward to Velsicol, Tom worked hard, was honest and responsible to his clients and soon found himself at a crossroads of either continuing with the corporate chemical world or trusting his talents to fulfill a dream he held. With prayer and planning, in 1986 The Lawn Ranger Co. began what would be almost four decades of providing expertise and state of the art lawn and chemical application services to homeowners and commercial businesses first in Greenville and eventually extending as far out as the southeast region of the United States.
A certified weed sciences and commercial chemical applicator, Tom often discovered best practices for applicator methods, seasonal changes, native flora, wind velocity, and a spectrum of variables that nature can produce at will, by first trying ideas out on his own front yard.
When the sun rose, Tom was up and preparing for a day’s work, unless it was Sunday. As a devoted member of First Baptist Church Greenville, Tom served his congregation as a Deacon for over twenty years. In the early 1990s, Tom accepted the role of Youth Department Sunday School Director, which is very noble and required a tender heart, so to temper the heavy responsibility, each Sunday, Tom would wheel into the Shipley’s Donuts to pick up 10 boxes of one-dozen each HOT Shipley’s donuts. The Youth Department attendance records will prove that a little warm sugar and fried dough is a compelling reason to attend Sunday School for some of Greenville’s middle school and high school population.
He chaperoned several road trip adventures. He drove the church bus thousands of miles while his riders made joyful noises, slept, asked how much farther ceaselessly, tossed things around inside the bus for fun and alerted him to bathroom needs, often with little time to plan and find appropriate accommodations. He did all of this with love and contentment, pleased to simply be helpful in creating positive experiences and memories.
Tom was a devoted son to his parents, caring for his mother after his father passed away in 2000. For another 15 years, when his mother needed him, no matter the time of day or day of the week, he would see to her needs. Without question or grumbles, Tom demonstrated to his children and those who witnessed his acts of love, the living example of what honoring parents requires and can be.
With no assumptions for accolades or intent to “collect” the most friends, Tom simply was a man of his word, interested in others and ultimately, left this world a little bit better than he found it. He is preceded in death by his parents, Charles Willis Erwin, Jr. and Lynette McClure Erwin. He is survived by his brothers, Charles (Kappie) Erwin of Austin, TX; and John (Elizabeth) Erwin of Suwanee, GA; his daughters are Emily (Matt) Jones and Katie (Earnest) Juchheim; his grandsons are Thomas Blake Franklin, of Tucson, AZ and William Duncan Franklin of Cleveland. Tom was also proud to be the uncle to Clay (Amy) Erwin, Clarke (Nicole) Erwin, Rebecca Erwin and Reed Erwin. Recently, he earned the distinction of great-uncle to Henry Erwin.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Mississippi Forestry Association, thegiftedtree.com, or any charitable organization of your choice.
Cleveland Funeral Home has been entrusted with the service arrangements.