Tom passed away peacefully at home on December 9, 2022 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease with his wife and two children by his side. He is survived by his loving wife of 41 years, Paula Medeiros Rollow; daughter, Stephanie Rollow of Arlington, Virginia; and son, Thomas (Jessica) Rollow, III of Kingston, Massachusetts; granddaughter, Madison; sister, Terry (Pete) Dunavant of El Paso, Texas; sisters-in-law Lyda Pitman, Virginia Medeiros (Jerry Sitek), and Gail Medeiros; several nieces and nephews; and step-mother, Mattie (Mitzie) Rollow.
Tom was born on August 27, 1953 to Thomas Rollow and Bonnie Carter Rollow at Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida. His family also lived in El Dorado, Arkansas and Shreveport, Louisiana prior to moving to Lafayette, Louisiana in 1957. Known then as Tommy, he attended L. J. Alleman School from first through eighth grades and Lafayette High School. He maintained friendships with his former classmates and attended all of his high school reunions, including his fiftieth this year. Tom’s family had power boats, and some of his fondest childhood memories were of water skiing and fishing. He also talked about the fun he had in the summer at Camp Windywood. Tom had a strong work ethic even as a child. He had a paper route and mowed the lawn. His father bought Tom a lawn mower when he was eight years old and deducted $5 every week from the purchase price when he mowed the lawn. When it was paid off, Tom asked his father if he would then be paid $5 when he mowed but learned the valuable lesson about contributing to the family welfare when being part of it (a better way of saying no). That lawn mower outlived its owner and was still being used recently.
Tom graduated from high school in 1971 and attended Tulane University in New Orleans, where he received a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in mechanical engineering in 1975. He also enrolled in Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC) at Tulane, where he was captain of the pistol team and was awarded the Navy League Award for exceptional achievement in leadership, scholarship, character, and professionalism. Tom worked as the manager of a Roy Rogers restaurant in New Orleans while attending college. He saved the money he earned there to buy a blue 1976 TR6, shipped new from England. The car also outlived its owner and is parked in the garage at his Lake Anna home.
After graduating from Tulane, Tom moved to Northern Virginia and began working for the Navy’s Naval Reactors organization, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA 08). In 1976 Tom attended the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory Reactor Engineering School (non-accredited) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and received a master’s degree equivalent in nuclear engineering. While working for NAVSEA, Tom took classes at The George Washington University in Washington, DC and received a master’s degree in engineering administration in 1979. At NAVSEA for 15 years, Tom held several senior management positions related to nuclear powered naval ship design, construction and operation. One such position of note was heading up the fluid and mechanical design of the Moored Training Ship Project. This involved conversion of the Ballistic Missile Submarine USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN 635) to operate dockside at the Charleston, South Carolina Naval Weapons Station for the purpose of training Navy nuclear operators. He later transferred to the Charleston site as the first Naval Reactors representative and oversaw the construction, staffing, and set up of support facilities and organizations for the Moored Training Ship. The project was so successful that a second ship was later modified and installed at the site.
For the next 16 years, Tom worked for the U. S. Department of Energy where he held various Senior Executive Service positions related to nuclear and occupational safety of atomic weapons design, production, and maintenance; clean-up of toxic and radioactive waste, a legacy of nuclear weapons production and research during the Cold War; research being performed at the Nation’s leading scientific laboratories; and nuclear reactor research, design, and operation. Positions that he held included: Director Nuclear Safety Field Programs, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Safety), Director of the Office of Operating Experience Analysis and Feedback, Director of the Office of Special Projects and Investigations, and Director of the Office of Worker Advocacy.
Tom became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Safety) in 2006. In this position, he advised the Secretary of the Navy on all matters pertaining to mishap prevention, personnel safety, and the preservation of material resources. His responsibilities included policy, oversight, and advocacy of safety, occupational health, and fire protection programs affecting approximately one million uniformed Navy and Marine Corps personnel, and Department of the Navy civilian employees and contractors. Tom retired in 2012.
In addition to Tom’s federal career, he had a successful military career. He was commissioned as an Ensign in 1975. Though he rarely wore a uniform, his first four and a half years at Naval Reactors were as an active-duty naval officer, where he served as Nuclear Power Research Project Officer. In 1989 he took orders to the Naval Reserves, beginning reserve duty in Charleston, SC and later transferring to Washington, DC. In 2005 he retired as a Captain with over 20 years of combined service.
Tom joined the Ski Club of Washington, DC (SCWDC) when he moved to Northern Virginia. There were over 6,000 members in the club at that time, and Tom quickly became involved in organizing and leading activities. He led many ski trips to New England, out West, and Europe. He held several positions including Tennis Chairman and New England Ski Trips Chairman, was on the Board of Directors for two years, and served as Vice President. He was an excellent snow skier and one of the top racers in SCWDC. He won clothing and ski equipment in races. A highlight was when he and his team, including Paula, took first place in a regional race sponsored by Skiing Magazine and Grand Marnier liqueur in 1983. That qualified them for a paid trip to Alpine Meadows, California to compete in the national finals. He met Paula in the ski club, and they maintained lifelong friendships with other members. He and his family skied out West, usually in Utah, every year with several ski club friends and their families for over 25 years. He and Paula continued to vacation with ski club friends in their retirement, including an Alaskan cruise, a Mediterranean cruise, a Baltic cruise, and trips to Punta Cana and Mexico. He attended trivia with them weekly for a couple of years until he was no longer able to participate.
In addition to snow skiing, Tom loved boating and water skiing. He and Paula both grew up boating and bought a boat when they got married. He and his family took the boat to Lake Coeur d’ Alene when they lived in Idaho; to Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion, the Ashley River, and the Cooper River when they lived in Charleston; and to Lake Anna when they lived in Northern Virginia. A very generous ski club friend had a lot at Lake Anna and let Tom keep his boat, two jet skis, and TR6 there. He and his family spent many weekends at the lake, at first in a tent, later in a travel trailer, and finally in a house they built at the lake in 2001. They hosted Sunday School and youth group outings and had birthday and holiday parties for neighbors and friends.
Tom was a licensed professional engineer until 2018. He designed several of his homes. His “hobbies” were maintaining his three houses, yards, cars, boat, and jet skis. As an engineer, able to fix anything, Tom never hired out work to a contractor. When he wasn’t working at his federal or military job, he was working on a project.
Tom was a godly man and attended the Episcopal church as a youth, the Lutheran church after marriage, and South Run Baptist Church for 30 years prior to his death. He was baptized as an infant and baptized again with knowledge that he was committing his life to Christ. He embodied the highest principals, values, and morals and instilled them in his children. Tom was a man of integrity and was honorable, honest, respectful, wise, fair, kind, and humble. He had a keen sense of responsibility to provide for his family, especially after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He was the peacemaker in the family, even bringing his family together as he was dying.
Tom will be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA at a future date, where he will receive military funeral honors with funeral escort.
Published by The Washington Post on Jan. 1, 2023.