It is with deep sadness we announce Thomas Frank Koppe, age 82, passed away at his home on February 3, 2024.
He was preceded in death by his parents Frank John and Louise (Birkholz) Koppe and his son, Frank Thomas Koppe.
He is survived by his loving wife of 57 years, Barbara Mayeux Koppe and his daughters Katherine Koppe of Houston, TX and Andréa Castleberry (Clark) of Mobile, AL, grandchildren Cade, Brooke, and Jeanne Marie Castleberry as well as his beloved dog Lil’Bit.
Thomas was born in Racine, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Economics. In 1964, he joined the Air Force as an officer and served honorably for 23 years. He was stationed in multiple global locations, including England, Germany, Vietnam, Italy, and multiple bases within the U.S.
During Thomas’ Air Force career, he received numerous commendations including the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with 1 Device, The AF Commendation Metal, AF Outstanding Unit Award with 3 Devices, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Metal with 2 Devices, AF Overseas Short Tour Ribbon, AF Longevity Services Award Ribbon with 4 Devices, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Metal.
As a young lieutenant, Thomas was stationed in Laon-Athies Air Base in France, where he met his future wife, Barbara Lee Mayeux, who was working for the Department of Defense as a schoolteacher. When French President De Gaulle withdrew from NATO’s military integrated command and the base in France was scheduled to close, Thomas was transferred to England and with a bit of encouragement by Thomas, so was Barbara. They were married shortly thereafter in Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, England.
Throughout their adventures, domestically and abroad, Thomas and Barbara formed many great friendships that have endured to this day. Thomas was known as a generous and charming host and loved nothing more than sharing an evening with close friends and family.
The majority of Tom’s military career was supporting the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and he served at all Major US SAC Headquarters including Vandenburg, Offutt and Minot. As Thomas took on roles of increasing responsibility and built his career as a missile specialist, he always remained committed to participating in family life. As he oversaw the testing of the Minuteman Missile program, he still found time to create a garden that won the yard of the month numerous times to the delight of the family and neighborhood.
When he was stationed at Offutt as a Missile Launch Officer, he found joy acting as a strong contributor to the local Catholic parish and played a large role in the church leadership.
And when he was the Squadron Commander of the 740th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS), Thomas and Barbara acted as a team to host and support the members of the squadron and their families who were under the direction of Thomas. Yet, even with this huge responsibility, he still found time to design and construct a race-track cake for his son as part of a school project.
Thomas’s last international station was as Base Commander of the largest NATO base in southern Europe, the Comiso Air Station in Sicily. This missile base was organized by the Department of Defense as a strategic deterrent and proved instrumental in ending the Cold War.
As a final assignment, Thomas shared his many years of experience as an instructor at the Air War College (AWC) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
After retiring from the Air Force, Thomas embarked on another career and retired as a manager of Wal-Mart. There he showed the same level of dedication, quality and kindness that he applied to all aspects of his life.
Thomas was exceptionally well read, had a true appreciation of witty conversation and was the most thoughtful and kind person in any room. Not only did he catch every detail, but he continually amazed his family and friends with his artistic eye, and ambitious culinary talents. He was a distinguished and cultured person with the highest personal standards and his opinion was highly regarded. Through his actions, Thomas taught us the meaning of loyalty.
Yet, his greatest legacy is that of husband, father, and grandfather. He cherished family and his loss to us is profound.
A visitation will be held from 10:30 AM until 11:30 AM, Friday, February 9, 2024, at Holy Family Catholic Church, Pass Christian. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:30 AM, followed by interment at St. Paul Cemetery.
Riemann Family Funeral Home, Long Beach, is serving the family.