Written by Paul Hoch
Year after year, convention after convention, qualified Civitans are nominated for District/International positions. Every speech lists the countless offices and honours of these worthy individuals. Certainly, Tommy Gentry held Club, District, and International offices and honours, but unlike many, his service to Civitan, especially NC District East, went beyond mere citations.
Although not measurable, his greatest contribution was as a mentor. It is impossible to name everyone he encouraged to serve in higher offices. He was always willing to offer advice when requested. Many went on to serve as Governor and at the International level. In my own personal experience, when discerning whether to run for Governor, he counseled me to get the support of my wife. Since he never seemed to crave offices, one took his advice, to be honest.
Nor did Tommy stand on his honours. When he accepted a job or position, he was willing to do the work needed, no matter how menial. He helped organize countless meetings and conventions, never hesitating to prepare delegate packets, and/or perform other logistical details. Many Meetings Chair depended on his assistance.
A less public service was Tommy’s dedication to the Honour Key, especially the annual breakfast. Many years ago, past Governor Elbert Mallard established a Sunday breakfast to celebrate Honour Key recipients, especially the newest, at District Conventions. This includes issuing invitations to the new honourees as well as managing the details of the breakfast. As Elbert aged, Tommy assumed more responsibility, eventually undertaking all the work needed to execute the event. He became so associated with the Sunday morning meal and program that it was unanimously named the Mallard/Gentry Honour Key Breakfast. One got the feeling that this was his most appreciated recognition.
Others can list offices and honours, but his dedicated service is what stands out. His advice, based on experience and wisdom, guided this District to be consistently recognized as the number one District, not just in membership, but in leadership.
Partial reprint of obituary —
Charles Thomas “Tommy” Gentry was a longtime resident of Durham, NC and an active NCDE Civitan member. Born in Blacksburg, VA, he was schooled in Altavista and Roanoke, VA, and graduated from the “School of Hard Knocks” before working for General Electric then IBM, where he retired in 2006.
In his younger days, Tommy was very active in sports and was a football official for 23 years. He also did some officiating in basketball, softball, baseball and wrestling.
Since the late 1970s, Tommy had been a very active member of several NCDE Civitan Clubs: Bright Leaf Civitan Club in Durham for 24 years, Wake Forest Civitan Club for 10 years and most recently, a member of the Durham Civitan Club. He held many club positions including President 3 times. As a result of his contributions to these clubs, Tommy was recognized both as a Club Civitan of the Year as well as with a Club Honor Key.
Mr. Gentry was also very active on the Civitan District level, serving as Junior Civitan Chairman, Editor, Treasurer, Meeting Chairman, Judge Advocate, Director, and was Governor in 1988-1989. He was recognized by NCDE as a Civitan of The Year, was the Carlie B. Sessoms Decade awardee, and was a holder of the District Honor Key. In 2005, he was recognized with the District’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was also active on the Civitan International level, where he served as Elections Chairman, Credentials Chairman, and on several other committees. In 2005, he was Host Chairman of the Civitan International Convention in Greensboro, NC. He also received several achievement awards, including a Junior Civitan International Foundation Fellow, Civitan International Foundation Shropshire Fellow recognition, and earned a Civitan International Honor Key.
Mr. Gentry was a former member of Oak Grove Masonic Lodge 750, Scottish Rite, Amran Shrine Temple, and Triangle Shrine Club, and past member of the Century Club of Durham, having served on the Board of Directors and as Club President.
Surviving Mr. Gentry are his daughter Karyn Gentry, grandson Ryan of Cedar Grove, NC; son Gary Gentry (Leesa), granddaughter Tayler, grandsons Hunter and Austin of Selbyville, DE; son Mark Gentry (Susan), granddaughter Ansley and grandson Mahlon of Orlando FL; bother Dr. Reggie Gentry (Linda) of Georgetown, KY; one nephew, two nieces; his special friend Bettye Sue Bolen of Princeton, WV, Bettye Sue’s two daughters and families; many other extended family members and special friends.