Thomas L. Zimmerman, 89, died peacefully on Jan. 15, 2023 with his wife and daughters by his side and surrounded by family and friends. Born on March 8, 1933 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Clifford and Harriet Zimmerman, his father was a successful furniture buyer and the family lived in Kansas City and St. Louis before moving to Oak Park in 1942. He attended Lincoln Elementary School in Oak Park, then Northwestern Military and Naval Academy in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where he played football and ran cross country. He received a partial football scholarship to the University of Toledo, where he participated in ROTC and was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation.
In October 1955 he was sent to Ft. Benning, Georgia for his Infantry Officer Qualification, then was assigned to the Far East 8th Army and then to the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry division. While stationed in Sendai, Japan, he married his first wife, and their daughter, Robin, was born at the 11th Evacuation Hospital.
Upon returning to the United States, the family settled in Oak Park and second daughter, Dana, was born. He continued his military career as part of the 302nd Special Forces Airborne Detachment which became the 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He rose from commanding an “A Team” and his final assignment was as an executive officer of the 12th group. He then became commanding officer of the 77th Military Intelligence Detachment (Airborne), which was attached to the 12th Special Forces Group.
Once promoted to colonel, he was assigned to the 85th Division, and took command of the 3rd Brigade. He made a total of 100 military parachute jumps and earned his Canadian jump wings. He was extremely proud of his 30-year and 20-day career in the military serving his country.
He lived a rich, full life. He was a member of the Shriners and was a 32o Mason. He belonged to the American Legion and the Reserved Officers Association and was an active member of the Special Forces Association, Chapter XXXVII.
Although heavily involved in various organizations and dedicated to post-military life and obligations, family always came first. He was his grandsons’ biggest (and loudest) cheerleader and enjoyed dispensing sage advice, including his adage of “Don’t let the bas%#$ds wear you down.”
During his 23-year marriage to Mary Alice Povolny, the devoted pair did everything from keeping their Friday “date nights” and quality time at their second home in Delavan, Wisconsin.
A “no holds barred” approach to everything characterized his approach to life during his almost 90 years on Earth. He made a big impression on all who met him, made friends easily and will be remembered for his kindness and loyalty to everyone from all walks of life.
Tom was the husband of Mary Alice Povolny; the father of Robin (Joe Picone) Zimmerman and Dana (Michael) Murphy; the grandfather of Tom (Lauren Meleney) Murphy, Dan (Carly Neville) Murphy, and Jack (Kelly Hickey) Murphy; the brother of Ann Zimmerman Morrow and the late Jack (the late Dee) Zimmerman; the uncle of John (Courtney) Zimmerman and Bill (Kelsey Wilkinson) Zimmerman; the great-uncle of Gracie and Jax Zimmerman; and father figure to Michael (Amanda) Graczyk and Drew.
A visitation will be held on Thursday, Jan. 26, from 3-8 p.m. at Elmhurst Community Funeral Home – Ahlgrim Chapel, 567 S. Spring Road, Elmhurst. Starting at 6 p.m. family and friends are welcome to formally share remembrances of their time with Tom. The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 27 at the funeral home, followed by interment at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, 20953 W. Hoff Road, Elwood.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Thomas’ name to the Special Forces Association Chapter 37 Scholarship Fund (SFA C37 Scholarship Fund) 24242 Champion Dr., Plainfield, IL 60585. The scholarship will be awarded honoring the memory of Colonel Thomas Zimmerman.