SPARTANBURG - Thomas "TC" Colones, 66, of Spartanburg, reared in Sumter, passed away on Saturday evening, Sept. 26, 2020.
He was preceded in death by his father, John T. Colones, formerly base education officer for Shaw Air Force Base; and mother, Mary Lois Colones, who served her family and devoted her time to women's ministry for many years.
Surviving are his brother, Robert Colones (Deborah) of Florence; sister, Jean Ligon (Randolph) of Chester; and a host of friends and relatives who cared deeply for him and enjoyed his ever-pleasant nature.
Tommy served as an esteemed photojournalist for WSPA, Channel 7 News, a CBS affiliate. He worked tirelessly to bring thousands of stories to life during his more than four decades at the station. He was called an "icon" in the newsroom, covering a wide variety of stories from local issues to national and international events.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tommy was a die-hard North Carolina fan and followed the Tarheels with great vigor. He was quick to strike up a conversation with alumni and actually interviewed fellow UNC alum and CBS News Journalist the late Charles Kuralt, who shared his love of UNC.
After graduation from UNC, Tommy walked into the WSPA-TV newsroom in Spartanburg and was hired as a photojournalist in September of 1976. He never left. In 44 years, Tommy documented the world through the eyes of his camera. There was no one who worked harder or who was more talented for understanding the importance of video in telling a story than Tommy Colones. From the ranks of the CBS newsroom in New York to the CBS News Desk in London, everyone knew Tommy and adored him. He covered world events, shoulder to shoulder with multiple U.S. presidents and treasured his interviews with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham. Tommy covered the Winter Olympics in Japan and was there for the bombing of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. His videography won numerous awards, a handful of Emmy's and prestigious national awards for his series of reports in war-torn Northern Ireland, where he narrowly escaped a car bombing just hours before leaving the country.
Tommy was active in the German / American foreign exchange journalist program founded by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Each year for a week, he hosted a fellow journalist from Germany, giving them an eye-opening peek at the world of TV news in the Carolinas and Georgia.
By far, his passion was his love for veterans. As the son of a career military veteran, Tommy understood the pain and suffering that World War II veterans endured, the unspoken words of the horrors and the demons that haunted them. He tirelessly listened to their stories and documented them all, especially D-Day veterans. His annual trek to Normandy to remember D-Day veterans became a God calling to help find the missing links, remembering those who still had open wounds and untold stories. He traveled to Normandy for almost 30 years to pay his respects and became known by the countrymen and women of France and beyond as the "Mayor of Normandy."
The World War II Foundation will soon be announcing an annual scholarship to bring a deserving student to Normandy each year in memory of Tommy Colones. The foundation founder and president, Tim Gray said, "I consider Tom the best ambassador for the United States for D-Day veterans and Normandy. This is a huge loss for our people over there, in France and all of Europe, he was beloved."
An outpouring of love from fellow colleagues, friends and officials sum it up best, you will never meet a kinder hearted, caring and friendly person than Tommy Colones. He viewed his work as a mission and life as a duty to honor and obey, his moral compass was steadfast, and it never strayed. He probably didn't realize truly the thousands of lives he touched around the world, now his mission is complete.
A private service due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday at Floyd's Greenlawn Chapel, 2075 E. Main St., Spartanburg, SC 29307. It will be live streamed on the Station WSPA Facebook page for those who want to attend virtually. A recorded version will be posted after the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to The World War II Foundation, 344 Main St., South Kingstown, RI 02879.
An online guest register is available at www.floydmortuary.com.
Floyd's Greenlawn Chapel of Spartanburg is in charge of arrangements.
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