Thomas “Tommy” Vance Bumbarger, 98, passed away Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at Trinity Ridge in Hickory.
Born Sept. 28, 1923, in Hickory, he was the son of the late Paul William Bumbarger and Margaret Horan Bumbarger. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Lou McNeely Bumbarger; brothers, Paul William Bumbarger Jr., and Robert Bruce Bumbarger; and sister-in-law, Caroline Brown Bumbarger.
Tommy served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a first lieutenant, having served in the European Theater of Operations, the 232nd Infantry Regiment and the 12th Infantry Division. He considered his greatest accomplishment risking his life hanging off the running board of a supply truck crossing the treacherous mountain pass of the Italian Alps to pick up barrels of liquor to bring back to the officers and enlisted men.
After the war, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Davidson College and The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His master’s thesis was titled “An Inquiry into the Determination of a More Useful Periodic Net Income Through the Use of the Last-In, First-Out Method of Pricing Inventories.” He alleged that this thesis was used by Wharton as a teaching tool for years.
After four years with Arthur Anderson Company in Atlanta, he returned to Hickory and started Thomas V. Bumbarger, CPA. He spent much of his time as a CPA specializing in raising capital for start-up businesses, many of which went on to great success.
He loved Hickory, and supported many civic organizations including Kiwanis and Rotary, and was named the 1957 Young Man of the Year by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church in Hickory.
In 1972, he left the field of public accounting to go into the textile industry, where he went on to become one of the principals of Regal Manufacturing Company.
In his later years, he pursued various business interests. He retired in 1996, and moved to the Sharon community of Alexander County near Stony Point with his daughters and sons-in-law. The property was named “Belle Cow Farm” after a story involving a close friend who said Tommy was a bell cow. The bell cow is the lead cow that the rest of the herd follows, so that the herd can be easily located by the sound of the bell worn on her collar. There he became a self-taught farmer of sorts, enjoying time in the garden where he kept meticulous CPA quality production records, spending time on the tractor or wielding a chainsaw and building meticulously constructed bonfires.
One of his early passions was golf. He learned the game as a boy at the Lake Hickory Country Club Town Course when the greens were made of sand. He started the golf team at Hickory High School, and was a member of the golf team at Davidson. He was the 1940 North Carolina Junior Championship Runner-Up. He enjoyed a good $5.00 (and then some) Nassau bet, and participated in many local tournaments at Lake Hickory Country Club and Catawba Country Club. He was seven-time club champion at Catawba. He and his wife enjoyed many trips to the Masters as patrons, and he had the pleasure of playing the course at Augusta National many times.
He later played tennis, because as he would admit, he enjoyed the flattering outfits the lady tennis players wore, and it was a healthier sport that did not involve liquor and expensive wagers.
As an avid sports fan, he followed Davidson basketball passionately, especially during the Lefty Driesell years. He was proud to share that he was “ABC” all the way, fueled mostly by his intense dislike of a certain popular UNC coach and his four-corner offense.
He was a free spirit and approached life just a little differently than most would expect. He was outspoken and quick to share his thoughts and opinions, but he always lived by the impeccable manners and compassion his parents taught him. He leaves a legacy of stories from the golf course, spontaneous trips to Vegas or a good party. One of his last comments while at Trinity Ridge was “My favorite thing in the whole world is a pretty girl.” He believed in spontaneity and loved to do things like throw fireworks in the fireplace when no one was looking, or loading the car with children dressed in their Sunday best and heading to the nearest creek. Anyone who crossed his path probably has a story to tell, and many were the recipient of one of his unique nicknames.
He is survived by daughters, Susan Stancil and husband, Lynn, and Judy Allen and husband, Jack; grandson, Jack Preston Allen III, all of Stony Point; and sister-in-law, Sara Ward Bumbarger; plus many nieces and nephews.
He was quite fond of the Rudyard Kipling poem “If” which advocates the virtues he tried to live by, including integrity, perseverance, tolerance, determination and confidence. He often shared the final line of Horatio Spafford’s hymn “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”
He was clear in his wish to not hold a funeral or formal service. The family plans to hold a celebration of life at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, feel free to raise a toast whenever he comes to mind or share a special story with his family. Remember his words “A good story should never be spoiled by sticking strictly to the truth.”
Memorials may be made to the Hickory Museum of Art at www.hickoryart.org; Montessori at Sandy Ford at montessoriatsandyford.org; one of our worthy local animal rescues such as Hartman’s Haven Dog Rescue at hartmanshaven.org; NC PAWS Cat Rescue at ncpawsrescue.org; or to the charity of your choice.
Published by Hickory Daily Record on Nov. 16, 2021.