He was born in Johnson City in 1925 to Frank and Anna Thomas. He grew up with his four older sisters: Louise, Dorothy, Anna and Sarah, on the Tree Streets during the Great Depression. The sisters told many stories of Bud’s early years that would rival the exploits of Tom Sawyer. From skinning a skunk to sell the hide, running off to work at the circus while it was in town, to shooting a 22 shell with a BB gun and having the bullet graze his head and then heading into the house bleeding telling his Mother “ Don’t worry, I just shot myself in the head.” Bud led a colorful childhood.
Those days would quickly end upon graduation from Science Hill High School. He would soon join the Navy and be sent to the Pacific during WWII. He rarely spoke of those times but recently shared that 4 of the 7 boats in his fleet were sunk during a typhoon and his boat was thought to be lost at sea.
After the war he returned home to Pine Street where he spent most of the next year sitting on the front porch watching cars go by. At the urging of his parents he would use the GI Bill to attend State College (ETSU), where he earned a degree in history. Jobs were hard to find at that time but with the help of his father and the good Lord above (that’s another story), he landed a job in research at Eastman in Kingsport where he worked for 33 years. He had just left work in October of 1960 when an explosion occurred at Eastman; his guardian angel had to work overtime.
By far the best day of his life was the day he married Betty Kincheloe of Johnson City on Valentine’s Day 1953. She was a beautiful girl with a heart of gold. She would spend the next 65 years spoiling him. Together they raised 4 children: Frank (wife Sarah and son Ben), Sam (wife Chun and daughters Sydney and Olivia), Sarah (and husband Gene Vollmers), and Mary (still traveling the world).
Bud enjoyed the simple things in life. He loved every meal Betty prepared for him, we all did; she was a great cook. His favorite activities were gardening, mowing the yard, piddling in his shop and going to the flea market.
By far his favorite time was Christmas. The big white farmhouse in Jonesborough would be so full of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, food and presents one could hardly move. He loved playing Rook at Christmas time or any other time that four people got together. He was blessed with wonderful neighbors who also helped make not only the holidays, but every day special.
Last Christmas was Bud’s first Christmas without Betty, and we believe he missed her so much that he was ready to pass on as well. Thank you, Bud and Betty for being such loving and understanding parents and for the lifetime of memories. We will miss you.
A graveside service will be held in the spring.
Memories and condolences may be sent to the Durham family via www.montevistafunerals.com.