Thomas A. Puckett
Local historian, Thomas A. Puckett, 92, of Mt. Vernon, Illinois passed away
at 6:00 A.M. on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at his home in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
He was the first born son of Dr. Leo V. Puckett and Ruth Gibson Puckett.
He was born in Mt. Vernon, Illinois on June 14, 1919. He has two brothers
Dr. Ferrell L. Puckett and Robert E. Puckett.
He attended grade school in Mt. Vernon except for a short time in Quincy, Illinois
where he moved with the family. During his grade school years he worked in his
grandfather Johnson's grocery store. The store was located at the middle of the
present high school football field in Mt. Vernon.
He attended Mt. Vernon Township High School. Tom played in the high school band and
played in a dance band (Star Dusters Dance Band) led by Les Talbott. The group made
more money than the car shop workers. He graduated from MTVHS in 1937.
He worked in a canning factory and helped in his uncle's bakery at DeKalb, Illinois.
He still says "There's no bakery products like my uncle's".
Tom joined the United States Army in March of 1941. Basic training in the horse calvary.
Served in 4th army of military police bat. guarding Bolder Dam. Attended Officer's
Candidate School and became a 1st Lieut. He served in Rochester, NY with prisoners of
war (heading the camp). Mustered out of the army in Dec. of 1945 (almost 5 yrs.).
At the end of World War II Tom had a very diverse business career. He built and sold
low income houses in east Mt. Vernon. He worked as a real estate sale man and appraised
homes for GI's in Jefferson and Wayne County.
He built and operated 1st Mt. Vernon Maid Rite (franchise) on old Fairfield Road.
It had an outdoor dance floor which made it very popular with teenagers. He had 13 employees.
He 1st married Marjorie Fry Mitchell on May 1, 1948 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. She preceded
him in death on November 27, 1982. They had two daughters: Michele Mitchell of
Mt. Vernon, Illinois and Karen Champ and husband Bob of Greenville, Illinois.
He started a long relationship with the oil business - primarily as a land man
(buying and selling leases in Canada, North and South Dakota, New York, Utah,
Mew Mexico, Colorado and Illinois).
He owned and operated a digging equipment company named "Digger O' Dell" for 9 years.
Tom designed and built Indian Hills Golf Course the first 18 hole course in Southern Illinois.
Another attraction was the lighted practice range. He built the course in 1960 and finished
and opened it in 1961. Tom ran it for 10 years before selling the course. It still attracts
golfers from this community and many other communites.
He then renewed his interest in real estate sales and as a broker established his own company.
Through the years he created many jobs.
Tom was instrumental in getting the Southern Railroad Depot moved to its present location
where it became the Jefferson County Historical Museum. Along with friends like the late
Billy S. Steffy he helped move the museum to its present location on 27th Street. Today it
is one of the finest collections of history in
All of his high school and adult life Tom brought and sold antiques some of which he placed
in a replica of his grandfather's country store. He later sold the store and contents
(5,000 items) to the Jefferson County Historical Society and the store was moved to the
society's present site on 27th Street. This was the first building on the site. Tom donated
a portion of land for the village as did two other people.
On November 24, 1989 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois Tom married Dorothy Odom Stubblefield.
She has two children: Beth McDonald of Collinsville, Illinois and Andrew Stubblefield of
Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
In his retirement years he wrote three history books. "A Pictorial History of Mt. Vernon",
"Mt. Vernon Remembers" and "Mt. Vernon, Illinois - A Children's Coloring Book of Local History".
They are widely used as reference books for students in our local schools. In the past he
has provided information for articles on history written by Jim Hale and Dede Hazelton
(former writers for the Mt. Vernon Sentinel). He has served on numerous boards in the community.
While on the Oakwood Cemetery they, closed unused roads which made more burial plots, named
remaining roads, planted trees to replace old ones, and erected special markers. He served on
the Old Union Cemetery board where maintenance was a major issue - repairing historic stones
and keeping the lawn. Zadok Casey and his family are buried in this historic cemetery. He
served on the Shiloh Township board for 22 years as a precinct committee man. He served for
2 terms as president of the Jefferson County Historical Society as!
well as serving on numerous other committees. He was head of the Board of Trustees at 1st
Baptist Church when they built their church on Salem Road. After marrying Dorothy he moved
his church membership to Central Christian Church where he served on the board to preserve
Central's history. He has served on the American Legion Board as historian for 50 years and
the local Amvet board as historian for several years. He has also been an Elk member for over
50 years. He has shared information with the Downtown Development Committee, the City of
Mt. Vernon and the Chamber of Commerce. He has provided St. Mary's Good Samaritan Hospital,
Applebee's, Bob Evans and others with historic pictures that were enlarged and hung in their
places of business. He has provided numerous local students with information on Jefferson
County history, he has given talks and judged local exhibits all to increase historical
knowledge of our community. Among the items he collects are sacks, pens, penc!
ils, signs, furniture, written information, City Directory's, bottles,
mugs, and much, much more. Thru the years his favorite recreation has been golfing, dancing
and traveling. Tom has golfed on some of the most exclusive courses in the United States.
He has won dancing contests and danced on stage with "Jennifer" in Branson, Missouri on
his 80th birthday. Tom and Dorothy have traveled to Niagara Falls, Colorado, Palm Springs, CA,
Cancun, Mexico and to the Caribbean. Tom and Dorothy built a home which overlooks his beloved
- Indian Hills Golf Course. The home is a one level home to accommodate the transport chair
which he now uses. Mr. Puckett is retired but continues to take an active interest in
community affairs. With all of Tom's accomplishments his greatest joy is his wife, their
4 children, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren. Tom can be heard saying "The best
decision I ever made was to marry my wife - Dorothy - she looks after me and I wouldn't
have all of those grandchildren".
MEMORIAL SERVICE: will be held at 5:30 P.M. on Sunday, August 14, 2011 at Central Christian
Church in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Mr. J. Howard Kraps will officiate. INURNMENT: will follow
at a later date at Oakwood Cemetery in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Friends of the Thomas Allen
Puckett family may call from 2:00 to 5:30 P.M. on Sunday, August 14, 2011 at Central
Christian Church in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. For those who wish, memorials may be given to
Central Christian Church, Hospice of Southern Illinois or the Mt. Vernon Historical Society
in memory of Mr. Puckett and will be accepted at the funeral home, church or may be mailed
to Hughey Funeral Home, P.O. Box 721, Mt. Vernon, Illinois 62864
Source: Mt. Vernon, IL Register News
Date: Wednesday 31 January 1894
Submitted by: Mary Zinzilieta