Fallen Warriors

Thomas Gear - Class Of 1968 VIEW PROFILE


Tom Gear, former state delegate and Hampton City Council member, dies

Former Del. Tom Gear, R-Hampton, died Wednesday of an apparent suicide in York County, according to a law enforcement official.

Gear, 69, had served in the House of Delegates from 2002 until 2010, resigning shortly before the 2011 General Assembly as he battled with multiple sclerosis.

“He was not afraid to buck the system, not afraid to speak up for what he believed … for the people of Hampton, who loved him so much,” said Del. Brenda Pogge, R-Norge. She grew to know Gear in the 2002 campaign against a sales tax increase to fund road projects in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia and later managed his second campaign for the House.

“Tom had a way of perturbing people and then turning around and being their friend,” she said. “He was always ready to put out his right hand and shake anybody’s hand.”

"Tom was a brilliant man, and he had an engaging personality,” Hampton Councilman Billy Hobbs said. “I always came away better informed after discussing something with Tom. He knew Hampton and our people."

An often outspoken critic of government, Gear bucked GOP leaders when he opposed a 2007 proposal that would have allowed local governments to raise taxes to fund regional transportation projects. He battled fiercely with state Senators over judicial openings on the Peninsula.

Gear was found dead by suicide on Wednesday morning in the 1700 block of Waterview Road in York County, said York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs.

“He was found down there at 9:57 a.m. by Dominion Energy workers,” Diggs said, saying that Gear was found dead in his car.

Waterview Road is at the mouth of the York River — near the Dominion Yorktown Power Station — about 31 miles from Gear’s home in the Willow Oaks area of Hampton.

Diggs said that it was obvious from the scene that it was a suicide, and that “there were some other indicators” related to family members reporting Gear missing Tuesday night in Hampton. It was not clear exactly how many hours he had been dead, with Diggs saying he had last been heard from at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

“I knew Tom, and it’s a real tragedy,” Diggs said. “Certainly our prayers go out to his family. I’ve known Tom for probably 20 years. Tom was a great guy.”

When Gear served as a state delegate, where he represented part of York County, “he did a great job for us,” Diggs said.

“Any issues that I ever had (pertaining to the General Assembly), he always accepted my advice,” Diggs said. “And he called for my advice.”

About 15 years ago, Diggs said, there was some confusion among lawmakers before a legislative committee vote on a bill pertaining to polygraph testing. Gear looked at Diggs, who was sitting nearby. “I gave him a thumbs up,” Diggs said. “And he voted yes.”

Donna Price, the administrator for the State Medical Examiner’s Office Hampton Roads office in Norfolk, said the examination into Gear’s death was not yet complete.

“I am saddened to hear about the passing of Del. Gear. My thoughts are with his family during this difficult time,” Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said in a statement.

"Although Tom and I were on the opposite sides of the aisle, we had a deep respect for each other," said Gaylene Kanoyton, first vice chairwoman, Democratic Party of Virginia. “We were comfortable enough to joke with each other politically. Tom fought the issues he believed in and served his constituents well. My deep condolences to his family.”

Son of former Hampton Mayor Thomas J. Gear, he launched into public service in 1995 when he led fundraising for Honor Park in Hampton, a memorial garden to police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

He was elected to City Council in 1998 and won election to the House of Delegates in 2001.

Gear’s wife, Janet, died in 2014. They had two adult children.

He was a commercial printer and operated Gear-Up Printing on Armistead Avenue in Hampton for many years.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. It provides free, confidential help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Staff writers Reema Amin and Lisa Vernon Sparks contributed to this report.


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06/17/18 05:25 PM #1    

Bonnie Bridger (Mittelmaier) (1969)

Such tragic and stunningly sorrowful news was our's to discover on Wednesday, June 15, 2018.  A very unexpected loss of a KHS Classmate.  Alley and I had seen Tommy at a Phoebus Boys Gathering at Mama Rosa's in Phoebus, in early May, just after his birthday.  He appeared to be in pretty good spirits and was up and moving around, seemingly to be in a better place with his MS.  Thinking back, Tommy was diagnosed with MS in 1980.  That is a very long time to have lived with a dibilitating disease such as this.  But through the years, seems that he would roll with those punches and sometimes be better able to navigate than others.  Tommy was an active participant in life, it was pretty much a given that we would see him at the annual Valentine Party, the Phoebus Boys Gathering, every KHS reunion, downtown Hampton, and so forth.  I so admired his courage, strength, and ability to rise above whatever it was he was experiencing, that might destroy or bring another down.  I never expected to hear this, I wish he would have let someone close know of the despair that drove him to this action.  He was a good man, in my humble opinion, and I know he loved his family and his friends.  So farewell for now Tommy, now you and Jan are together again in the meadows of Heaven and are shining stars and perfect beings.  I wish his family deep peace of the earth and comfort.  Sail on Tommy.

Bonnie Bridger Mittelmaier

06/18/18 06:26 PM #2    

George Allen (1968)

I was saddened and shocked to hear about Tommy's recent passing.  Although I moved away from Hampton over 40 years ago, my memories of KHS are still quite vivid.

I was a proud member of the KHS baseball team with Tommy.  Not only was he a great ball player, he was an even better person.  I remember seeing he and Jan in the hallways, lunch room and at many of the games and social events.  There were so many, many fond memories.

I was looking forward to sharing some of those memories with him at next year's BIG reunion.  Although that won't happen now, he will always be in my thoughts and prayers.  Not only was he a teammate, he was my friend.

Rest in peace.

George Allen

06/18/18 07:06 PM #3    

Carole-Sue Stern (Fiest) (1968)

I was as shocked by the news of Tommy's passing as those who commented above. I have memories that go as far back as my years in elementary school. My parents, Pat and Stan Stern, were best friends with Tommy's parents for years. They'd meet at the Gear's house for drinks, and complete silliness.  And even Christmas Eves. They'd have so much fun. The kids, (my brother Jeff, Cathy, who my Dad named "Mud-Cat," and Tommy), would munch on whatever snacks the adults would share. Sometimes, they'd drop us off at the Lee Movie Theatre, probably to get us out from under their feet. In fact, on one of those movie excursions, Tommy sat next to me, and then, he put his arm around me. I thought I'd die! I didn't know what to do. I was probably 12 or so. I felt so bad, and so guilty, that I confessed to my Mom, like I had committed a sin.

And then there were the numerous times we'd all go to watch the Post 48 Red Socks little league team in Phoebus that Daddy coached. In fact, if memory serves me right, Big Tommy coached too.Tommy was such an amazing, talented, baseball player even then.  And of course, he always played the All Stars game.

There are years of wonderful memories of Tommy, and his family. I regret that I did not keep in touch these last several years. He was a good guy, who accomplished so much more than I could have imagined as a young girl. His family and his friends are blessed to have had him near, and to have had the opportunity to share laughter, and love with Tommy. He is missed.

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