Tommy DeLoach 'was a good man and a loyal friend’

Friends, family recall DeLoach’s dedication to his city, his career, his softball players and his wife, daughters and grandchildren.

Tommy DeLoach, his wife, Dawn, and their two daughters, Nicole Hubbard, left, and Michelle Friedman, right.
Tommy DeLoach, his wife, Dawn, and their two daughters, Nicole Hubbard, left, and Michelle Friedman, right.
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When Elena Friedman, 12, played in her travel softball tournament on a recent weekend, all of the players wrote “TD” on their faces and cleats. This was to honor Elena’s grandfather, who had passed away just a day earlier. That’s the kind of respect Tommy DeLoach received from people of all ages. And he would have loved seeing the girls coming together for one of their own.

Thomas Cleveland “Tommy” DeLoach, of Winter Garden, died Saturday, Dec. 14. He was 79.

DeLoach was born in 1940 in Pensacola, but his parents moved soon after to Winter Garden, where he graduated from Lakeview High School in 1958. He earned a mathematics degree from The Citadel and served in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.

After he and Dawn Princeton married in 1966, he worked on the Apollo Space Program as a systems analyst at Cape Canaveral. The DeLoaches returned to Winter Garden to raise a family, and he spent nearly 50 years as a chief operating and financial officer for Holland Properties/TM Ranch.

Steve Holland president of the company, said he was DeLoach’s boss but, more importantly, he was his friend.

“We were friends ever since seventh grade,” Holland said. “We double dated all through high school. … We always joked in school that I would marry Connie Britt and he would work for me.”

Both predictions eventually came true.

“I remember a lot of things about Tommy,” Holland said. “He was a good man and a great employee, and he really looked after my company. That allowed me to do what I wanted to do in life. I could leave him in charge, and I didn’t worry about my company.”

Holland recalls his friend as a civic-minded person who loved his city of Winter Garden. In 1980, DeLoach served a term as a Winter Garden city commissioner. He also was a longtime member of the Winter Garden Rotary, serving as president in 1987 and maintaining a perfect-attendance record for more than 40 years.

“He was a great fellow; he’s sure going to be missed,” Holland said. “I never hear a ’50s song that I don’t think of Tommy.”

DeLoach was an early member of the West Orange Girls Club and coached girls — including both daughters — for years on the softball field.

In the mid-1980s, Greg Smith met DeLoach when his daughter wanted to play softball at the girls club, then located on East Story Road. DeLoach was president at the time, he said, and Smith became a board member.

“The best way I could describe back in (those) days was we were a family of families,” Smith said. “And Tommy DeLoach was the leader of that family. He was very well liked up there. … He watched after the finances, he made sure there was no money spent that didn’t need to be spent, he made sure every dime was spoken for and the sponsors were thanked.”

Smith remembers DeLoach helping West Orange High School’s softball team, too

Tommy was a great organizer; he was a great leader,” Smith said. “I just thank God that I got to know him. … I would like to think that Tommy DeLoach made an impact on many girls in West Orange County. … I know there are a lot of young ladies out there that are going to miss him.”

Besides his wife, DeLoach is survived by his two daughters and their husbands, Nicole and Matthew Hubbard, of Tampa, and Michelle and Matthew Friedman, of Winter Garden; two brothers and their wives, Robert and Debbie DeLoach, of Clermont, and James and Sandi DeLoach, of Ocoee; and four grandchildren, Austin and Ansley Hubbard, and Elena and Brett Friedman.

A celebration of life was held Friday. Memorial gifts in DeLoach’s memory can be made to First United Methodist Church of Winter Garden, 125 N. Lakeview Ave., Winter Garden, FL 34787, to be used for the repair of the bell tower; or to Cornerstone Hospice.

DeLoach’s son-in-law, Matt Friedman, said he deeply loved his country, family, friends and city of Winter Garden.

“Many strong and dignified leaders in this community left their house in tears during the past few weeks when saying goodbye,” Friedman said. “I think this shows what he meant to them.”

On one Facebook post, Michelle Friedman called her dad “brilliant, passionate about his family, a loyal friend, a dedicated employee, … a proud community member with a deep sense of integrity, a true American hero and an overall great man.”

Nicole Hubbard considered herself a daddy’s girl and posted a memorial on her Facebook page, as well.

“My father, my favorite person in this world, best friend, coach, biggest cheerleader and mentor, entered the gates of heaven with one heck of a bang,” Hubbard wrote. “He passed right after a terrible storm and my mom, sister and I smiled knowing that it was not a (coincidence), but rather his way of letting all of his family and friends in heaven know he had arrived and now the party can start.

“While I know he will be back in his own subtle ways, he won't be sitting in his favorite blue recliner when we come through the doors when we visit home or answer the phone, "Hey, babe," when I call just to talk,” she wrote.

“I have enjoyed hearing all the stories from my parents’ friends as what felt like the (entire) city of Winter Garden came by to say their goodbyes,” Nicole Hubbard said. “Everyone loved my dad, and a resounding theme I heard over these past few weeks was, ‘He was a good man and a loyal friend.’”




Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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