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Thomas L. King: King of King's Ice Cream fame

November 27, 2017

Heaven welcomed a favorite son, Thomas L. King, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, at the Delaware Hospice Center, Milford. Tom succumbed to metastatic bladder cancer after a courageous, two-year battle.

In the last weeks of his illness, Tom was visited and contacted by so many who felt blessed to have known him. In those last weeks, he received back much of the love he had given throughout his life. He had the privilege of feeling the impact of his generous, compassionate, and loving nature.

Tom grew up in Milton and graduated from Cape Henlopen High School in 1973. He attended University of Delaware where, with his KA buddies, he majored in socialization and camaraderie. After college, he worked at Barcroft, now SPI Pharma, for two years. There, he met longtime friend Ralph Short who taught him that when nature calls, you get in a boat and go fishing. Fishing and golf were Tom's favorite sports with each offering an opportunity to meet and love his friends. Short often referred to Tom King as "the nicest man in Sussex County."

Tom was most likely greeted in heaven by his father, Earl King, who predeceased Tom in 2000. Earl was the founder of King's Homemade Ice Cream in Milton in 1972. Tom and his wife Chris opened King's in Lewes in 1981. During Tom's 30 years as owner, he passionately developed the King's brand to become the finest homemade ice cream in Delaware. Delaware Today awarded King's Ice Cream a seat in their Hall of Fame for consistently winning Best Ice Cream year after year.

Through the years, Tom hired, rarely fired, and influenced hundreds of young employees. He loved working with youth. King's was noted as a good place to work for a first job because Tom was a nurturing, fair boss. He sold his business in 2010 to his daughter, Chelsea, and her husband, Rudy, who continue Earl and Tom's tradition of excellence.

After selling King's, Tom worked jobs in real estate and golf and was teasingly referred to as a "glorified paperboy" when he took his last job with the Cape Gazette. Each of his retirement jobs allowed Tom the chance to pursue his favorite pastime: listening and talking to his fellow man.

Early in his career as business owner, Tom became involved with the Lewes Chamber of Commerce where he met Dennis Forney and Cliff Diver. The three of them took turns in the early 1980s as president, vice president, and second vice president, helping to establish the Lewes Seashore Marathon, the revitalized Lewes Christmas Parade, and other community activities. He served as chairman of the Lewes Christmas Parade for 35 years. His activity with the Chamber of Commerce gave him the chance to meet and know more and more people around town. Chris laughingly began referring to her husband as the unofficial mayor of Lewes.

Not finished with community service, Tom served terms on the Lewes Planning Commission and accepted a position on the Beebe Medical Center board of directors. He served as the Building Committee chairman at a time when the new addition with the helipad was being built on the main campus. He had the pleasure of working with Joe Hudson, Halsey Knapp, and Gene Bookhammer, Jeffrey Fried, Jim Barr, Bill Lee and others. He made friends with doctors, nurses, and administrators in the 13 years he served on the board. He retired his position when he learned he had cancer. Many of these same people compassionately aided Tom during his battle.

Tom's biggest accomplishment in life was his family. For all the time he gave to others, he gave even more to his wife, Chris, his son, Ryan, and his daughter, Chelsea. He loved taking the family to the beach, driving out on the dunes, throwing in a fishing rod, popping open a beer, and playing with his kids. He supported their interests as they grew, and became a close confidant to each of them.

When the children left home, he and Chris took trips to visit them in various parts of the U.S. and the world. Traveling and meeting new people filled Tom with joy. When the children married and became parents, their children became his children. Aidan, Kiran, and Simone Spoor, and Reese and Wynn King meant more to Tom than anything. He was a fun, loving grandparent. He loved to play and to introduce the grandchildren to new experiences. Of course, the beach was a big part of it all.

Tom was deeply loved and will be missed by his family. Besides his wife, Chris, his children, Chelsea (Rudy Spoor) and Ryan (Kelley) and grandchildren, he is survived by his mother, Wanda King; brother, Ben King (Donna); and sister, Sandra King Flynn (Kevin), and many nieces and nephews who adored him. His brother-in-law Paul DeVilbiss was like a brother to him. The two of them enjoyed a loyal, enduring friendship.

Tom's engaging smile, bright blue eyes, and white, Santa hair lit up our world. His generous, caring soul now lights the heavens.

Visitors may call from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bethel Methodist Church, 4th Street, Lewes, Thursday, Nov. 30. Tom's service begins at 1 p.m. followed by a private burial.

A celebration of Tom's life will be held at Irish Eyes of Lewes, Thursday, Dec. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. Please join us with your stories.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford, DE 19963.

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