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Wayne Thomas Munson, Lt. Col., U.S. Army, Ret.

2021-02-06

On Saturday, February 6th, 2021, WAYNE THOMAS MUNSON, 75, of Fernandina Beach, FL was called home. In Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes reference to “salt and light.” These very Earthly elements are offered up as a metaphor for how to live as children of God. Whether Wayne knew it or not, he was always chasing salt and light. It was obvious in his love of good food and the beach, but as we recognize his absence and the enormity of his presence, family and friends now embrace these subtle but very constant themes that quietly capture the full measure of his life and how he lived it. Born to Thomas and Josephine Munson on Friday, September 14, 1945, Wayne’s story began on the island of Manhattan. As the only boy sandwiched between two sisters, he was privy to both the highs and lows that came with that arrangement. Best described from the beginning as rough and tumble, he inherited from his father an early fascination with building, fixing and driving things that went fast. Moving with speed came naturally to Wayne, and as he got older, so too did moving with purpose. As a valet for the local country club in Glen Head, NY, Wayne met his bride-to-be Kathy, and so began a love affair that spanned 54 years, 3 countries, 1 war, 3 kids, 10 grandkids and the New York Yankees. In February 1967, Wayne enlisted in the U.S. Army. For the next twenty years, Wayne served our Nation with distinction, leaving a profound impact on all of those with whom he served. He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Valor during his time as an US Army Aviator in Vietnam, and upon his return, served in increasing positions of responsibility in both the Armor and Public Affairs branches, ultimately retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1987. While the military was an important and formative part of Wayne’s life, it was the people he met during that time that he valued most. It would be those people who would bring him closer to God. While stationed in Texas, a friend invited Wayne to attend Cursillo, an immersive weekend of Bible study, discussion and prayer aimed at building better Christian leaders. Re-awoken to God in a way that made both intellectual sense and connected with his grounded, practical outlook, everything from that moment on in Wayne’s life was guided by faith. In a ministry that often involved the family, Wayne did prison outreach to inmates through a program called Residents Encounter Christ (REC). As his children grew, he became actively involved in youth ministry programs like DDA (Day by Day Agape) and God’s TYM (Total Youth Ministry). During his last station at West Point, he helped prepare cadets to be strong and empathetic leaders. He loved helping young or troubled people find God, especially through music. After retiring from the Army, Wayne explored the public sector with the same level-head and steady hand he used to drive fast cars and fly helicopters, finding success first in banking, then as a consultant, and ultimately, as a fundraiser. In 1999, he began working for the Association of Graduates at the United States Military Academy as a Major Giving Officer, eventually moving on to roles with increasing responsibility at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and finally, at Florida State University. It wasn’t long into his second retirement that the fundraising project that meant the most to him came along: the construction of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Mission Church in Yulee, FL. As part of a collaborative team and a willing community, Wayne spearheaded the fundraising efforts that helped build the new church, raising almost $2 million and positioning the congregation for a debt-free future. This was truly the culmination of all his God-given gifts – being salt and light, moving with speed and purpose – and, other than his family, is probably the one thing he was the most proud of in all his 75 years. Our family is forever grateful for the time we had with Wayne, the example he set for us and the outpouring of love shown in the wake of his passing. We are assured Wayne was met at the Pearly Gates by his late son, Eric, cheesecake in hand. Wayne is survived by his sweet, loving wife Kathy, his daughter-in-law Michelle Munson and her family, his daughter Amy Mullee and her family, and his son Bryan Munson and his family. A memorial mass will be held at a later date and, in lieu of flowers or gifts, the family would ask you instead consider a donation in Wayne’s name to either of the following worthy causes that he held close to his heart: Tunnels to Towers Foundation or the Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries.

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