Merle Thomas "Tom" Dingess

A graveside service, with full military honors, for Merle Thomas “Tom” Dingess, 81, will be held May 5 at 11 a.m. in Hillcrest Cemetery in Conway. The family will receive friends immediately following the service at the graveside.

Mr. Dingess, a retiree of both the U.S. Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency, died in Conway Medical Center May 1.

He was born in Chapmanville, W.Va., to Thomas Clay and Lillie Mae (Curry) Dingess, and attended Chapmanville High School in Chapmanville where he was better known as “Catbird.” He attended two years at Marshall University and is a graduate of West Virginia State University.

His military specialty was in telecommunications operations. During his military career he received the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, a National Defense Service Medal, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, the Air Force Conduct Medal with Five Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, and a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon. During his career with the USAF he served in Portugal, Turkey, Italy and Thailand, as well as many bases across the United States.

After retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1980, he enjoyed a career with the Central Intelligence Agency where he served in Bangladesh, The Philippines, and India. 

Mr. Dingess was a competitive athlete and an avid sports fan and outdoorsman; he played fast-pitch softball and golf, and enjoyed fishing in fresh and ocean waters. He also loved his great home state of West Virginia and was a loyal fan of all West Virginia University Mountaineer sports.

The discipline and patriotism he learned from years of service never left him as his family and friends will attest. Mr. Dingess always looked on the bright side of life, was a gentleman, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He kept everyone laughing until his very last days. His optimism and joie de vivre will be painfully missed.

He was predeceased by three brothers, Stanley “Bud” Dingess, Bernie Dingess and James “Jim” Dingess; and two sisters, Sandra Lee Dingess and Sheila Ann Trader.

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Panom T. Dingess of Conway; three sons, David Dingess of High Point, N.C., Brian Dingess (Amy) of Fort Worth, Texas, and Christopher Dingess of Conway; two daughters, Kimberly Dingess-MacLachlan (Alex) of Greensboro, N.C., and Michele Dingess Noma (Rob) of Atlanta, Ga.; thirteen grandchildren; and eleven great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be sent to Homes For Our Troops, 6 Main St., Taunton, Mass. 02780 or online at

Please sign an online guestbook at

Goldfinch Funeral Home, Conway chapel is in charge of arrangements.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.