Published 5:43 pm Saturday, January 31, 2015


Dec. 31, 2014


Thomas F. Conlon, a U.S. Foreign Service officer who served in Saigon during of the Vietnam conflict, died on December 31, 2014 in Sterling, Virginia. The former Washington (N.C.) resident was 90.

A recognized expert in Southeast Asian politics, Mr. Conlon served in South Vietnam twice as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy. He was in Saigon from 1967 to 1968 when the U.S. military involvement in the country was at its peak. He had been in Saigon in 1961 during a failed coup attempt against the regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem.

In his 33 years as a diplomat, he also was posted in Asian nations including Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.

In 1969, he was appointed U.S. Consul General in Nice, France.  He served in Australia, Cuba and Washington where he worked on the country desk for South Vietnam and in the department’s Intelligence and Research section. In 1970, he was chosen to study at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Conlon and his wife, the former Joan Grace, settled in Washington at 413 E. Main Street after he retired from the State Department in 1981.

While in retirement, he lectured on Southeast Asian history and translated French, Malay and Spanish texts. He also spoke Vietnamese and Indonesian.

Mr. Conlon interviewed retired Foreign Service Officers as part of the State Department’s Oral History Project, and was active in Catholic charities, specifically those involving the Mother of Mercy Church in Washington. He was also deeply involved with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s efforts to teach safety to boaters on the Pamlico River.

Mrs. Conlon, who died in the fall of 2012, had been active in volunteer work at the Brown Memorial Library and at the Beaufort County Arts Council. The Conlons later moved from Washington to retirement communities in Virginia.

Mr. Conlon was born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in Biak, New Guinea. He graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service 1948 and later studied the Indonesian language and Asian studies at Yale University.

He is survived by Terry (Virginia) Conlon of Raleigh, N.C.; Peggy Conlon Madigan of Oak Park. Illinois; Celia (Dick) Shepard of McLean, Virginia; Peter Conlon of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Claudia Conlon of Washington, D.C.; as well as eight grandchildren. Besides his wife, he was preceded in death by three sons — Thomas, Jr., William, and Timothy.

A memorial service was held Jan. 8, 2015 at Falcon Landing’s a retirement community in Sterling, Virginia. His remains will be interred with those of his wife at Arlington National Cemetery.

Contributions in his memory may be made to Fenwick High School, 505 Washington Blvd, Oak Park, Illinois, 60302.

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