Vail Daily obituary: Thomas P. Liston Sr., 1918-2016
Thomas P. Liston Sr., department store visionary and World War II hero, died at age 97 in Peoria, Illinois, on Tuesday, April 12.
He was born Sept. 12, 1918, in Chicago, to Thomas A. and Katherine (Sweeney) Liston. He graduated in 1940 from Notre Dame with a business degree. While at the university, he played right end on the Fighting Irish football team. After graduation, at age 21, he followed in his father’s footsteps to become a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, the youngest member in the board’s history at that time.
Tom lived life as a leader as was evidenced by his service as a P-47 pilot, he commanded the 377th Fighter Squadron during WW II, flying 86 missions, including the first strike on Berlin. Leaving the Air Force as a major, his honors include the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal, the Africa Star and the European Theater Ribbon with Five Battle stars.
He participated in annual reunions with other squadron members and he established two memorials in England honoring squadron members whom, as he would say, “didn’t get the round-trip ticket.”
He married Margaret Murnane in Chicago following his return from the war. She preceded him in death on December 5, 1974, in Peoria, at age 53. He then married Ruth Ziltz, in 1978, in Peoria.
Surviving are his wife, Ruth Liston, of Peoria Heights; his children, Mary Kay Champagne, of North Carolina, Thomas P “Patrick” Liston Jr. and Margaret Ann “Maggie” (Tucker) Szold, both of Peoria; a sister, Mary Wiston, of Chicago, Illinois; Ruth’s children, David (Patricia) Ziltz, of Aurora, Illinois, and Peter (Hannah) Ziltz, of Denver; grandchildren Tara (Szold) Cummings, Grant Szold, Madison Liston, Thomas Liston III, Taylor, Ari and Zoe Ziltz; and three great-grandchildren, Karson, Kennedy and Jayla.
His retail career following the war started as a Montgomery Ward trainee and he rose quickly. At Mandel Brothers in Chicago, he became store superintendent at age 31. He was named general superintendent of Bloomingdales in New York in 1950, then ascending to top department store management positions in Chicago and New York until being named president of Bergner’s Department Store in 1959 at age 40.
At Bergner’s in Peoria, he oversaw the significant growth of stores and outlets across Illinois and Wisconsin, managing with a passion for excellence and employee recognition. He retired from Bergner’s as chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1983 after spending 25 years at its helm.
Tom and Ruth traveled worldwide. With a passion for style and hospitality, they created homes with Peoria designer David Haase in Vail; Osprey, Florida; and Brevard, North Carolina, while always calling Peoria home.
Tom was an avid skier and didn’t take up the sport until he was 50 years old. He became an accomplished downhill racer participating in NASTAR events in Vail, where he won many medals including silver and gold.
Memorial visitation was held Friday, April 15, at Davison-Fulton Woolsey-Wilton Funeral Home in Peoria. A memorial service was held Saturday, April 16, at Resurrection Mausoleum in Peoria with Father Thomas Henseler officiating. Military funeral honors were presented by the U.S. Air Force and American Legion Post No. 2 of Peoria.
Memorials are being suggested to the St. Jude- Midwest Affiliate or the Disabled American Veterans. Condolences and memories may be shared through Woolsey-Wilton.com.