Tryon, North Carolina lost a favorite son on Wednesday, January 5th, with the passing of Austin Eugene Chapman.
Austin was born on January 20th, 1940 to Demus and Evelyn Chapman, and grew up on Howard Gap Road. At Tryon High School, Austin distinguished himself at fullback for the Tryon Tigers and was voted to the All-Conference Skyline “A” Team. During that regular season, Austin scored 112 points on 18 touchdowns and four conversions, even running 5 touchdowns in a single game. Austin distinguished himself in other ways as well, serving in his church, in the Beta Club, on the school paper, as Senior Class Vice President and graduating as the Class of 1958 Salutatorian.
Austin earned an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD where he served as Battalion Commander his First Class year and graduated with the Class of 1963 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Upon being commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy, Austin entered flight training in Pensacola Florida and earned his Wings of Gold as a jet pilot in February of 1965. In his first squadron, VA-56, Austin Chapman received the Britannia Award as the Naval Air Training Command’s Flight Student of the Year for 1956. Austin initially flew in the A-4 Skyhawk, and then the A-7 Corsair, and was eventually able to fly almost every aircraft in the Navy’s inventory, including helicopters. Later in life, Austin (Call Sign “Red Fox”) would say that his 30-year career in the U.S. Navy allowed him to live out all his childhood dreams, as he served in numerous carrier-based aviation billets, attended the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterrey, California where he received his Master’s Degree in Operations Research, and held OPNAV and Joint Staff billets.
During his 30 years of military service, Captain Austin Chapman flew 227 combat sorties in Vietnam, had well over 1000 carrier landings, completed 8 overseas deployments to all geographic Area of Operation, commanded 3 aviation units (one squadron and two Carrier Air Wings), and served as Director of three major staffs. Austin travelled the world as Personal Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations, was an International Treaty negotiator, and was Director of the Naval Institute Press. He also earned 11 personal medals, including the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and various service and campaign medals.
After his retirement in 1993, Austin Chapman returned to his home town of Tryon, where he began to lovingly rebuild, remodel, and renovate a home in Gillette Woods. He became active with Holy Cross Episcopal Church, which he had attended in High School, and served on the Vestry. He also served as vice-Chairman of the Polk County Community Foundation and as President of the Gillette Woods Homeowner’s Association. As a member of St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Trustees, Austin was awarded membership in the Second Wind Hall of Fame. Austin was elected to Tryon City Council in 2007, even serving two years as Mayor Pro Tempore. He also volunteered with the Children’s Theatre Festival and the Blue Ridge Bar-B-Que Festival and was a Cub Scout Leader.
Austin loved Polk County, the mountains, and Tryon, North Carolina. No matter where the Navy sent him, he carried Tryon in his heart and he truly believed the only good reason a person should leave such a beautiful place was because his country asked him to. He loved to spend time in his basement “making sawdust”, his modest term for creating beautiful furniture, one piece of which was featured in Fine Woodworking magazine. But most of all, Austin loved his family.
Austin was preceded in death by his parents, Demus and Evelyn, his two sisters, Ann Chapman (Murphey) and Jane Chapman (Strong), and his first wife of 26 years, Anne Lynne Holcombe Chapman of Spartanburg, SC. He leaves behind his wife of 23 years, Caroline Moore Chapman of Tryon, his daughters Lynne Chapman Mandell (Robert) of Pace, FL and Susannah Robinson (Kris) of Jacksonville, FL, and his son Thomson Flynn Moore Chapman (Jordan) of Washington, D.C. Additionally, Austin leaves behind 9 grandchildren (Gentry (Rob), Finley, Effie, Tucker, Harris, Toby, Tanner, Sarah and Luke), cousins, nephews, nieces, great-nephews, and great-nieces, as well as countless friends, squadron mates, and coworkers who were positively impacted by this good and honest man.
The funeral service will be held Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Church of the Holy Cross, 150 Melrose Avenue in Tryon with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider donations to Wounded Warriors Project (woundedwarriorproject.org – Honor & Memorial Donation) or Tunnels to Towers Foundation (t2t.org).
To send flowers to Austin's family, please visit our floral store.