Obituary - William Ernest Thomas Jr.
Last updated 12/16/2021 at 11:20am
William Ernest Thomas Jr., 89, passed away peacefully at home in Havre, MT, surrounded by his family Thursday, December 9th, 2021.
A memorial service will be held at the Van Orsdel United Methodist Church Thursday, January 6th, 2022, at 1:00 pm.
He was born June 22nd, 1932, in Omaha, NE. He was the only child of William E. Thomas and Helen Grace Belle (Taylor) Thomas. He spent his early and elementary years in Lincoln, NE. At age 10 his family moved to Texas.
He spent his teen and young adult years in Austin and the San Antonio area, graduating from Harlandale High School in Texas. After graduating, he attended San Antonio College for two years before enlisting in the U.S. Army from 1953-1955, where he earned the rank of corporal, serving as a cadreman responsible for training the unit.
After serving two years, he attended and graduated from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. It was here he first met the love of his life, Laura Louise (Queen) Thomas, through their mutual love for music and affiliation with the United Methodist Church. After college, he went on to earn his Masters of Divinity from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. He continued his courtship with Louise while she was attending Teacher's College at Columbia University in New York. They shared a love of the opera and theater, attending as many performances as they possibly could.
After graduation in 1960, the couple drove back to Texas to be married. Together they raised a family and sought to live a life embodying Christ's teachings and building communities that exemplified Christ's love in action.
Bill's ministry was divided almost evenly between campus and parish ministry. He began his ministry in Martindale/Fentress, Texas from 1960-61. Then he served as the Campus Minister and Instructor in the Department of Religion at Southwest Texas State University from 1961-1970. His love for the mountains and outdoors drew him to Montana in 1970 when he accepted an appointment at the Wesley Foundation at Montana State University in Bozeman for eight years. In 1978, he returned to parish ministry when he was appointed to the Van Orsdel United Methodist Church in Havre, where he served until 1987. He then served the First United Methodist Church in Sheridan, WY, from 1987-1993. His last appointment was at Grace United Methodist
Church in Livingston, MT, and the Shields Valley United Methodist Church from 1993-1997. Even though he retired from the role of minister, he continued to remain actively involved in communities dedicated to doing Christ's work by being a very active member
of the Bozeman United Methodist Church and later the First United Methodist Church in Port Angeles, WA.
In addition to being a dedicated member of his church family, he was also very dedicated to his own family and being a father to his three children. Bill is survived by his son, David Thomas and wife, Tina (Gregory) Thomas, and their three children, Will, Ivy and Madalyn; his daughter Sandra Thomas and wife, Rachel Mears, and their three children, Lily, Asher and Ezra of Cheverly, MD, and daughter Becky Thomas of Livingston, MT.
Throughout his life, Bill found loyal companions in his dogs. He is also survived by his ever-faithful border collie, Kuma. He remembered her to the end and she was constantly by his side tending to him.
Bill's family shares many joy-filled memories of time spent with him. Bill had a great sense of humor and always had a song in his head that he could sing to fit any situation. Time spent with Bill was generally full of music and laughter. As a family, they enjoyed traveling, camping and hiking, summers spent at their beach house in Galveston, TX, and later their time-share in Glacier. Bill also enjoyed meeting people and having lengthy meaningful conversations. He was thoughtful, compassionate and motivated by issues impacting social justice.
Throughout his life, Bill was very physically active and loved the outdoors. As a campus minister he led college students on backpacking trips around the Bozeman area. After retiring and moving to Port Angeles, he joined the Over-the-Hill Hikers exploring the Olympic Peninsula.
He was also a lifelong supporter of the arts. As college students he and Louise sang in the San Antonio Opera. As a campus minister, he directed the Kairos Players at MSU and traveled to perform. One of his favorite performances to reminisce about was "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." When he and Louise retired to Port Angeles, WA, they had season tickets to the Fifth Avenue Theater and the Seattle Opera. They were also dedicated docents at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center and made memories with their grandchildren in Webster's Woods every time they visited. Bill lived a very active, joy-filled life feeling a deep connection with and responsibility for his community and his world.
His love for coffee and cookies helped power his indefatigable curiosity and dedication to humanity. In honor and remembrance of Bill, we hope you will make more moments to share a cup of coffee, meaningful conversation, laughter and maybe a little song with people to work toward building communities of compassion, acceptance and joy.