On a warm October evening 14 years ago, my husband Sam Thomas died of prostate cancer. After a valiant effort, trips to M. D. Anderson, doses of experimental drugs and much pain, he went home to his beloved father.
That Sunday had been one of watching and waiting. Many friends had come by to check his progress, the halls of 5th floor Hendrick Hospital were lined with college students and friends, some in prayer vigil. Sam's room was full of those who loved him. His sister Dorothy, his mother, Brandon, Ronnie and Darla Lorenz, Sally Gary, Shellie Braddock, me and others.
A few minutes after midnight on October 13 after being a coma for several hours, he sighed and left. Sam was beloved by students, parents, administrators,and the school board in Abilene's educational community. He had made his mark at ACU's education dept. which often sent students to observe him. After his death, a new school in the district was named after him. Each school where he had served as principal planted a tree in his honor.
He had literally helped build Minter Lane Church of Christ where he served as a teacher, deacon and elder. His funeral was in the building which still holds the nails he hammered. The building was much too small for the crowd.
Sam was famous for his compassion, wisdom, and excellent teaching. He thought he wanted to be a minister when he came to ACU in 1951. However, after watching his niece's and nephew's teachers and Mrs. Gilbreth at the ACU Campus School, he changed his mind, stayed an extra year at ACU, and earned a degree in Elementary Education.
His first job was 5th grade in Port Arthur, Texas where he stayed for five years. After deciding to work on his masters, he returned to Abilene and began work at Fair Park Elementary (now closed) under his wonderful friend and mentor Scott Hays (Brandon's namesake). Later he was appointed principal at Bowie Elementary. He was principal at Austin Elementary when he died. He loved his job so much that toward the end, we would put his wheelchair in the truck, he would drive to Austin. There the sweet custodian would unload the wheelchair, sit Sam in it and push him to his desk where he would stay until 4:40. (He never left before the majority of his teachers were gone.)
Those who knew him are full of "Sam Thomas stories." We are still hearing some today we never heard before. Sam loved jokes and pranks. He would often put plastic snakes or bugs in the back of his teachers' boxes. But, of course, there would always be a piece of candy and an encouraging note there on Monday morning. He kept up with the birthdays of everyone he ever knew. When he died, I got a letter from a Port Arthur student who said he had received his birthday card earlier in the year.
Samuel Alexander Thomas was a wonderful husband and father. He and Brandon had a very special relationship (Brandon's 13th year was a little difficult) which has spurred BST to be the sweet father he is today.
I miss Sam today as I have missed him for the last 5,000 plus days. Hi, Hon, say hello to God for me.