Joseph Campbell Thomas, 91, of Salem, passed away on Wednesday, September 4, 2013. He was born on March 25, 1922. He was preceded in death by his wife, Susan Leftwich Thomas; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Brown Thomas; brother, Frank Brown Thomas Jr.; brother, Lewis Preston Thomas; and sister, Mary Louise Thomas Crain.
Surviving are his daughter, Julia Thomas Arthur and her husband, Michael; his son, Joseph Campbell Thomas Jr. and his wife, Leigh; his grandchildren, Laura Campbell Cannaday, Lesley Catherine Arthur, Michael Thomas Arthur, Joseph Campbell Thomas III, and John Blakely O'Brien Thomas; many nieces and nephews; and other loving family members.
A lifelong resident of western Roanoke County, Joe grew up on his family farm during the Depression, working in the family's tomato canning factory and raising crops and livestock.
After graduating from Andrew Lewis High School in 1939 where he was drum major, he went on to attend Virginia Polytechnic Institute. While at Virginia Tech, he was a member of the Regimental Command of the Corps of Cadets, the Scabbard and Blade and the VPI German Club.
After graduating in 1943, Joe served in the United States Army Air Corps as a pilot flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. After a successful tenure working for American Bridge and General Motors, he and his brothers, Frank and Lewis, founded Thomas Bros. excavating contractors.
Beginning with a small D2 bulldozer, Thomas Bros. grew into one of the area's premier site development companies. Joe left his mark throughout the region working on numerous projects including Tanglewood Mall, Smith Gap Landfill, Spring Hollow Reservoir, Valley View Mall, Lewis Gale Hospital, Carilion Hospital, Salem Memorial Stadium, and many others. He was also a co-founder of Salem Ready Mix Concrete, Inc. and Salem Foundations, Inc.
Additionally, he was a partner in many residential development projects including Westclub, Woodbridge, Campbell Hills, Russlen Farms, and the Fairways at Hanging Rock.
An avid golfer, one of Joe's proudest endeavors was his role in constructing Hanging Rock Golf Club. As an owner and partner in Hanging Rock Golf, he could almost always be found somewhere on the golf course or in the pro shop in his later years.
Joe firmly believed it was a man's obligation to give back to his community and to his church as well. As a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church in Salem, he served as a trustee for many years and attended every Sunday, always sitting on the second pew on the left.
He supported his community through his dedicated service on various boards and organizations, including the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, the Roanoke County School Board, Richfield Retirement Community Board of Directors, Lewis Gale Medical Foundation, Salem Rotary Club, Virginia Western Community College, the Salem YMCA, and the Salem Historical Museum, among others.
Other than his family, his work, his church, and his community, Joe's other passion was his alma mater: Virginia Tech. He rarely missed an opportunity to attend any football or basketball game for over 50 years. He also served the university in various capacities including Chairman of the Virginia Tech Second Century Campaign, the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund, and the Hackin' Hokies. In 1993 Joe was awarded the Virginia Tech Distinguished Alumni award for his significant contributions to the industrial engineering profession.
One of Joe's greatest trademarks was that he fully believed that the greatest thing one could do was to help others. He lived it every day of his life. The kindness he showed others was returned to him throughout his stay at The Oaks at Richfield for the past three plus years. The family wishes to thank Joe's great friend, Buck Simmons, and the nursing staff at The Oaks for their kindness, care and support of Joe. Although he often told them they will never truly know how much they meant to him. Joe will be sadly and lovingly missed by his family and friends.
The family will receive friends from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 5, 2013, at John M. Oakey and Son Funeral Home in Salem. Funeral Services will be conducted at First United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. on Friday, September 6, 2013. Interment will be private. Memorials may be made to the First United Methodist Church, 125 West Main Street, Salem, VA 24153.
This obituary was originally published in the Roanoke Times.