Rodney James 'Crump' Thomas Jr., 1923-2005
Mary Lou Atkinson
Rodney James "Crump" Thomas Jr., 81, was a U.S. Navy veteran and a U.S. Postal Service retiree. But more than that, he was a family man.
His two sons, two daughters and eight grandchildren were his pride and joy, said Yvonne Fassitt Thomas, his wife of almost 56 years. The two were introduced by a mutual friend after Thomas, a lifelong New Orleanian, returned from serving in World War II.
"He was just a very, very loving and kind-hearted man," she said. "All of his children adored him and looked up to him."
"He was really a good dad to us," said daughter Charlene Thomas Wilson of Baton Rouge. She also spoke of the importance that her father, a graduate of McDonogh 35 High School, placed on making sure all his children graduated from college -- which they did, beginning with the firstborn, Rodney J. Thomas III, who went to Harvard and now works in Dallas.
Charlene especially recalled the graduation of the youngest, Trina Thomas Wilson, from Emory University in Atlanta.
"He and my mother had her late in their lives, and I think he worried about not being around for her," Charlene said. "So when she graduated, he was the happiest man. He walked around with that diploma like it was his."
Trina then went on to get another diploma, from law school.
"He was a very good husband and father to his children," said Thomas' sister-in-law Alice F. Jupiter, "and it was reflected in their behavior and success in life."
Son Derek A. Thomas has advanced to the rank of chief petty officer in the Navy, currently stationed in Honolulu.
Still, it wasn't all work and no play for the Thomas family. On vacations, Charlene said, "We would drive to New York, California and Florida." And her dad was a sports fan with a loyalty to the Saints.
But one thing about him is a mystery to his family: how he got the nickname "Crump." They only know that he acquired it before he and Yvonne met.
"We were trying to guess that the other night," his wife said. "To tell the truth, I never did like the name."
A few years after their marriage, Rodney and Yvonne Thomas were among the first to move into New Orleans' Pontchartrain Park subdivision, which, before Katrina, was scheduled to celebrate its 50th anniversary this month.
Yvonne evacuated. Her husband stayed behind.
"Everything was destroyed," Yvonne said of the flooded family home a day after a funeral Mass was held for her husband at St. Jude Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, the Thomases' home church in New Orleans having been heavily storm-damaged. "All the childhood pictures were destroyed."
Having her family around her, the family to which her husband was so devoted, Yvonne Thomas said, "is the only thing that has given me the strength to go on."
Published in The Times-Picayune