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William L. Thomas, 68, died after a long, and for the most part peaceful, coexistence with colon cancer. At last, cancer did what it does, and Bill died on February 16, 2014.
Bill was born on July 21, 1945, in Pierre, South Dakota, the son of Herb and Lela (Shanks) Thomas. His parents divorced in 1947. Bill graduated from Theodore F. Riggs High School in 1963. He then graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1967, and the University of Iowa College of Law in 1973.
Bill met Julianne Thomas in seventh grade, and they became best friends during high school. They participated in plays, and were often debate partners. They went their separate ways during college, but remained in contact. Bill finally had the good sense to fall in love with his best friend and they were married on June 12, 1971, in Pierre, South Dakota. At the completion of her pediatric residency in 1974, she and Bill moved to Cedar Rapids, where they have lived and worked since.
Bill began private law practice as an associate of Lew Eells and then became an assistant Linn County Attorney in the Felony Division. In 1979 he resumed private practice with the firm of Crawford, Sullivan, Read and Roermerman. In 1981 he was appointed Judge in the Sixth Judicial District, where he served until the end of 2006, when he retired and took senior status. He served as a Senior District Court Judge until January 16, 2014, when he fully retired.
Early in his tenure as a judge, Bill concluded that many lawsuits, especially family cases, did not involve serious disputes about the law, but involved major personal conflict between the parties. In attempting to find a better way to resolve these disputes, he took both civil and family mediation training at the National Judicial College. He was then instrumental in the development of the Sixth Judicial District Family Mediation program, which began in 1996.
He served on the Board of Directors of the Iowa Peace Institute in Grinnell, the National Board of the Academy of Family Mediators, which merged with other dispute resolution organizations and became the Association for Conflict Resolution. He was then on the National Family Council for the ACR, and the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. He served as chair of the Sixth Judicial District's Mediation Advisory Committee from its inception until late 2013.
In 2002, he discovered kayaking, and became seriously hooked. He did several brief training programs and then a week long program at the Kayak Academy in Seattle in 2005, during which he celebrated his 60th birthday. The best trip was a ten day catamaran and kayak trip in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador in 2007.
He was predeceased by his parents, his elder brother John, three aunts and two glorious golden retrievers. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Dr. Julianne Thomas.
Bill will especially be remembered for his humor, wisdom and love.
Memorial services will be held February 21, 2014, at 11 a.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 361 17th Street, S.E., Cedar Rapids, with Pastor Bob David officiating. Burial will be private. Visitation will be at Cedar Memorial Funeral Home on February 20, 2014, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to Mediation Services of Eastern Iowa, Indian Creek Nature Center Paddle Day, or Kids First Law Center.
Online condolences may be made to www.cedarmemorial.com.
Published in Des Moines Register on Feb. 19, 2014