William Thomas (1918 - 2014)

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William "Bill" Thomas

August 3, 1918

March 19, 2014

Bill passed away peacefully at St. Mary's hospital with his family at his side, at the age of 95. He was born on August 3, 1918 in Smethport, Pennsylvania. While a child, his family moved to Buffalo, New York. Bill struck out on his own during the depression, at the tender age of 15. He made his way out west, and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. He worked on many Corps projects. When the depression ended, he moved to Hawaii to work in construction.

Bill was in the Navy in WW II, serving as a Gunner's Mate on the Battleship New Jersey, taking part in combat operations, from the Battle of Leyte Gulf, on through to Japan's surrender. A role model to those who knew him, Bill always had pride in being a Navy Veteran, a distinction that he shared with his son, Mike. He truly lived as the embodiment of America's Greatest Generation.

Bill started his own trucking company after the war. He also was a heavy equipment operator, and a lifelong member of the Operating Engineers Union.

He displayed great aptitude for understanding mechanical theory. he invented, and marketed, a remarkable device for raising antennas.

Bill found his way into the logging industry. It was while he was in the logging business, that he met the love of his life, school teacher Elizabeth "Maranel" Erickson, in Montgomery Creek, CA, where, Bill said, she was "the local beauty". The two of them shared a love of the mountains, exploring, fishing, and each other's company.

He then worked on construction projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. At that time, Maranel was teaching school in Walnut Creek. It was clear that they were made for each other, and they married in 1959 in Reno, Nevada. They spent the next 55 years at each other's side.

Bill and Maranel moved to Agate Bay at North Lake Tahoe, with Bill's son Mike. Maranel started teaching at Kings Beach Elementary school. He worked on clearing timber and grading the streets in Agate Bay. He left his mark on other projects in the area, such as Prosser Dam, the Truckee Airport, Stampede Dam, ski areas, and a plethora of roadways. After 24 years at Tahoe, they retired and moved to Reno.

They spent many years travelling with their trailer throughout the United State, accompanied by their Schnauzers; Dolly, Dixie, and Dee Dee. They were both rock hounds, and loved wandering the deserts looking for geological treasures. He built a lapidary shop, for cutting and polishing rocks, and semiprecious stones. They also discovered some ancient Indian ruins 'somewhere' East of Reno, which is listed on the protected sites registry.

Bill loved his cars, and was an excellent driver. He possessed great knowledge of automobile history, a passion that he passed on to his son. His mechanical skills were most evident in his ability to maintain and enjoy his many vehicles.

He is survived by his beloved wife Maranel, his son Mike Thomas, daughters-in-law Eleanor Thomas and Mary Ferrari, granddaughters; Kari Michael (Matt), Nora Thomas, and Barbara Racca (Chris), and his three great grandchildren; Seth, Julia, and Ty.

As Bill requested, there will be no services. He will be missed.

Published in Reno Gazette-Journal on Mar. 29, 2014
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