Jennifer Armstrong Thoma

  • "Bill, We just found out about your wife the other day. We..."
  • "Bill and Jessica and family- I am sorry to learn of your..."
    - Greg Wynn
  • "Jennifer was a dear and inspirational friend when we were..."
    - Kathy Campbell
  • "Bill and family, Big hugs and small words...sorry :( She..."
  • "Dear Bill and family, there is nothing we can say that..."
    - David and Jennifer Sansone

Jennifer Armstrong Thoma, our beloved wife and mother, ascended into heaven Wednesday, June 13, 2012, after a courageous battle with cancer. She died at home, surrounded by her family. Our hearts are broken and we miss her dearly, but we know that her suffering is over and she is in the arms of our Heavenly Father. Jennifer was born in July 1955, in Berkeley, Calif., the youngest of Barbara and John Evan Armstrong's three daughters. She grew up in the Montclair area of Oakland and was active in Girl Scouting through high school. She graduated early from Skyline High School and entered Cal Poly in the spring of 1973. She earned a degree in Home Economics, but Cal Poly gave her more than an education. She fell in love with Bill Thoma while she was a student, and the two were best friends from the start. After graduating, Jennifer worked at Armstrong College in Berkeley in a position that ignited her interest in university administration. Jennifer and Bill were married June 16, 1979. Their relationship was a powerful illustration of strength, love and partnership, and their devotion to each other carried them through Jennifer's devastating illness. They began their married life in San Diego, where Jennifer worked at United States International University. In 1981 they returned to San Luis Obispo and Jennifer accepted a position in administration at her alma mater, Cal Poly. She gave birth to Jeffrey in 1983 and Jessica in 1987, and while Jennifer continued to succeed professionally, family became the focus of her life. She devoted herself to every aspect of family life, from celebrations to homework. She deftly combined two loves - family and planning - organizing wonderful family vacations to Sunriver, Ore., Twain Harte in California''s Gold Country and ski trips to Utah, Colorado, Oregon, the Sierras and Lake Tahoe. The family enjoyed history-centered visits to many cities on the East Coast, including Washington D.C., Boston and New York, and traveled together to historic places in Europe. Whatever the destination, Jennifer created trips that mixed fun with powerful learning experiences. In 2007, Jennifer retired after 25 years at Cal Poly, but she was soon back to work, having been recruited by IBM for her unique talents in information systems. For the next several years, she was retained first by IBM, then Signature Consultants, to assist with complex information-system implementation projects at California State University campuses including Monterey Bay, Stanislaus and Humboldt. The Humboldt project led her to a post with Oracle Corporation's higher-education division in New York City. The Oracle assignment was a career pinnacle for Jennifer. She lived and worked weekdays in New York City, where she was a pivotal team member on a 19-campus project at the City University of New York (CUNY). The arts lover was thrilled to be at the center of theater, dance and museums, but she was even more excited to be working with a first-class team on a challenging and fulfilling project. Her Oracle friends called her "the spirit of the project." She flew home every weekend to be with family and share stories of her Big Apple adventures. Working with Oracle was a dream come true. She thrived in that position until September 2011, when she was diagnosed with cancer. During her valiant fight with cancer, Jennifer was inspired and encouraged by an outpouring of love and prayers. Despite rapidly declining health, she joyfully celebrated the wedding of her son Jeffrey to Alexis Alvarez on May 27, 2012; she said it was one of the happiest days in her life. Jennifer's life was rich with interests and activities. She treasured family, enjoyed entertaining and had a special fondness for her group of friends who gathered for 20 years to play Bunco. She was a consummate career professional and a devotee of the arts who dabbled with the cello and loved dance, a passion she shared with her daughter Jessica, an accomplished ballerina. A talented athlete, Jennifer was a top-notch skier and a recreational cyclist, who loved the Bob Jones Trail. She had started equestrian lessons when she became ill. She was a skilled seamstress and an avid reader; she had an infectious laugh and she reveled in nature and the outdoors. Jennifer lived a productive life anchored by integrity and conviction. Above all, she was a selfless, caring person committed to quietly helping others. She touched lives in ways she never fully realized. Jennifer is survived by her husband, Bill; children Jessica and Jeffrey (Alexis) Thoma; sisters Linda Hannum (Tom) and Kathy Terlecky (Ted); mother, Barbara Armstrong; sisters-in-law Sheryl (Jim) O''Neill and Jean Usilton (John IV); brother-in-law, Edward Thoma (Lori); parents-in-law, Clarence and Pearl Thoma; and numerous nephews and nieces. She was preceded in death by her father, John Evan Armstrong. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 14, 2012, at Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church, 1701 Fredericks St. in San Luis Obispo. A reception will follow at the Alex Madonna Expo. In lieu of flowers, Jennifer and her family suggest donations to the following: First, to the Jennifer Thoma Memorial Dance Scholarship, c/o The San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1580, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406. Second, to Colon Cancer Research at Stanford Medical Center. Gifts should be made payable: Stanford University, "In memory of Jennifer Thoma - fund GHAIW," and mailed to Medical Center Development, Attn: Janice Flowers-Sonne, 2700 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Finally, to The Hearst Cancer Resource Center, 1941 Johnson Ave., Ste. 201A, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.

Published in San Luis Obispo Tribune on June 23, 2012