Wilma Jean Thomas

A long-time Quincy resident, known and dearly loved not only by her family and dearest friends, but also by those many whose lives she touched through her selflessness, generosity and never-ending volunteerism within the community, has passed away.

Wilma Jean Wood Thomas-Hill-Thomas, 87, passed away Tuesday (Feb. 11, 2014) leaving behind a legacy of world travels and many hours of volunteer work. Wilma gave her time abundantly and unselfishly to the community as a volunteer with the American Red Cross, the Illinois Veterans Home and the Blood Bank as well as having worked many hours at Blessing Hospital and just about everywhere she thought she could be of help.

Wilma was born Jan. 7, 1927, in Ardmore, Okla., to Weaunita Pauline Brodgen Thomas-Wood of Wilson, Okla., who died the next day of complications from giving birth to Wilma. Her father, Raymond Wood, relinquished custody of her and she was adopted by her maternal grandparents (Weaunita's mother and stepfather), Woody H. and Lenora Thomas of Wilson. They adopted Wilma on Feb. 25, 1927, and she then became Wilma Jean Thomas.

In February of 1929, her maternal grandfather and adopted father, Woody H. Thomas, were killed by a train and Lenora was left alone to raise Wilma and two other older children. At this point Wilma spent much of her childhood with various relatives around the country as times were hard during these years and everyone shared in the responsibilities of her upbringing. It is suspected that this may well have been where Wilma developed her love of travel and adventure, as well as her ability to quickly turn the strangers she met along her life's path into endearing friends.

In 1940, Lenora and Wilma left the Oklahoma City area and moved to Inkster, Mich., near Dearborn. There Wilma graduated from Melvindale High School in 1943. Shortly after graduation and during the war times, Wilma met Randy Hill, a native Quincyan. They were married in the spring of 1944. In 1947, they moved to Quincy and Randy Hill went to work for the Quincy Police force. Randy and Wilma divorced in October 1979 and Randy Hill died in 1986.

In 1953, Wilma, as she put it, was blessed when she became a part of the research team at Moorman Manufacturing of Quincy. This career opportunity would lead her on travels around the world to 55 different countries, most of which she visited more than once.

While at Moorman's (and even after she retired from there), she continued her education through Quincy College, John Wood Community College, University of Colorado and Western Illinois University and became a registered microscopist and then went on to be the president of the American Association of Feed Microscopists. She actually over time held every executive position there was within AAFM. Wilma became nationally and internationally recognized for her expertise in the field of feed microscopy. As a representative of the AAFM, Wilma taught professors and veterinarians as well as chemists all across the U.S., Canada and Mexico and across the globe. Through her accomplishments, she earned numerous awards and was recognized globally, including two most notable, an honorary doctorate from Barcelona Spain School of Veterinary Medicine and also one from the University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Wilma sat and dined with some of the most powerful leaders of foreign countries where women were usually not allowed, especially in China, and Muslim and Asian countries. Wilma received nearly every award and honor that could be earned for her work as a microscopist across the globe which is quite extraordinary for a woman in the ‘50s and ‘60s and even into the ‘70s.

On March 2, 1986, Wilma married longtime family friend and Quincyan Jack L. Thomas. Jack and Wilma moved to Colorado for several years, residing in Fort Collins before returning to Quincy in 1989. Jack preceded Wilma in death on Sept. 15, 2009. Wilma and Jack were the best of friends and both were Moorman retirees. Both enjoyed their times with the Quincy-German festivities and their travels with that group to Germany.

After retiring as a microscopist in 1995 because travelling abroad was just too much at her age, Wilma turned her attention to volunteering and one of the awards she was most proud of was the Geo. W. Bush Presidential Award for her service with the American Red Cross. She loved her work and the time she spent with the Red Cross, stating it was so gratifying to be able to help people. She even traveled to Haiti, as well as Florida and other parts of the U.S. during disaster events.

Over the course of her life, Wilma was very active in the Order of Eastern Star having been past matron in the Quincy Chapter, the Estes Park, Colo., chapter as well as the Fort Collins, Colo., chapter. She also was very active over the years in the Shriners and Daughters of the Nile.

Of the all the travels Wilma was most proud was traveling to Jerusalem with a group from Madison Park Christian Church where she was baptized in the Jordan River reportedly near the same place Jesus Christ would have received baptism. The second most rewarding trip she made, she would say, was visiting Africa and being able to cruise the Amazon River.

Wilma is survived by one daughter, Pat Hill Ellison of Ewing, Mo.; one son, Mike Hill of Pleasant Hill, Iowa; and one stepdaughter, Pam Thomas Nobis of Quincy. She leaves behind eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

The family of Wilma wishes to express their deepest gratitude for all the staff at Illinois Veterans Home for their gracious caring and loving of our mother/friend while she lived there from 2009-2014.

Wilma has requested cremation following a memorial service at the funeral home in Quincy and that her remains be placed on the gravesite of her mother in Wilson, Okla.

SERVICES: 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14, in the Hansen-Spear Funeral Home.

VISITATION: 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Hansen-Spear Funeral Home with an Eastern Star service at 7 p.m. Inurnment will be in the Hewitt Cemetery in Wilson, Okla., at a later date.

MEMORIALS: In lieu of flowers, Madison Park Christian Church Missionary Fund, the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

ARRANGEMENTS: Hansen-Spear Funeral Home.

WEBSITE: www.hansenspear.com.

Funeral Home

Hansen-Spear Funeral Home
1535 State Street Quincy, IL 62301
(217) 222-4907

Published in Quincy Herald-Whig from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14, 2014