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Joseph B. Thomas

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Joseph Burghard Thomas, age 92, passed away peacefully at his home in Heathrow Woods, Lake Mary, FL, on August 27, 2007. Born in Louisville, KY on October 5, 1914, he lived in the central Florida area since 2001. He was the son of the late Dr. Ansel Leroy Thomas and Ruby Harriett Burghard Thomas of Louisville. Mr. Thomas attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, where he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) National Fraternity. He was owner and president of the Weiffenbach Marble and Tile Company in Dayton, Ohio and retired at the age of 49 to move to Florida where he and his family had enjoyed many vacations throughout his lifetime. Mr. Thomas was the devoted husband of Mary Josephine Thomas, originally of Mt. Sterling, KY, his wife of 59 years, who predeceased him in 1999. They were married on March 14, 1940 in Louisville. In 1942, Mr. Thomas served his country in World War II in Co. B, 173rd U.S. Army Engineers Combat Battalion in the Pacific Theater. He was in one of the first waves of the invasion of the Philippines and served in Okinawa, Leyte Gulf, and the occupation of Korea. He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion in Delray Beach, FL. After WWII, the Thomases continued to live in Dayton where their daughter, Sandra Ann Thomas, was born. His hobbies and interests in Dayton included traveling, bridge, tennis, swimming, football and boxing, and as an animal lover, enjoying his many pets throughout his lifetime. In 1964, Mr. Thomas and his family moved to Gulf Stream, FL, near Delray Beach, where they built their winter home. In 2001, Mr. Thomas and his daughter, Sandra, moved to Heathrow Woods in Lake Mary, FL, just north of Orlando. Mr. Thomas supported numerous charities throughout his life. He supported the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches and the Humane Society of the United States. Because of his wife's death due to hereditary hemochromatosis, also known as iron overload disease, he will be remembered most for being an activist for genetic screening and public awareness for this disease. He was the major benefactor of the American Hemochromatosis Society (AHS) which his daughter, Sandra, founded in 1998 in honor of her mother. The non-profit organization which was formerly based in Delray Beach, FL and now in Lake Mary, FL, has helped countless victims of this genetic disease around the country and world, (www.americanhs.org). Mr. Thomas was a member of numerous patriotic and hereditary societies including the Society of the Cincinnati (NY), Jamestowne Society, Society of Colonial Wars, Descendants of Colonial Physicians, Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims, Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge, Sons of the American Colonists, Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), Sons of the Revolution (SR), General Society War of 1812, Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States, Military Order of the Southern Cross, and the Order of the Second World War. He was also a Life Promoter of the Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.) and the Children of the American Colonists (CAC). The "Fifer George Weissenfels Society, C.A.R." was named after his 3rd great-grandfather who was a 14 year old fifer at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. He was also a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels and was a supporter of the Kosair Shriners Hospitals for Children in Louisville. Mr. Thomas was baptized in 1917 at the Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY and was a member of the Shiloh Congregational Church in Dayton, Ohio from 1947 to 1964. In Florida, he was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale and later became a member of the Markham Woods Presbyterian Church in Lake Mary, FL in 2004. He is survived by close family friend, David Geise Snyder, and his devoted and loving daughter and only child, Sandra Ann, who cared for him at home during the last eight years of his life. Known for his great sense of humor and contagious laughter, he brought warmth and caring to all who knew him. He was a father who was always there for his daughter, without exception, and was a steadfast and devoted husband. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him. The family would like to thank those who helped Mr. Thomas through the years. Special thanks to our friends, Donald and Warren Lawrence, and Bernard Hicks, who were so kind to him in so many ways when he moved here. We are grateful to those who cared for him during these years, too, feeding him, dressing him, exercising him, and making sure that he was comfortable and happy including: Wilner Rene, Marie Jean, Neree Augustin, Daniel Maswau Simwando, Flumer Mera, Felipe Pellicier, Helen Jordan, Angelita Ranchez, Marie Magistre, Marie Ange Augustin, Tina Alenas, Imanga Mutemwa, Annie Nyambe, Denise Campbell, Carl Bennett, George Desliens, Susie Sanon and many others. Without the help of these kind angels, Mr. Thomas could not have been able to stay in the comfort of his own home during the final chapter of his life. We also thank the team of nurses with Vitas Hospice for the role they played in my father's transition, especially, Kathy Watts, for her kindness and dedication to his comfort and peaceful passing. Mr. Thomas, even in death, continued a legacy of giving, by donating his brain to the State of Florida Brain Bank, through the Alzheimer Resource Center in Orlando. This program studies the brains of patients who suffer from various types of dementia and provides tissue for important and groundbreaking research so that others will not have to suffer the heartache and indignities of any kind of dementia in the future. We thank Martha Purdy, Brain Bank Coordinator and neuropathologist, Gary Pearl, M.D., PhD at ORMC, for their work in this field. A Memorial Service will be held at Holy Cross Lutheran Church on Saturday, September 1st, 2007 at 1PM at 760 North Sun Drive in Lake Mary, FL. A reception will follow after the service. From Orlando: I-4 to Lake Mary Blvd./Heathrow Exit, turn east (or right), and go three stop lights and make a left at S. Sun Drive (SunTrust Bank is at this corner). Make a left onto S. Sun Drive and take your immediate next left at the Lake Emma Professional Building sign; this driveway will take you directly into the church parking lot. Coming from Daytona Beach: I-4 to Lake Mary Blvd./Heathrow Exit, turn east (or left), and go three stop lights and make a left at S. Sun Drive (SunTrust Bank is at this corner). Make a left onto S. Sun Drive and take your immediate next left at the Lake Emma Professional Building sign; this driveway will take you directly into the church parking lot. Church Office: 407.333.0797. Memorial donations may be sent to the American Hemochromatosis Society, 4044 West Lake Mary Blvd., #104, PMB 416, Lake Mary, FL 32746-2012 U.S.A. or through the web site at: www.americanhs.org or call 407-829-4488. Personal condolences may be sent to the Thomas family at the same address. Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Homes of Orlando, FL are in charge of arrangements. A private family funeral service and entombment will be held at Resthaven Memorial Park in Louisville, KY where he will be entombed next to his late wife, Josephine, in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.
Published in the Orlando Sentinel on Aug. 31, 2007
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