Jerome Francis Thomas
January 8, 1922 - November 7, 2019
Jerry passed away peacefully Thursday, November 7 in his Berkeley home with his family at his side. He is survived by nine children: Jerrie Ann (Reining), Nicki (SNJM), Peter, Kathie "Kip" (Dettmer), Patrick, Michelle "Tootie" (Von Dollen), Michael, Sean, and Jeffery; 21 grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren (with another on the way).
Jerry, son of John and Martha Thomas, née Lutz, was born in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from De Paul University in 1942 with a B.S. in Chemistry. He immediately enlisted in the Navy, graduated from Midshipman's School at Notre Dame University, and served as the Engineering Officer aboard LST 991 in the South Pacific. The Navy sent him to UC Berkeley for Diesel Engineering training, where he fell in love with Rosemary Renner. After a whirlwind romance, they married just before his ship departed for the Pacific. After WWII he returned to UC Berkeley and earned his doctorate degree in Physical Organic Chemistry in 1950 and joined the faculty.
Jerry and Rosemary built a home in the Berkeley hills, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Jerry loved woodworking and building things, especially the family's beloved cabin in Grass Valley. A talented wood carver, every Christmas he would carve or make presents for all the kids and close family friends.
Professor Thomas served as chairman of the Environmental Division of the Civil and Environmental Department at UC Berkeley in the early 1980s. "He taught how to use chemical knowledge for solving practical problems" according to his former students. He was a Licensed Professional Engineer and worked on a wide range of civil engineering problems including corrosion, fire and explosions, plastics, hazardous waste, and water and wastewater treatment. He authored over 100 technical papers and held five patents. Federal, State and City governments, as well as a variety of industries, frequently sought his expertise as a consultant. He became Professor Emeritus in 1987.
Jerry was totally dedicated to taking care of Rosemary, who developed dementia in the later years of her life. He could be seen walking her in her wheelchair around the streets of Berkeley, stopping to feed her lunch, or just sitting holding her hand. He lost the love of his life when she passed away in November 2016.
There will be a celebration of Jerry's life at 10 am on Saturday, November 23, at Saint Mary Magdalen Church, 2005 Berryman Street, Berkeley, with a reception to follow in the parish hall.