THOMAS, WILLIAM NEAL, 84, died on the morning of December 15, 2011. Military officer, professor, author, public servant, businessman, gentleman, friend; adoring husband, loving father, and proud grandfather: Bill Thomas was all of these. Born in Roanoke, VA, Colonel Thomas was a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point 1951, and served with distinction in the United States Army for 26 years, retiring in 1977 to Greenville, TX. There, he served two terms as a State Representative in the Texas legislature on the State, Federal and International Relations Committee. As a manager and acting director of requirements for the Greenville division of E-Systems, a major defense contractor, he managed contracts for advanced avionics in commercial and military aircraft including the USAF Special Air Mission Fleet and NASA. Recognized for exemplary leadership, he joined Rotary and became President of the Greenville Rotary. Bill Thomas was awarded the prestigious Greenville "Worthy Citizen" award. The many boards and organizations to which he devoted his energy included serving as Executive Director of the Greenville Board of Development, Chairman of the Tawakoni Basin Economic Development Corporation, Airport Advisory Board, the Greenville Electric Utility System, Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Republicans of Texas and The Greenville Symphony and Entertainment Series. He was a registered securities and life insurance representative. In addition to a Bachelor of Science degree in Military Engineering from West Point USMA, he held advanced degrees from Purdue University in Industrial Relations and George Washington University in Administration. He is also a Distinguished Graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces as well as the Graduate Command, the Foreign Service Institute, and General Staff College. Ever the scholar, his career included teaching positions at West Point USMA in Military Psychology and Leadership, Iowa State University, and East Texas State University. He co-authored the textbook, Taking Command. His proficiency in languages and gift for diplomacy led him to embrace cultures around the globe, leaving fond impressions of his zeal for life, sense of humor and strong faith.
William's military career included two combat tours in Vietnam (Artillery Advisor and Long An Province Advisor, US Military Advisory Command, respectively). He twice commanded combat field artillery units in Germany, was the senior military liaison officer to the US Embassy in Tunisia, and served on the Long Range Strategic Study in the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the International Security Affairs of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was awarded the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak Leaf Cluster, the Soldiers' Medal, the Bronze Star with valor and two Oak Leaf clusters, the Air Medal with valor and sixteen awards, the Joint Service Commendation Medal plus the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and Oak Leaf Cluster.
For recreation, Bill became a private pilot sweeping the skies in his Piper Warrior II. His spiritual life was evidenced in his devotion to St. Paul Episcopal Church in Greenville where he lovingly served as a Lay Eucharistic Minister.
For the last adventure of his life, at the age of 80, he moved to the Highlands of Louisville with his devoted wife of 59 years, where he has embraced this community and all with whom he shared friendship.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Willie N. Thomas and Ora Etta Drewry Thomas.
Bill's memory will continue to be cherished by his wife, Mitzi Kessel Thomas; his four daughters, Theresa Connolly, (Robert), Deborah Thomas Appleman (Robert), Susannah DiMauro (Damon), Victoria McCool (Brian); and 12 grandchildren, Katrina, Kristen, Kelley, Megan and Michael; Katy and Dan; Gabe and Nate; and Eli, Ean and Ema.
The family expresses their sincere appreciation to his friends at Sunrise of Louisville, the nursing staff at Norton Hospital downtown, the staff at the Masonic Homes Sam Swope Care Center, and, especially, Dr. Jane Cornett.
A service celebrating his life will be 1 p.m. Monday at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2822 Frankfort Avenue with the Rev. Dr. Charles Hawkins officiating. Visitation will be held prior to the service in the parlor of the church. Burial will follow in early 2012 at Arlington National Cemetery.
Expressions of sympathy may be made to the donor's favorite charity in honor of William Thomas.
Published by Courier-Journal on Dec. 18, 2011.