David Thomas

Obituary of David Michael Thomas

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David Thomas died on September 7, 2023 at 91 years of age. Fiercely private and independent, David's mind was sharp and he was living independently - - and driving - - until his final days. He lived a life rooted in education and travel. Born in Portsmouth, England, David grew up in Walton-on-Thames which was then a small village outside of London. His father, Harold Thomas, was a police officer killed in the line of duty when David was a baby. As a child, he witnessed the Battle of Britain and the Blitz take place above his head. This included Nazi bombs falling on his playground and through his uncle's roof and coming to rest in his toilet. That story, perhaps embellished, was told with gusto and laughter. Given the danger of Nazi bombardment, he was one of the three million English children separated from their parents and sent to safety in rural areas to the north and across the Commonwealth. He recalled this aspect of his childhood with fondness for the love shown him by his northern family and for the efforts of the Salvation Army to assist his family and neighbors. After the war, David studied at King's College in London and earned a teaching degree. While on summer break, he worked on a farm in Switzerland. While hitchhiking back to London, he met Miriam Lang. Miriam also held a teaching degree, hers from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She was doing what Kiwis are now famous for: a yearlong "walkabout" thorough Europe before settling down to a career. Like David, Miriam was also hitchhiking to London where she was to begin a teaching job. They met in the back of a truck that had picked them both up, separately, on the way to the ferry at Calais. He gave her his address while on the ferry to Dover. A lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, David wooed Miriam with rides on his BSA and Triumph motorcycles. They were married shortly after Lt. Thomas completed his service with the Royal Airforce, stationed in Hampstead-on-Heath. Intending to move back to New Zealand by degrees, in 1954 the newlyweds traveled to Hamilton, Ontario where they both secured teaching positions. That Christmas, they drove to Rochester to spend the holidays with English friends studying at the University of Rochester. At a party for international students, they met the Superintendent of the Rochester City School District, which was then one of the best districts in the nation. He offered them jobs. They moved to Rochester shortly thereafter. They were flat broke and couldn't afford an apartment so they lived for their first six months in a tent on farmland that is now the RIT campus. Rochester was in its heyday in the mid-50's. It was an exciting place where a young, cultured international couple could experience the best that America had to offer. Because money was tight, they served as ushers at the RPO. This entitled them to see the shows and also forged a lifelong affinity for that august institution. They eventually traded the tent for an apartment on Rockingham Street in the South Wedge where they lived before buying a house on Blossom Road. It was a cash deal because sensible people did not borrow money. After a brief stint at School 1 on Norris Drive, David accepted a position teaching English at Twelve Corners Middle School, part of the Brighton Central School District. He held the position for thirty years. His son recalls that when David would encounter former students while out and about, the response was always the same: "he gave me my first detention" or "he demanded the best from me, and I gave it to him." At a recent reunion of the class of '81, he was fondly remembered as serious and demanding. A lifelong passion for travel, Miriam and David ran a travel company, Thomas Travel, for teachers on various school breaks. Numerous trips were organized by this intrepid and adventurous duo and taken to the Caribbean, England, Europe, Russia, China and New Zealand. They led the earliest groups to the Soviet Union and were in that nation during one of the first "hot mic moments" when President Reagan's infamously declared, "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." Although an obvious joke, Miriam and David were cornered by "journalists" from Pravda for comment. The intrepid couple didn't blanch. Under questioning from Russian journalists in Russia, Miriam and David said that while they did not agree with Reagan and did not support him in any way, at least they could openly criticize their government without fear. Don't believe it? There's a Wall Street Journal article about it. Another epic Thomas Travel trip took place the year after President Nixon had traveled to Beijing, in the trip that only he could have taken. Miriam and David led a group of Rochesterian's to China. David and Miriam stayed in the same hotel suite in Beijing as Pat and Dick. Miriam wrote Dick Nixon, thanking him for going to China and admiring the room that both couples had stayed in. Nixon replied with a handwritten note, agreeing that both couples had had "one hell of an experience". Not all relationships stand the test of time. Miriam and David divorced in 2002. And separate lives began. David was straight out of Central Casting. Typically dressed in a blazer adorned with a pocket square and tie, he lived his life improving his knowledge of all things, enjoying classical music, and tending to his physical health. Hundreds of hours were spent at the Penfield YMCA and the Penfield Public Library. David's family of choice spanned the globe, while his biological family is found near 12 Corners and in Leavenworth, Washington. David is predeceased by his father, Harold Thomas, killed in the line of duty as a police officer, his mother Elizabeth Shott (nee Nicholson and Thomas), his stepfather George Shott, MBE, his sister Margaret, her husband John Mitchell and his grandson, Owen Lang Thomas. A joyful reunion in heaven has already occurred. He is survived by his loving, devoted daughter, Susan Lang Thomas, his son-in-law, William "Bill" Gaines, and granddaughter, Emily Thomas Gaines, all of Leavenworth, Washington. He is also survived by his son, Christopher David Thomas, daughter-in-law Catherine "Kate" Cerulli, and grandson, Michael John Thomas, of Brighton, New York. He is also survived by his ex-wife Miriam I. Thomas, his stepsister Patsy Simpson, her husband, John Anthony Simpson, his brother, Chris Shott and his wife, Janet Shott. A celebration of his life will occur on November 25, 1:00-3:00 pm at the Penfield Library.1985 Baird Rd, Penfield. It will be an open house format. In lieu of flowers, gifts or cards, please send donations to Owen's House, to honor the memory of Owen Thomas, one of David's beloved grandchildren. Owen preceded David in death. Owen's House was David's favorite charity. It provides emergency shelter to families in crisis, no questions asked. See, https://www.centerforyouth.net/crisis-nurseries/art Please also consider donating to the Penfield Library, https://ffrpl.libraryweb.org/, or the YMCA https://rochesterymca.org/.
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David Thomas

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David Thomas

1932 - 2023

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