John Roy Thomas of Hendersonville, NC died at home on January 5, 2024, at the age of 74. Born March 24, 1949, in Zanesville, OH to Roy Harrison Thomas and Ella Mildred Thomas (Prince), John spent his formative years on a farm in Dresden, OH along with his older siblings Athern and Lowell. Known as Johnny to friends and family in his youth, he would often be found causing trouble including firing BB guns at cousins or running around town with his close friend Johnny Graham.
After graduating from high school he worked briefly in a General Electric (GE) factory before being drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War where he served as a combat medic from 1969-1971.
Upon return to the US, he enrolled in college at The Ohio State University where his love of Buckeye football intensified; John was simultaneously working as a physician’s assistant in a private practice. Although initially planning for a career in medicine, he took an interest in computer science after picking up an elective and pursued this instead.
While attending classes, he met the love of his life, Lorraine Partlow. Too intimidated to ask her on a first date he nearly missed his opportunity, but managed to run across the quad and catch her before it was too late. Despite his showing up clean-shaven with a brand-new hairstyle and ultimate 1970s attire, she dated him anyway; they married 2 years later.
After graduation from college, they moved to Cleveland, OH with their then 2 y/o daughter Kendra, and he naturally became a Cleveland sports fan. He was initially employed by Euclid, Inc. followed by Control Data before returning to GE as a software engineer where he was dubbed “J. T.” John and Lorraine welcomed 2 sons Steven and Paul, and John completed his Master’s degree at Cleveland State University.
A talented sketch artist, John was also an impressive pumpkin carver and showed off his skills every Halloween for his children. He was also a candy enthusiast and enjoyed taking the kids trick or treating, carefully “inspecting” their candy haul (specifically for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups).
When an opportunity presented to transfer with GE to Hendersonville, NC he jumped at the chance to live in the Smokey Mountains and continue his work as a project manager for the lighting division. After nearly 30 years with GE, he retired from his full-time position to spend more time with family but continued his work as a part-time consultant for five additional years. Throughout his retirement years, he enjoyed yard work including designing “Wolf Mountain” and his walking trail (only once setting a tractor on fire). He took up cooking as a new hobby and was fond of trying new restaurants and new bourbons.
He spent time traveling in the US and Europe, including cross-country road trips along the Bourbon Trail and Route 66, and vacationing in Hawaii where his grandsons enjoyed pushing their “Papa” around as quickly as possible in a wheelchair in his later years.
He was a capable handyman but occasionally lost parts of his fingers. A lifelong struggler with remote controls, he created easy-to-use (yet hard-to-master) remote control maps. He enjoyed watching various westerns and cooking shows, Pickers, Pawn Stars, and murderous Brits. Often he enjoyed movies through osmosis whilst resting his eyes.
An accomplished whistler and hobby singer, he never met a song he needed all the lyrics to. He was a dedicated member of his church choir and a frequent cantor.
He loved deeply and openly. He was loved beyond measure and will be missed by many.
Preceded in death by his parents, Roy H. Thomas and Ella Mildred Thomas, brother Lowell Thomas.
Survived by his wife of 47 years, Lorraine Thomas (Partlow), daughter Kendra and her husband, Jay Lee, sons Steven and Paul Thomas, grandchildren Aidan and Grant Lee, sister Athern Sheets (Spiker, Thomas), as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A memorial service and interment of remains will be held with military honors at noon on May 24th, 2024, at Western Carolina State Veteran’s Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital or your favorite charitable organization.