Family remembers Joshua Thomas as fun-loving as a child

March 13, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Joshua Thomas, who died March 2 at the age of 30. His obituary appeared in the March 4 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

CLEAR SPRING - While the last three years of her youngest child's life may be more vivid because of the illness that engulfed him, Rhoda Thomas says she is trying to focus on Joshua's exuberance and zest for living that more fittingly marked his time on this earth.

"Even in elementary school, Josh would come home and do his homework," she said as she and her husband and two married daughters gathered at the family home on Hicksville Road to share their memories.


Joshua died March 2 at the age of 30. The melanoma, or skin tumor, he discovered under his arm three years ago was surgically removed but reoccurred. Treatments and additional surgeries followed. But after each, Joshua would go back to work at the Park Avenue Pharmacy in Chambersburg, Pa.

"He just had his birthday Feb. 8 and he was really sick then," said Eugene Thomas, his father. Family friends had put in a chair lift so Joshua could come downstairs for the party.

His oldest sister, Stefanie Daley, said her memories of Joshua were that he was a giving and loving person, even at an early age.

"When we took vacations together, I would always hold Josh in the swimming pool," she said. "He was very afraid of water but he trusted me."

In later years, Stefanie described their relationship as tight.

Roxann Rosendale described her younger brother as very intelligent.

"But he also loved to ride his bike, play in the woods and climb trees," she said.

The love of bicycles flourished as Joshua grew, leading to his amassing five bikes, including a custom-made model that cost $5,000. The family said it wasn't uncommon for Joshua to ride 25 miles a day.

"Lance Armstrong was Josh's hero," his dad said. "And like Lance, Josh was determined to beat his cancer, too."

Joshua's only brother, Chris, lives in Louisiana and left Clear Spring to return home shortly after the funeral services March 7.

Because of the secluded area where the Thomas family lived, the four youngsters spent a lot of time together.

"We had each other ... there was no one else around here," Roxann said.

Eugene Thomas said he worked at Mack Trucks when his children were young. In his spare time, he built houses and both boys helped him when they got older.

Joshua was always a good student. His mother said he won the "clean plate" award when he was in kindergarten.

"He loved to eat," she said, pointing out pictures of him when he was younger and chubbier.

"He never missed school," his father said. Even when he was 9 and got hit by a car, Joshua only missed three days of school. The rest of his recuperation occurred during summer vacation.

His parents said Joshua always expressed a desire to become a lawyer and even took speech therapy so he could talk better. But then he changed his mind and began studies at the University of Maryland to become a pharmacist.

He graduated with honors, earning his doctorate in the field.

"During his senior year, Josh worked on an Indian reservation in Arizona at a pharmacy there," his mom said. After graduation, he got a job at the pharmacy in nearby Franklin County while still living at home.

Even with the demands of the job, Joshua managed to find time to serve as secretary-treasurer of Mountain View Baptist Church. His parents said he often visited children and took them to church through the bus ministry.

"He even bought computers for the church with his own money," his mother said.

The only bad thing she could remember that Josh ever did was once that he bought cherry bombs and sold them to other kids at school. Other than that, she said he always took the high road in every aspect of his life.

"If Josh knew I was talking about the good things he did, he would get really mad," his mom said.

To that, Stefanie chimed in that Josh never wanted to brag about himself.

"Everything he did, he did for the Lord," she said.

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