Joseph Luther Solomon "Tommy" Thomas III

August 22, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes 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 Joseph Luther Solomon "Tommy" Thomas III, who died Aug. 9 at the age of 63. His obituary was published in the Aug. 11 edition of The Herald-Mail.

At first blush, it was those bright blue eyes, beautiful smile and that dimple that attracted Connie Sprankle to her future husband.

But what sustained her for nearly 40 years of marriage to Joseph "Tommy" Thomas III was his zest for life and his love of her and their family.

"We met in church," Connie said.

She had gone to Bethel Assembly of God with a girlfriend and Tommy was there. The attraction apparently was mutual since Tommy asked Connie's mother if he could drive her home.


At that time, Tommy was 21 and working as an accountant at Victor Products. Connie still was a teenager. They dated, got engaged and were married when Connie was 21.

"We were very happy together," she said, trying to get used to talking about her husband of 39 years in the past tense. Tommy died Aug. 9 at the age of 63.

Tommy's daughter, Shelley Thomas, proudly professed she shared her father's love of muscle cars.

"We rode around together in a blue 1969 Mercury Cougar -- it rumbled and I loved it," she said.

Shelley also recalls playing ball in the backyard and how he laughed and smiled a lot.

"He was always there for me," she said.

Connie said Tommy was very patient when Shelley was learning to drive a car.

"He didn't get excited," she said.

Shelley inherited a little red Mercury Comet GT when she got her license.

When Shelley was 8, her brother, Mark, was born.

"I used to call her 'sissy' and I always wanted to be with her," Mark said.

The siblings got along well most of the time, Connie said. But there were exceptions.

"Mark was an early riser like his father, who grew up on the family farm," Connie said. "Shelley liked to sleep in."

Mark got into classic cars with his father. That included a treasured 1964 Ford Thunderbird that still is in the family.

"It was Mark who got into antique tractors with his grandfather and then Tommy got into it, too," Connie said. Father and son attended many weekend tractor shows together.

As a youth, Tommy did a lot of work around the farm and raised hogs, turkeys and some cattle. But Connie said he never really liked it.

"When we got married, Tommy sold his herd of cattle to buy our furniture," Connie said.

The farm in Boonsboro has been in the Thomas family since the 1800s.

"I'm the seventh generation farming it," Mark said.

Tommy was happier working off the farm, as office manager at Antietam Motors, then as a dietary supervisor at the Maryland Correctional Training Center for 27 years.

But it was his family and his avocations that gave him the most pleasure, family members agreed.

Mark remembers his father became a pigeon fancier, first catching barn pigeons, then getting into show pigeons.

"We built a house on the farm in 1975 and Tommy bought six pigeons to start," Connie said. Before long, there were more than 100 pigeons -- they had a building of their own on the property.

Lahore pigeons were his favorite, but he also had a number of fantails.

"You trained them and they did tricks -- he had some champions," Connie said, noting that Tommy belonged to a national pigeon association.

Once, she recalled, a weasel got into the pigeon enclosure and killed almost all of them. Things never were the same after that for Tommy and his hobby.

Tommy spent a lot of time in recent years with his 5-year-old grandson, Michael. The youngster clearly was his grandfather's pride and joy.

"I helped Pappy feed the rabbits and the horses," Michael said. "We also rode four-wheelers together on the farm."

Daughter-in-law Laura Thomas, Michael's mother, said she was welcomed wholeheartedly into the family when she married Mark.

"And we live right next door," she said.

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