Capt. Richard Lee Thomas, U.S. Navy retired, 80, of Coronado, Calif., passed away Sept. 11, 2013, in National City, Calif.
Rich was born in Rugby, on April 26, 1933. He graduated from Towner High School in 1951. Growing up on the Great Plains of America hardly seemed a likely start to the long career Rich would have in the Navy. His story of building a small boat only to see it capsize, then made "sea-worthy" with the addition of an outrigger, made his eventual career path more understandable. Admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy from the state of North Dakota, Rich graduated with the class of 1956.
One year would pass before Rich, on a visit back home, would meet Faye Ann Shafer the great love of his life and the girl he would marry on a day in early January 1958. Rich and Faye would be an inseparable couple for more than 50 years. They first settled in Boston, Mass., while Rich studied for his master's degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. While in Boston, they were blessed with the arrival of their first son, Layne, in 1960. Many deployments and duty stations would follow for Rich and Faye, including one in Bremerton, Wash., in 1962, which served as the port of call for the birth of their second son, Brent. Rich would go on to attain the rank of captain and along the way, many medals and citations for his hard work.
Rich loved sports, especially golf. He did not make his wife a "golf widow," however, and happily brought her out on the course, and his two sons when they were old enough. As with so many of the things that Rich did, if it wasn't something the family could go out and do together, then it wasn't something he was going to do at all.
He developed a great talent for woodworking, building some of the finest pieces of furniture the family would have. And, until the emergence of cars that required a computer diagnostic, Rich did all the family auto servicing and repairs. For not being a gun owner, he was a pretty fair shot and might have missed his calling as a professional billiard player. He loved country and bluegrass music, fishing, reading the Mouse River Journal, and a good beer.
Whether at sea or on dry land, Sundays would more often than not find Rich at church services as his love of God was part of his life from his childhood. And, there are no atheists in fox-holes or, as the case may be, in an aircraft carrier's engine room.
Rich's birthplace, Rugby, N.D., is known as the geographical center of North America. Which is altogether fitting as he was the geographical center of the universe for his family. His example of love, patience, optimism, service, great humor, and humility will be forever theirs to cherish and to follow. For 30 years, he would walk out the door in the morning long before the rest of the family had crawled out of bed, do the work of a United States Navy engineer, and return in the evening to selflessly devote every moment to his family. Through it all, they were always proud to call themselves a Navy family.
Rich was predeceased by Faye Ann in 2009. They are now back together again where they always belonged and where they were the happiest. All who knew them and loved them wish them, as one of Rich's Naval Academy classmates put it so well, "fair winds and following seas."
The family wishes to express their heartfelt thanks to all of Rich's family, classmates and many friends who stood by him, literally and in spirit, as he struggled with dementia for the last years of his life, not forgetting him even as he may have forgotten them. And a thank you as well to Vitas Hospice Care for their work in tending to Rich as he left this world for the next.
Rich was also predeceased by his father, Lewis Thomas, his mother, Lillian Hermanson Thomas, brother, Kenneth Thomas, and sisters, Colleen Thomas Offner and Carol Thomas Knutson.
Rich is survived by: his sons, Layne (Theresa), of Coronado, Calif., Brent (Jean), of Long Beach, Calif.; granddaughter, Natalie, and grandson, Will; sister, Amy (Ole) Bryn, of Towner; sister-in-law, Janice Chigro, of Peoria, Ariz., sister-in-law, Kathy (Mike) Rudolph, of Garrison, and brother-in-law, Barry Beyer, of Minot; as well as many wonderful nieces and nephews.
Military services: Will be held at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 7, at 1 p.m.
To leave an online condolence to the family, please visit (www.humphreymortuary.com).