Memorial Service for
William Clyde Thomas
August 30, 1917–October 14, 2014
November 1, 2014 • 2 p.m. • Newberg Friends Church
William Clyde Thomas, oldest son of Clyde and Mary Kellogg Thomas, died in the afternoon of October 14 at the Chehalem Care and Rehab Center in Newberg with Esther May, his wife, and four of the family present to accompany him. He had recently completed his 97th birthday, and last June had celebrated 71 years of marriage. He had been in hospice care since October 3. He was a good father, a dedicated follower of Jesus, and a recorded Friends Minister with an extraordinary heart for people and for mission around the world. He was also an extraordinarily creative man with a dedication to hard work, service and innovation, whether as carpenter, bricklayer, mechanic, chemist, electrician, plumber, maintenance engineer, or EMT. He encouraged a love for science in his children, for understanding the natural world, and for knowing the encompassing reality of God who holds everything together.
William, on his father’s side, is the grandson of Henry and Rosie Jenkins Thomas, and a great grandson of pioneers Lauren Lewis Thomas and Eliza Spores Dimmick Thomas of Scotts Mills, Oregon. On his mother’s side William is the grandson of Smith and A.D. Moffitt Kellogg, within a long line of Quaker families. He lived his grade school days near Salem, Oregon where his father pastored the Rosedale Friends Church. It was during this time that he recognized God’s call, and committed his life to Christian service. On his 10th birthday the family moved to a newly established homestead in the Cascades east of Gates, Oregon where his father built a house for the family and set up a sawmill to pay back debts incurred in construction projects affected by the crash of the Great Depression. William (Willy at that time) graduated from Gates High School in 1936.
For two years William worked with his father to pay back the business debts of the family. Then in the spring of 1938 he entered the Portland Bible Institute (PBI) and in the fall enrolled at Pacific College (now George Fox University) in Newberg, Oregon. There, he studied and worked to support himself, served on and directed evangelistic deputation teams from the college, and met his future wife, Esther May Weesner. Together with his father he pastored Springbrook, Middleton and Sherwood Friends Monthly Meetings from 1939 -1942. After graduating from Pacific College in 1942 with a BS degree, he was called to pastor the new Ridgeview Meeting near Homedale, Idaho. A year later, June 16, 1943, he married Esther May Weesner, daughter of Oliver and Pearl Bundy Weesner of Newberg. And in August of 1944, they left the United States for missionary service in Guatemala with California Yearly Meeting of Friends. Their first child, Harold, was born near the end of October, but in November Esther became dangerously sick with malaria. They returned to the United States for treatment to save Esther’s life. During the next six years, they took short-term pastorates at Plain and Rose Valley, Washington. He finished his BA and Th.B. degrees at Pacific College, and planned to return to Guatemala. Twins, Jean and John, were born in Plain. When their return to Guatemala was finally denied because of health issues, William and Esther had to rethink their goals, and temporarily moved to Entiat, Washington.
William (increasing known as Bill) and Esther moved to Spokane, Washington in 1950 where they became part of the vision and volunteer team to begin the Spokane Friends Church. At this time they also drove weekly to help in the fairly new Hayden Lake Friends Church on the “Rimrock.” To support the family, William began to work with the newly organizing Northwest Christian School in north Spokane. A major contribution was to move and remodel buildings from the Farragut Naval Base to form the new school campus. But his major focus every Sunday afternoon with the family was to visit and encourage the new people and families who were becoming part of the church. William continued pastoral activities both within the emerging Spokane church and, for a time, with a small American Sunday School Union congregation. But the most visible part of his work was in construction. He, with other men in the new meeting, set up a sawmill, logged and sawed the lumber to build the Spokane Friends Church building. And among other things visible, he laid most of the structural brickwork that covers the building. It was also during his Spokane years that he contributed to construction projects with the Seattle Memorial Friends, the second Hayden Lake Friends, the East Wenatchee Friends and the Ashland Friends Churches.
Finally forced to leave his commitment and work at the Northwest Christian School in Spokane to gain sufficient income to support the family, William worked as a mechanic for two heavy mining machinery companies. When first one, then the other failed, he took employment at the Deaconess Hospital as a custodian and maintenance worker. Because of his outstanding ability, he again rose rapidly. Dorothy, Clyde, Clair and Lois were born during this time, and Jodie and Stacey joined the family when their mother died. In 1965, the Friends Church in Quincy, Washington asked William and Esther to come to help with the Friends Church there. At the same time, William received an offer of employment as the Maintenance Director at the Quincy Valley Hospital where he remained until retirement at age 67. These were financially stable years, filled with many good friends and memories. The six younger children all graduated from Quincy High School. Seven children graduated from George Fox, one studied at the Friends Bible College, and one graduated from culinary school.
After retirement in 1982 William and Esther, realizing the dream of a lifetime, toured the Holy Land, and took part in archeological excavations in Jerusalem. Then, beginning a fourth major stage of their lives, in 1984 they began a 22 year stint of self-supported overseas mission service in the Philippines, Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Peru. They filled in for missionaries on furlough, did reconstruction in areas ripped apart by natural disasters, and worked on various church and school buildings. The last fourteen of these years they spent in Guatemala City, overseeing the construction of the new campus of the Christian Academy of Guatemala and building a language center for Wycliffe. As they finished this period of service, in 2004 the school named the gymnasium, the final building constructed, the Thomas Gymnasium in honor of their contribution. At age 86, William and Esther (84) moved back to Quincy and then to Newberg to live with and near family members. In 2005 and 2006, they traveled to Uganda and Rwanda to visit and help grandchildren who were serving there in mission. They were also able to travel to Burundi to see some of the churches and schools built by William’s father Clyde in the 1950s.
Since November of 2013 William and Esther have lived in the Chehalem Care and Rehab Center in Newberg. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Esther; his children, Hal (Nancy), Jean Macy, John (Marilyn), Dorothy (Tom) Hinshaw, Clyde (Carol), Clair (Pat), Lois (Dave) Vanderveer, Jodie (Doug) Crockett, Stacey (Don) Shilling; 20 grandchildren, and 35 great grandchildren. Preceding him in death were his parents, Clyde & Mary Thomas, his siblings George, Mary Edith Thornsberry Dike, David, and Allen, and one granddaughter, Carissa Thomas.
Clyde and Hal Thomas
October 31, 2014