Thursday, December 8, 2005

Eunice Holman Thomas, beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, wife, pioneer Missouri educator, community leader and life-long resident of Cassville, Missouri, passed away December 3, 2005, at the age of 92 at her daughter's home in Springfield, Missouri. Mrs. Thomas had been in ill health since suffering a cerebral aneurysm in March, 2002.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, December 10, 2005, in the First Baptist Church, 602 West Street, Cassville, Missouri, under direction of Fohn Funeral Home, Cassville. The family will receive friends from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m. Friday, in the church.

As a 40-year educator, Mrs. Thomas's influence in education was felt throughout Missouri, and most significantly in the Cassville community. In 1983, upon her retirement, she was honored for her life devoted to the education and guidance of Barry County children by the renaming of Cassville's elementary school to the Eunice Thomas Elementary School.

Mrs. Thomas was born January 12, 1913 to Samantha and W.H. Holman, the fourth of eleven children on a farm on Rock Creek in southwest Missouri. She attended elementary school in Mano, Missouri.

In 1929, her father, "Bill" Holman, determined that his eleven children must be near a high school in order for them to get an education, ran for sheriff of Barry County. He was elected sheriff, and moved the family to Cassville, where Mrs. Thomas and her brothers and sisters attended high school. Despite hard economic times, she attended Monett Junior College and then began her career as an educator.

Mrs. Thomas taught six years at Quaker (1934-1940), a one-room school in southwest Missouri, before becoming a teacher at Cassville. She knew that it was important to know her students if she was going to be successful. She decided to spend the night in the home of each of her 45 students. "You have to know children in order to teach them," she often said. "I went into those homes and sat at their tables and I ate their blue biscuits. I drank their coffee and stayed overnight. I got to know the families and as a result I taught the children better in school."

On August 22, 1937, she married Aubrey Thomas, son of Charles and Myrtle Thomas of Jenkins, Missouri. They dated for almost five years because they were "too poor to get married sooner." She and Aubrey married during her teaching career at Quaker, in spite of the fact that the Quaker School Board made it clear that "they didn't want a married woman." During her annual review, the county superintendent defended her to the School Board, citing "Miss Eunice's outstanding abilities to teach children whether or not she was married" The School Board decided to keep her as the teacher and she remained there for six years.

Mrs. Thomas received her Bachelor's Degree from Southwest Missouri State Teachers College and her Master's Degree from the University of Arkansas. During her career in education in the Cassville School District, she served as teacher and in 1954, became the elementary principal, a position that she held until her retirement in 1983. During her career in the Cassville R-IV School District, she started the first kindergarten, the first preschool, a chapter of the PTA, and she was the first to write for programs like Head Start to bring federal funding to Cassville Schools. Most importantly, she positively and lovingly touched the lives of many students, setting an example and leading them on their educational paths. Many southwest Missouri residents credit her for teaching them to read. Educators credit her for her influence in setting them on their career path of teaching. She has said, "There is no greater profession than making a difference in the lives of children."

Mrs. Thomas received many awards throughout her career including the 1960 Woman of the Year by the Cassville Business and Professional Women's Club; Lady of the Year for 1978 by Sigma Epsilon Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, a service organization in Barry County.

In 1983, at the end of her career, she was honored by the Missouri Legislature and the City of Cassville in a proclamation declaring "Eunice Thomas Day."

Mrs. Thomas was a faithful and active member of the First Baptist Church of Cassville. She served as local and county president of WMU, counselor of Girls Auxiliary, Vacation Bible School principal, choir member, teacher, and Sunday School Superintendent. She had a deep abiding faith in God and a devotion to the work of the church. Her advice to you was in this favorite scripture, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path."

Community service was often used synonymously with Mrs. Thomas's name. She believed there was great power in women of a community which motivated her to be a member and organizer in many community groups. Women's groups thrived under her leadership. She organized and served as president of the Seven Valley extension club; she was a member and past president of the Silver Leaf Club; a member and past president of the Barry-Lawrence Cooperative Library; past- president of the Cassville Business and Professional Women's Club and past Worthy Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star. She was also an active member of the Phi Delta Kappa and Delta Kappa Gamma, professional education organizations.

Mrs. Thomas's greatest legacy was her love for her family. She loved having her family around her, whether at extended and frequent family picnics or for fried chicken at her dining table for Sunday dinner. She was a wonderful, loving mother and an extraordinary role model for her children as well as the many people, young and old. When folks talk about her they often say, "I wanted to be just like her." Her life gives us an example of what and how we could be and ought to be. She also leaves us a philosophy about how to give children the quality education they deserve. The gospel according to Mrs. Thomas was, "The hallmark of an excellent teacher is to meet children where they are and to move them forward." She leaves us better as individuals and as a community because of the path she walked, the expectations she had for herself and those around her and the belief she had in each one of us.

Mrs. Thomas's family owes a special debt of gratitude to her loving caregivers, Jana Karabiva and Elaine Criner, and to her physician, Dr. John Bentley. Their love, devotion and expert care allowed her to remain in Sara Lampe's home and be with her family during her illness. She continued to be a "great teacher" even in her passing.

Mrs. Thomas was preceded in death by Aubrey Thomas (1978), her husband of 41 years; her parents, William and Samantha Holman; her sisters, Cleo Rich and Faye Priest; her brothers, Edward Holman, and A.C. Holman.

She is survived by her three children, Jo Ellen (Jay) Henderson, Boise, Idaho; Sara Nell Lampe and John Robert Thomas, Springfield, Missouri; five grandchildren, Anne (Rob) Jestadt and Matthew (Danette) Henderson, Boise, Idaho; Thomas Michael Lampe, William Grover Lampe, and Michael Holman Lampe, Springfield, Missouri; two great-grandchildren, Samantha Rose Jestadt and Iris Morgan Henderson, Boise, Idaho; sisters, Madge Sparkman and Maxine Williams, of Cassville, and Iola Lordanich, and Winona Synold, Irvine, California; brothers, W.H. Holman, Jr., of Kansas City; Calvin Holman, of Cassville, and many nieces and nephews.

Her love for her family, her gumption and undefeatable spirit, her positive and loving ways are her legacy to us. She will be greatly missed. "There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God."

The family asks that memorial gifts be made to the Eunice Thomas Scholarship Fund, Cassville R-IV Schools, 1501 Main St., Cassville, MO 65625-1154. Telephone: 417-847-2221. Paid


Cassville, Missouri