Tributes to Carol Ann Thomas


“You Light Up My Life”
A Celebration of Carol Ann Thomas’ Life
September 27, 1944 - November 21, 2008

Given November 29 and December 6, 2008
By Rawley Thomas

Carol Ann Thomas, 64, of St. Charles, Illinois and formerly of Oskaloosa, died November 21, 2008, in her family room in St. Charles after a brief though courageous battle with brain cancer. She was born September 27, 1944, in Oskaloosa the daughter of Forrest Harrison and Wilma Verle Ver Steegh Fortney.

She touched so many people, including me that I am trying to provide you a tiny inkling of her character and her “light.”

In Minnesota, she graduated from Montgomery High School in 1962 and Mankato Commercial College in 1964. On May 27, 1978, Carol Ann and I united in marriage in the Little Brown Church at Nashua. I vividly recall the beaming smiles on the faces of my two existing children, John and Alexis, during that marriage day. Before and after our marriage she worked at SuperValu Stores in Hopkins, MN, where we had met.

My children would come each weekend to live with Carol Ann and me. I cautioned Carol Ann that they might eventually live with us full time. About two years later, my first wife, Lois, thoughtfully decided that two parents were much better than one to raise her children. Carol Ann easily slipped into that role of full time Mother. As so often seems to happen, Carol Ann became pregnant with Kimberly Ann, shortly after John and Alexis joined us to live. As was her strong character, she insisted on continuing to play softball in the spring – pitching and running the bases, when six months along in her pregnancy – much to the aghast of her fellow players – But I knew that there was little I could do to change her behavior – I could only keep score. She was always her own woman.

One month after having Kim, we all moved to St. Charles for me to accept a new job. New child, new house, new school, new city, new job – our family always seemed to adjust to the major milestones in life together. Carol Ann always proved to be the “rock” for our family.

Carol Ann loved golf – a sport she never successfully got her reluctant husband to adopt. She did, however, impart her father’s Montgomery greens keeper skill to rotate cutting our lawn in every possible direction. On April 12, 2002, she called to inform me that she would be late coming home. Seems she had to attend a luncheon after golf. She and her golf buddies had had trouble finding her ball on an elevated par three green – until she discovered it in that 17th hole. Despite her extraordinary golf skill, even beginners loved playing with her – as long as they kept a reasonable pace.

As Kim finished fifth grade, Carol Ann decided to encourage her to attend private school. Kim chose Fox Valley Lutheran Academy (FVLA) and blossomed for three years of Middle School under the extraordinary teaching of Jan Zimdahl.

As Kim became a sophomore, FVLA asked Carol Ann to pick up a freshmen boy, Robert Harston, from Glenwood School for Boys to attend FVLA. The local public school refused to admit Robert. Glenwood boys were supposed to spend the weekend with their families, but Robert’s Mother left him with his week day house parents.  So, Kim and Carol Ann volunteered to take Robert on the weekends. I was fine with their decision, but cautioned that this weekend step was most likely to be the first step of many. By early spring, Robert lived with us full time. By the summer, we attended court to obtain custody, where, with Robert’s help, Carol Ann convinced his mother and sister that we only wished to take care of Robert legally, not break any bonds with them.

As a side note, 6’4” Robert thought he could beat an old, slow, over-weight, smaller white custodial father at one-on-one basketball. He finally achieved his goal as a senior – about 50% of the time. Carol Ann was so proud of all the children she raised.

Eventually, Carol Ann volunteered to work for FVLA as their bookkeeper. She successfully converted from a DOS accounting package to QuickBooks, while offering much help in streamlining many office processes. She always wanted to feel needed and respected for her “common sense” approach to people relationships and associated business processes.

Carol Ann joined the Board of Directors of the Elgin Symphony Youth Orchestra (EYSO). Eventually, she became the full time Director of Finance. She always loved music and being with those who shared her love. EYSO honored Carol Ann by dedicating “Sinfonica: the Sound of Latin America” on November 9, 2008. Two days later, she was able to view and listen to the two concert DVDs from her wheel chair at home – what a treat!

Three years ago in 2005, during Carol Ann’s first bout with breast cancer, her greatest concern was going to Disneyworld with her two grandchildren, Cassandra and Cody. Her Oncologist, Bob Bayer, thoughtfully adjusted her chemo schedule to accommodate her most important need.

Carol Ann drove herself home from EYSO on September 5th with a horrible headache. An MRI confirmed that the breast cancer has spread throughout her brain. She was so very dedicated that she insisted that I drive her to EYSO throughout her illness. She demanded a smooth transition. During the last week, her cancer took away her ability to speak. Despite this, she mustered enough energy to say two sentences. To her mother, she said, “Who drove you here?” Two days later, after giving her water through an eye dropper, she said to me, “Thank You” in her clearest strong voice. I’m sure her “thank you” was both for the water and our life together.

So, I pass along from Carol Ann to all of you who have come here today to celebrate the “light” of her life – “Thank You” for being here.

Click below for a beautiful set of eulogies to Carol Ann from Rawley and other celebrants of her life; family and friends alike.


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