Lawrence "Larry" Thomas

Tuesday, June 19th, 1923 - Saturday, August 8th, 2020
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Lawrence Otis Thomas

Larry Thomas (also known by L.O.) passed away in his sleep on August 8th in Hood River, Oregon, at the age of 97. Larry was born on June 19, 1923 in the town of Elkton, Oregon, to father Rhad Thomas and mother Ida Robinson Thomas. He had two brothers, Glen and Ralph Thomas. As a young boy, Larry enjoyed hunting, fishing, and riding his beloved horse, Dick, about the Umpqua River. Known from a young age for his work ethic, he helped his parents around the household and the family-run Elkton General Store. At age 19 Larry joined the Submarine Fleet, serving aboard the USS Mingo in the Pacific Arena during WWII. Aboard the Mingo Larry served as postmaster, known for his organization and fastidiousness. About his service, Larry often said succinctly that he was lucky. After all, submariners had the highest mortality rate in all the armed forces.

Following WWII, Larry came back to Elkton and soon met the love of his life, Jeanne Carlson, from Minnesota. Her father had traveled West with his family to open and operate a local movie theater in Elkton. Larry married Jeanne on December 18th 1948, a day after her 19th birthday. They lived their first years of marriage in Elkton, where Carol was born, and then relocated to Roseburg, to reside in Garden Valley’s Ridgewood. The Ridgewood homestead included about 20 acres, upon which Larry built a barn and corrals for his several horses. Lolita was his favorite and they had a long friendship together.

Having studied geology before his service, Larry then began his life’s work as co-owner of Beckley & Thomas Rock Products alongside childhood friend Phil Beckley of Elkton. Next to Phil, a tall man gregarious in nature, Larry was reserved and practical. With complementary natures, the two weathered many storms as they enlisted the service of dozens of local people and built numerous roads within Douglas County and beyond. Even to his last days, Larry would fondly recount negotiations to acquire gravel beds and project contracts with the Bureau of Public Roads in minute detail. An industrious soul, Larry enjoyed leading a company, through thick and thin. “You can only get so far on your own” he would say, “we all need a little good luck sometimes.”

After many years, Larry and Phil dissolved their corporation and began retired life. Larry took up bread baking and was known for his “irresistible” cheese bread among several others. He would happily bake bread for friends and neighbors and he even baked a communion loaf for the wedding of his daughter, Kay. Larry and Jeanne were also avid fishermen. The couple would often head to Brookings with their boat in tow in hopes of catching mighty Chinook salmon or whatever they could bring home. Larry’s most famous dish was his smoked salmon, which was served alongside Jeanne’s tremendous dill sauce. His smoked salmon was beloved by all in the family and many others (it even may have converted some vegetarians). Larry was also a master of smoking oysters. We enjoyed them especially atop a cracker with cream cheese and a green pimento olive.

Larry and Jeanne also had a great love for travel. In 1963 they famously took their 3 children in an Airstream trailer to Mexico for six weeks. Years later, they traded in the trailer for a big Beaver motorhome. Once a year they would gear up for months of travel: loading up the motorhome (and their Yorkie, Otis), towing their car, and setting out for adventure. The nomadic couple would often celebrate holidays with family in the Bay Area before heading to the Southwest or as Far East as Moab. They took numerous trips to Baja, Mexico with friends to go fishing. Some of their other favorite destinations included Arizona, Tahoe, Texas, and Minnesota. The two once enjoyed a trip to Europe, but not nearly as much as their lengthy sojourn across Australia via slow train. Their most suspenseful adventure was a tour throughout South America in 1975. While visiting Lima, Peru, a military coup occurred. In order to escape the dangerous climate, they had to evacuate in daring fashion: getting smuggled out of the hotel -- doors locked shut right behind them -- into the night on a bus. They escaped into the countryside to safety, without major incident, returning home to the USA.

Larry, previously a formal, clean-shaven man, now sported a thick moustache, which he kept for the rest of his life. He would proudly remember his wife’s courage and decisiveness during the perilous moments, as she opted for them to leave the temporary safety of the hotel for the evacuation by bus. “I loved her before the trip, but after the trip I was really in love with Jeanne all over again” he would tell his family. Larry lived a full life and gave a wonderful start to the lives of his children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. He imparted his love for the outdoors, animals, industry, and good moral character.

He is survived by his daughters, Carol Jeanne Thomas and Kay Thomas Mascoli, and his son, John L Thomas, as well as his grandchildren, Amy Knowles, Anna and Nicholas Mascoli, and his great-grandchildren Marin and Owen Knowles.His eldest daughter, Carol, became a Stanford Medical School graduate before becoming a widely-respected endocrinologist. His son, John, became a skilled cyclist, skier, and motocross rider, before becoming a prominent custom home builder in the Hood River area. His youngest child, Kay, took on many roles: businesswoman, mother of two, world traveler, and volunteer worker. His granddaughter, Amy, would set state records in women's weightlifting and complete numerous marathons before studying to become a pharmacist and starting a family. His granddaughter, Anna, would excel in sports and school before graduating NYU Law and becoming an attorney at a renowned Bay Area firm. His grandson, Nick, would become a world traveler like him, as well as an aspiring Architect and family man. His great-granddaughter, Marin, is an adventurous seven-year-old who excels in school and loves the limelight. His great-grandson, Owen, is a charming five-year-old who is amazingly strong for his age and enjoys playing with his sister.

Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson's Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations) 1401 Belmont Avenue, Hood River, Oregon 97031.

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