Terry Thomas

Obituary of Terry Leo Thomas

Terry Leo Thomas June 7th 1947 - May 2nd 2010 Like a bicycle tire with too many patches, Terry's tired lungs literally gave out at 6:54 am May 2nd, 2010. Exactly as he wanted at his home and with his wife, Deb, by his side, Terry to the end was classically Terry - conscious, politically attuned, humorous, and caring. His last words were, "I love." A seven year 'outlier survivor' of pulmonary fibrosis - a devastating and incurable lung disease with typical survival of only two to three years - Terry's strong will to live enabled him to share important milestones in his sons' lives: the eighteenth (and nineteenth) birthday of his youngest son, Joe; the declaration of middle son, Daniel, to become a nurse; and the college graduation and later engagement of his eldest son, David. Even though Terry had what the pathologist declared to be "one of the most severe cases of lung disease I have ever seen", Terry fell short of his last life goal - to see David's wedding live via webcast - by only 76 days. Born in Sebastopol to Chuck and Dorothy Noel Thomas, Terry was later joined by his brother, Daniel, a successful Hollywood actor for many years ("Daniel Trent" on IMDB.com). Chuck and Noel founded the Thomas System for the California real estate exam and built, bought and sold houses in many places including San Blas, Mexico which Terry remembered with fondness. After an honorable discharge from the US Army, Terry worked odd jobs in construction, took 'early retirement' as a hippy living with the Diggers in Haight-Ashbury, then started classes at San Jose City College in what became a life-long devotion to learning. While working at NASA Ames, Terry fell into computers and met many life-long friends. After learning that drinking 35 cups of coffee a day was not normal, Terry was diagnosed with adult ADD which framed his later life experience. According to Terry's research, his role as a big, strong man with ADD was "to protect the tribe from the bear", and Terry became the self-designated 'safety officer' for his family and community. Terry noted that ADD's side effect of hyperfocus greatly benefited his pursuit of programming, and for many years he loved that discipline's structure until the 'dot bust' brought him to other pursuits. After escaping what he called 'cubie land', Terry successfully obtained his real estate broker's license but found his true calling in the theater. Terry blossomed on stage and "gave a lot to the improv community" (Dixie Cox, Fun Institute) over several active years. Terry performed in several memorable stage productions including the 2006 Eight Tens @ 8 plays "Adjective" as the caf customer and "Touch Me" as "The Man" (aka The Statue); Inherit the Wind as Bannister, April 2006; his personal favorite, Midsummer Night's Dream as one of the mechanicals, summer 2006; and Best of the Rest plays "Emergency Exit" and "Eden" as the Doctor and "He", respectively, February 2007. In the summer of 2007, Terry was the off-stage narrator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "How I Learned to Drive". Exemplifying the acting maxim, "the show must go on", Terry's Best of the Rest performance came only three days after a stint in intensive care following major surgery, open lung biopsy. Terry was a proud 'male member' of The Funatics improv group and performed in several of their shows with his trusty "O2 backpack". Even after a quintuple bypass in June 2007, Terry was a constant and enthusiastic front-row spectator in Santa Cruz playhouses until his increasing oxygen needs kept him housebound the last year of his life. Although he worried the noise of his equipment was a distraction to the performers, he hoped the laughter, cheers and applause from the audience would be his cover. Terry saved every ticket stub and every playbill from every performance, even those he did not see himself but which Deb attended after he no longer could. (At his death, we counted more than 100 shows he had personally seen!) Terry loved the many great performances by the Funatics, Loose Cannon, Um Gee Um, ScripTease, You Had to Be There, and the pick-up crew of Saturday Morning Live, with special appreciation for the FreeFall troupe. An unrequited devotee of African and African American women, Terry was also particularly protective of all pregnant and single parent women, admiring their strength in the face of life's vicissitudes. Terry loved his family, the Santa Cruz improv community, poetry, politics, the Giants, the 49ers, Jack Daniels, cooking and eating great food, and was, like his son David, a proud banana slug grad of UCSC. His spirit is carried on by his wife, Deborah; three sons, David, Daniel and Joseph; David's fianc, Kasia, and her parents, Barbara and Richard; Daniel's girlfriend, Julie (who, along with Daniel, moved into Terry and Deb's home to care for him at the end); the mother of his children, Kate Rose; his "fourth son" Frank and Frank's daughters, Tara and Molly; cousin Ric; father-in-law, Harlan; brother-in-law Harlan II (minister at Terry and Deb's wedding), sister-in-law Karen, nephew Grant and niece Madison; and his SPCA rescue dogs, Gypsy and Henny. Terry was predeceased by his father Chuck (d. 1985), mother Dorothy Noel (d. 2002) and brother Daniel Trent (d. 1995) and is survived by his good friends Al and Bonnie Globus; John and Nancy Hart; Ed Wojciechowski; Martin and Valerie; Phyllis Greenleaf; the Funatics; Dixie and Clifford of the Fun Institute; and favorite directors Bill Peters and Sarah Albertson. Special thanks to Terry's caregivers at Hospice of Santa Cruz and the Florence Kuo Group: Houston, Saundra, Leslie, Kathy, Cary, Deborah, Jerry, and Edgar, along with Juan of AdvantaCare and Jose of Superior Health Services. Terry would have appreciated donations to the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis ( www.coalitionforpf.org); the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ( www.aclu.org); Hospice of Santa Cruz ( www.hospicesantacruz.org) and/or the Santa Cruz Chapter of the SPCA ( www.santacruzspca.org). A celebration of Terry's life will take place on Sunday, May 16th; contact Deb at 408-204-2085 for details.
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