John Thomas

best-of-John-for-obitJohn Thomas (b. April 28, 1932) passed away peacefully on June 11, 2014, with his wife of 17 years, Wendy Thomas, by his side.  Born to Jack and Helen Thomas in Denver, CO, he lived there until his service in the U.S. Navy brought him to the shores of San Diego and Japan.  John moved to Seattle in 1956 with his first wife, Marjorie Thomas.  He is survived by his children, Karen, Craig and Mark, as well as his grandchildren, Ellie and Owen.  John was the “T” in Thomas & Kennedy Typographers (T&K), the preeminent type shop for the advertising and graphic arts community in Seattle.  He had a passion for golf, Macallan Single Malt Scotch, a great story and a good laugh.  He will be remembered most for his quick wit, his kindness and his loyalty.

There will be a celebration of his life on August 15th from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm at The Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St., Seattle, WA.  We encourage you to share a humorous remembrance either on this site or at the memorial.

To honor John’s life, a memorial fund has been established to provide a park bench on Magnolia Boulevard bearing his name.  To make your tax-deductible donation, pull up the form at:  bench@seattleparksfoundation.org.

Please be sure to indicate: Memorial Bench for John W. Thomas. Donations will go to:  Seattle Parks Foundation, 105 S. Main St., #235, Seattle, WA  98104

21 Responses to “John Thomas”

  • Walter Beeler says:

    It’s just about 20 years back when I met you the first time, down in Florida at Ben Sutton Golf School in Sun City. The group of golfers you were in and which I had to join were not great golfers, and the teacher, Kenny Lind, needed a lot of patience. Me, coming from overseas, felt very welcome. We had great understanding in that group, lots of fun and joking – and you with your great sense of humour did much more than your share. Obviously, both of us seemed to have the same wavelength, and we started to understand each other quite well. So, I got quite some support from your side although at times I got lost in conversation and discussions, this because of my limited English.

    Since the group did well together it was jointly decided to meet the following year again, and this again and again. Hence, I crossed the ocean ten times in a row, and this mainly just to meet each other, but mainly you. So, a fine friendship started to grow. You, John, as the mastermind, Roger Giesel and myself did go so well together that we decided to meet not only annually in Florida, but also in summer in Colorado – this about half a dozen times. Every week was a great time being together, an expression of friendship I never would like to miss. In the evenings, with minds often sharpened by single malt, we had intense discussions about politics, economy, and of course social live, and often I admired your great common sense, your ideas, your immense knowledge in almost all respects, but also the fair way you addressed problems. For me, it was very interesting to hear you talking about your growing up, the time in Korea, the work in your printshop. You never bluffed, you were very modest and authentic, you were you. That’s what I liked.

    After one of these summer golfing you took me to your home in Seattle. At that time you still lived in your former house. There, after all, I got to meet your Wendy, and also some of your wonderful friends, as Peggy, Henry and his girl friend. At that time, Bear was your big dog friend, and I remember well how you suffered when you had to put him down.

    I came many times to Seattle to visit you and Wendy. And every time you and Wendy had worked out nice programs. So, we went – dressed up very classy – to the season opening in your gorgeous concert house, or we did go to auctions, to Vancouver, and sometimes you or Peggy cooked fantastic dinners – time always went by so fast. Or, at other times, we simply enjoyed the great view from your new home, watching the ships going by on the sound you loved so much. And, of course, I also remember your special worm factory you had downstairs.

    I was always thrilled when you with Wendy came to Switzerland visiting me. There, we invested a lot of time in sightseeing. I well remember the time when we strolled through the old town of Bern, or the time when we went to Zermatt, high up in the mountains, to admire the Matterhorn, or the day when we were floating on the Lake of Como in northern Italy and eyeballed George Clooney’s villa. We had so many happy moments and times being together, and which I love to remember and which we could talk about in our phone calls.

    John, dear friend, it was always great to be in your company, to hear your, your wit and comments, to feel your sense for life. You were so authentic, you were a fine friend. I was very fortunate to meet you, so we could share a great friendship. It was a pity that we lived so far from each other – many times I have wished you would be my neighbour. Now you are gone, and you left a big empty space. I’ll miss you, and I am very sure you will be missed by many others, too.

  • Wendy Thomas says:

    John loved his time with you and looked forward to the trips getting together at our home, at your home and in between for the golf trips.

  • Larry Leech says:

    I went to work for John in about 1971 as a letterpress operator at GAC before there was a T&K. I work for and with him for the next 20+ years until he retired. One of my earliest memories of John was how he used the safe at the front counter to keep his McNaughtons and club soda locked up until it was 5 o’clock somewhere. Didn’t seem to worried about the money. John always seemed to find unusual jobs for me to work on over the years. At least he kept me employed.

    I stopped by to see John a little over a year ago when I was in Seattle and had plans to try to get together with he and Bud when I would be there agin this fall. Very glad I saw him when I did as it had been over ten years.

    I always considered John as much a friend as a boss.

  • Karl Mallory says:

    Enjoying the pleasure of John’s company-though briefly-strengthened my understanding of compassion and acceptance. His friendly aura and smile will always inspire me.

  • Gail Lansing says:

    I met both John and Wendy when they successfully manned the premier typesetting company in the region, T&K (Thomas & Kennedy). John was a dashing, handsome guy – I was slightly intimidated by him! Years later when Wendy and I became closer friends I met up again with John; a charming guy – clever and funny. They were a happy couple; they communicated easily, laughed frequently and enjoyed the same things. I’m sad to know that Wendy and John’s many friends and family must go on without him but know that what he brought to their lives will endure.

  • Marylou Brannan says:

    An icon in the Seattle advertising and design business. I looked forward to my daily and sometimes hourly conversations with both Bud & John. I learned so much and enjoyed the humor all along the way. RIP

  • john smith says:

    one of the first times i met john (and bud) was at a party an ad agency was throwing. over a few drinks they told me they were looking for someone to do a christmas card promo for T&K. for some reason (aided by a few more drinks) i suggested they skip the card and do an audio greeting, maybe a parody of chattanooga choo choo. three days later they showed up at my office with some sheet music and a bottle of tequila (no ice, no glasses). from that moment, a legend was born, as well as a wonderful friendship. john and i shared a mutual love of the macallan and many lunches, dinners and events, over the years. he was well regarded and respected in the ad world. plus known to be generous, cool under fire, with a terrific sense of humor and a great story teller. i am going to mss him sorely and am proud to have been counted as one of his friends.

  • Mary Basnett (Peterson) says:

    I went to work for John in the early 70’s and stayed with Thomas & Kennedy until it was sold, many years later. He was by far the best boss I ever had, but even more important, he was a good friend. Those years were truly, some of the best of my life.

    I will never forget all the evenings my husband and I spent with John and Wendy playing Trival Pursuit. More often than not he’d win – he had an extremely wide range of knowledge.

    I’ve lost touch with John over the years, but even so his loss is keenly felt. Some friendships are for a lifetime regardless of separation and that’s how I’ve always thought of John, and I guess I always will.

  • John Stockton says:

    JOHN W. THOMAS; a near life-long friend–how can I describe this kind of friendship with mere words–like a brother, one could share private feelings and feel better for it–some history is best in order–be prepared–I could write a book !!

    In June, 1948 my family moved to Denver from Ft. Collins, CO where I spent my childhood and grew up with all of my friends–I didn’t know anyone in the big city; we were 16 (John is just 8 days my senior) and we would attend South High School as classmates in the fall. Around the corner lived Dave Davis, just 6 months our junior; a bond formed with the 3 of us lasting to this day. Included with this group is John’s brother, James (Jim or “Tumpy”) who is 5 years older to the day (April 28). We were all too shy to chase girls (even though our voices had changed), so we would have a great time together over some 3.2% brews, play games and swap “war” stories. Jim lives just a few blocks from my present (rental, now) Denver home.

    We all came from great homes with good parents, and it was a good time and place to grow up–we discussed this many times–the only drugs we knew were in the pharmacy–this concerned us for the generations younger than us.

    John’s father, Jack owned and operated a print shop where John served hours of “internship”. His mother, Helen was a wonderful person and was “Mom” to all of us kids–her passing left an emotional scar on us all, especially John.

    Sure, at times we were mischievous. We also shared so many interests; such as automobiles, music, patriotism, and friendship. John was proud of his heritage, and his Ford Model A sedan, but when he was in an accident (destroyed it), I gave him $5.00 for the ahooga horn–I still have it and it works. Dave had a Model A 2-door that he “customized” by removing the running boards. He and Johnny (as he was known back then) were out hunting birds from Dave’s A; John had the shot gun vertically between his legs, pointing sky ward when they hit a bump and the gun discharged, blowing a gaping hole in the soft top. So instead of repairing it, Dave got the bright idea to cut off the entire upper half of the car. My dad wanted me to help him fell a large tree in our front yard (I had experience helping him with several very large Cottonwoods in Ft. Collins–not enjoyable); so I told Dave I would hacksaw his A if he would help my dad–this weakened the A body and when Dave took a corner, the door would fly open (this is before seat belts). Well, one sunny bright afternoon, the 3 of us decided to drive to the mountains; Johnny was riding “shotgun”–again, and I in the back seat. We found a dirt road Northwest of Golden that started with a long climb. The A had a stiff but light-weight rear and I noticed that when I quickly shifted my weight side ways, the car would skip causing us to giggle. When we crested the hill, I announced that a stop was required for me to relieve myself; their reply was no, just **** ** over the side. I said no, the saw cuts were jagged and I didn’t need another (you can use your imagination here). At the bottom of this long hill, the road made a sharp 90* right-hand turn, so we were going very slow. I made a dramatic body slam to the left, the door flew open, Dave’s butt went thru the missing running board, he had a death grip on the steering wheel, the car made a very tight 180* turn and went up hill but off the road; all I could see was Dave’s white knuckles, his head bouncing up and down and huge eye balls looking back at me –the car soon stalled–you can now imagine again what was said by Dave–we often relived this stunt with a belly laugh (except for Dave–he has yet to forgive me).

    Johnny was a good snow skier, Model A mechanic and an accomplished musician; Dave was a drummer, I played the trumpet and John was one of a few that could master all of the reed woodwinds, even single and split reed, such as the sax, clarinet, and the difficult obo–we were members of marching bands, stage/concert band and concert orchestra–we even formed a dance band that rehearsed in my parent’s living room (my mother was a classically trained musician with a baby Grande to accompany us)–we managed to contract a couple of dances in a ball room–we even played German polkas in John’s living room. Karen, your dad sent me discs of some of your works; I thoroughly enjoyed them–music is in your genes. He was very proud of all of you, Karen, Craig and Mark, and of course Ellie and Owen–he often talked about you. He deeply loved Wendy and would ask what does she see in me–well, I can tell you a lot.

    In 1949, John joined the Navy Reserve and I the Army National Guard; then in June 1950 (right after HS graduation) the Korean “conflict or police action” broke out and John went on active duty and I enrolled in college at The Citadel, the West Point of the South in Charleston, SC–the first paper I signed was the Deferment Act, a military contract with the government–I later became a reserve officer in the Corps of Engineers–once in awhile we talked military. I remember his story after some off-duty party time in Japan waking up in a rice paddy.

    We bonded like many of you, shortly after we met, lasting 66 years. You can’t buy a relationship like this or bully one, it’s earned out of respect. Johnny didn’t attend college, but he was one of the most intelligent and up-to-date persons I’ve had the privilege of knowing.

    See, I warned you that this could turn into a book. Johnny, you are missed very much, but as I’ve told others, you are now free to Soar with the Eagles and Play Golf on the Clouds. Thanks for being such a part of my life. God’s Speed–RIP–save me a place at your bar (surely, there’s single-malt scotch wherever you are).

    Wendy, you and the children have my most sincere sympathy–stay in touch.

  • Kathleen Nolan says:

    Wendy and family, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    JT gave me my start in Seattle when he hired me at T&K in early 1990. He had a story for everything and told them with a wonderful, irreverent sense of humor.

  • Peggy Wolff says:

    It was such a pleasure and honor to have John as a trusted friend whose sly humor seamlessly fit into so many conversations and events since meeting him and Wendy 17 years ago.

    John was a gift, always ready to help, as when I moved to a new house and he drove some prized possessions plus a palm tree – waving through the sun roof of his new Mercedes – from Queen Anne to Columbia City. He painted, installed, repaired, etc. then celebrated the end of the days’ task with a single malt. When the bottle was empty, he told me the job was done.

    We could share confidences, solve the world’s problems, laugh at our and others’ foibles, enjoy many musical performances and more. John always had something to read at my Poetry Parties, often something that charmed the laughter out of everyone.

    This from Thoreau seems very apt:

    My life has been the poem I would have writ
    But I could not both live and utter it.

    And, Poem No. 2 by Russian poet Vera Pavlova

    If there is something to desire,
    there will be something to regret.
    If there is something to regret,
    there will be something to recall.
    If there is something to recall,
    there was nothing to regret.
    If there was nothing to regret,
    there was nothing to desire.

    From our many wide-ranging conversations, especially during the last year or two, I learned that John’s life was populated and punctuated with wonderful people who shared in his life’s events – nothing to regret.

    I miss him.

  • Robyn Woolston says:

    Wendy,after reading these stories and tributes from all of his friends,I regret not getting to know him. Obviously,he was an amazing man!

  • Liz Reed Hawk says:

    I didn’t know John well — only through his daughter Karen, who I have sung for in Seattle Pro Musica for 18 years. But despite not knowing him well, he ALWAYS remembered who I was every time I saw him after a concert, and he always exuded a kindness that was palpable. Reading the stories above from people who knew him well, I can see that my instincts about him were correct. A good man, with a life well lived.

  • Sherrill Girard says:

    The World lost a generous, kind man. He always had a ready smile, a compassionate ear, and an open heart. He will be missed by many.

  • Frank Kaino says:

    The Eight Ball pool games, luncheons, cocktail hours, parties, dinners and interesting conversations during those moments with John were fun with lots of laughs.

    John, You Are A Good Man.

  • Geri Severson says:

    I met John almost 18 years at an open house party that Henry & I had shortly after moving to Seattle. Most of the attendees were from United Airlines were Henry & I both worked with the exception of a significant group from the brew pub where Henry liked to hang out. Not knowing who John was, I approached him and asked him if he was one of the pub people. John was taken aback not knowing what “pub people” were since he was actually a golfing buddy. It was a laugh we shared over the years. John was always kind, had a great sense of humor & wit, loved to share stories & enjoyed a good cocktail or two. And a loving, loyal & trustworthy husband to Wendy. John will be missed by all who knew him.

  • Mark Bowron says:

    John Thomas and family were like a second family to me growing up in Lynnwood 1966-1978. Some of the funnest times of my childhood were spent with them as a kid.

    One Halloween in the early 1970s, John wrapped me up in strips torn from a white sheet to make me look like a mummy. When kids showed up, the door slowly swung open as I came shuffling down the stairs in my mummy outfit. I continued menacingly out through the doorway and gave the kids a really good scare before handing out the candy.

    In August 1975 John’s three kids and I were in for a different kind of scare when John took us on a hike in the Central Cascades to Twin Lakes. The weather was fine hiking in, but the next morning we found ourselves in freezing rain and snow. We had to leave immediately. John reacted calmly to the situation and got us out safely.

    Shortly after we moved into the Lynnwood neighborhood in 1966 (three houses away from the Thomases), my dad installed a regulation backboard and basketball hoop above our garage. John’s son Craig routinely came over and shot hoops with me. Since T&K had four season tickets, Craig and I got to attend many Sonics games with John and Marjorie during the 1970s, including some playoff games during the glory years from 1977 to 1979 (T&K always had excellent seats too).

    Occasionally John hired us kids for temp jobs at T&K. The most memorable one was closing down Pacific Type at 5th and Lenora (now Palace Kitchen) after T&K acquired the company in 1978 for its digital typesetting equipment. Our primary task was to transfer all of Pacific’s lead type into fifty-gallon drums for recycling. We dumped the lead into a wheelbarrow, moved it over to a drum and shoveled it into the drum. It was quite the workout!

    I’m so glad I got to see John a few times again more recently at the homes of Craig and Karen in Seattle. The last time was in January 2009 at Karen’s. At the end of the evening John and I had a pleasant one-on-one chat about the old days in Lynnwood.

    I’d be honored if John and Wendy named their dog Bear after me (an old nickname of mine dating back to junior high), but my hunch is the name choice was based mainly on the dog’s size. One reason for mentioning this is so anyone from the earlier days of T&K will know who I am (to everyone there, I was Craig’s friend named Bear).

  • Wendy Thomas says:

    I hope you can come to the Memorial for John this Friday at The Center for Urban Horticulture. He would have loved to have you be there.

  • Scott Jurgens says:

    John and his family were next door neighbors to us when I was growing up in Lynnwood. Our two families spent a lot of time together after school, after work, and on a number of weekends, just visiting, playing, while my dad and John had a beer or two. One time while John and my dad were out in the front yard they were drinking a beer. My mom came out and said, “You’re having a beer already? It’s not even noon yet! John responded without losing a beat, “It’s noon in Denver.” All my mom and dad could do is laugh. Such great memories with John and the whole Thomas family! May his memorial this Friday be one that is blessed. I will not be able to attend since I live in Lewiston, Idaho and just found out about his passing. The Thomas’s will be in my prayers.

  • Colleen (Jurgens) Loewen says:

    John Thomas was our next-door neighbor in Lynnwood, beginning the summer of 1965. He and Marjorie welcomed us warmly as neighbors right away, and I used to “babysit” the 3 kids, Karen, Craig, and Mark on a regular basis. Had lots of fun with them, and we had lots of laughs!! Mr. Thomas and our dad, also named John, would get together often to do “jobs” in the yards. It was always less tedious if you had a friend to help you with something, and Mr. Thomas and our dad would always predict “how many beers this job will take.” That was always so-o-o-o-o funny!!! On another note, Mr. Thomas was the one who came over one Sat. (happened to be Halloween) to see how Dad was doing on the car muffler that he was trying to change. When Dad didn’t respond, Mr. Thomas pulled him out from under the car and tried to revive him…he had had a heart attack, and Mr. Thomas tried his best to bring Dad back around. We will always appreciate his valiant effort (even though Dad didn’t make it). He was such a good friend and great influence for our dad, and he (Mr. Thomas) had the best sense of humor!!! We loved him! My sister, Anita and I send our sincere condolences to the family, and regret that we are unable to attend the Memorial this Friday. We are thinking of all of you! Much love, Anita Miranda and Colleen Loewen

  • donna Sauer and Jimmy Reeves says:

    We had more contact with Wendy in business…but typical of Wendy, she soon moved you to friends status and we were privileged to meet John. Always a delight to chat with over a glass of wine and his kitchen counter, he made you comfortable. Loved your kindnesses to us and your marvelous espressos!

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