Aug. 31, 1952 – Aug. 7, 2019
Gary J. Thomas, 66, passed away August 7, 2019, after a short stoic battle with cancer. He was born August 31, 1952, in Chicago, Illinois, the third and youngest child of Eunice Caddick Thomas and Edward H. Thomas.
Gary graduated from Taft High School in Chicago. He worked for a tannery there and became interested in working with sheepskin. Through the tannery connection, he gained a scholarship to a special training program for sheepskin manufacturing. He attended the University of Wyoming in Laramie. In 1976, he started High Plains Sheepskin and later moved the business to Helena to be closer to his family. For the past 26 years, the business has been on Main Street in East Helena.
Gary was a Boy Scout and always supported Chicago Troop 979's fundraising activities. He also supported local public radio and minor league baseball in Helena.
Gary was an active outdoorsman, always involved in hiking, skiing, camping, and canoeing. There were ample opportunities to polish your skills when sharing an adventure. He was a loyal member of his trap-shooting squad. For many years he was an endurance runner and competed in numerous ultramarathons.
Gary was well-read and a walking encyclopedia of geography. His unique and deeply rich sense of humor will be sorely missed.
Gary was preceded in death by his parents.
Gary leaves his wife, Diana Claassen, East Helena, and his siblings, James E. Thomas (Mary), London, Ontario, and Bobbie Williams (Ben), Livingston; brother-in-law Jeff Claassen (Terri), Helena; sisters-in-law Jenny Rieke (Peter), Pasco; Barb Harris, Helena; nieces and nephews Robin Lovec (Kash), Susan Baker (Steve); Sam Harris; Colin Harris; Eli Johnston; great nephews Andy Baker (Andrea); River Lovec (Whitney); and great niece Kessly Lovec.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Weiner, the staff at the Cancer Treatment Center, and the wonderful nurses on the oncology ward. Memorial donations may be directed to the Cancer Treatment Center at St. Peter's Hospital.
We think of Gary every time we put on slippers.
A gathering to share memories of Gary will be held Friday, August 16, 2019, at Kennedy Park (402 North Harrison) in East Helena from 1 to 4 p.m.