Juanita E. "Nita" Thomas, age 96, loving mother, grandmother, and beloved friend, passed into the Everlasting Arms Friday, August 27, 2021.
She was preceded in death by her loving husband, Gene Thomas (2015), and precious daughter, Sarah (2020). Her dear grandson, James Cole (2014) also passed away too soon. Other loved ones who preceded her to heaven include parents, Charles Ernest Aull and Anita Kate (Hunsley); brothers, Ensel, Cecil, Donald, Raymond, and Harry; and sisters, Mabel (VanScoy), Olive (Huber) and Lucille (Boyer), and many relatives and friends too numerous to identify by name.
Nita is survived by devoted daughters, Marsha Thomas of Weilerbach, Germany and Carol Thomas Rowley (Mikel) of Albuquerque; and her wonderful sister-in-law, Rosie Wood (Shreveport). Nita is also survived by 13 grandchildren, many great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
Nita was born in Taylorville Illinois in 1925 and grew up the youngest of nine children. She was educated in the area in and near Springfield, Illinois and that is where she met the love of her life, Gene Thomas, on a blind date after he had returned as a proud Marine from WW II. The couple married in 1947 and over the next 8 years had 3 darling daughters.
Nita was a faithful friend and partner to Gene for almost 68 years until his death in 2015.
About a decade before he passed away, Gene began celebrating each "month-a-versary" of their wedding date on the 26th of each month. When they were starting out and into their middle age, Gene's increasing success as a Mechanical Engineer provided opportunities to relocate within Illinois and to the states of Minnesota, California, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania. At every place they lived, Nita was a true "Proverbs 31" woman. She created lovely home environments with a natural eye for color and design, many times on a shoestring budget. She could sew anything--from her girls' school clothes or dressy dresses to slipcovers for furniture. She also had a green thumb and designed gardens that thrived at each home. Her cooking skills were awesome, although she was stubbornly modest about her ability to put together a feast with whatever she might find in the fridge or cupboards. Her signature chili has often been imitated but never duplicated.
Nita was very sharp in so many ways. Her writing and math skills were outstanding and were put to good use in managing finances, including real estate investments that she and Gene found over the years and later in helping with Gene's engineering consulting company. In the first chapters of their married life, she occasionally took secretarial and bookkeeping jobs to supplement their finances and to keep her very active mind busy. As children and adults her daughters were accustomed to regular trips to the library and Nita kept up her reading habits adapting to the use of her Kindle that she kept under her pillow at night after reading herself to sleep. She could be easily persuaded to play Scrabble which has remained one of her children's favorite leisure past times. At age 50 Nita returned to college and earned an associate degree from Tarrant County College "summa cum laude." With that degree in hand, she was hired by the State of Texas as a case manager for needs-based assistance programs.
Nita was a born traveler. In the early 1970's she joined daughter Sarah (who was then a student at St. Andrew's College in Scotland) on their own tour of Britain and Europe via Eurail Pass. As their nest became empty, Nita and Gene continued to enjoy travel. Forty plus years after her European adventure with Sarah, she returned with Gene for another tour of Europe. The two often spoke about their adventures and loved Paris. The couple also traveled to Japan (invited by engineering firms there to review one of Gene's inventions), and Hawaii. They enjoyed more than one cruise, including a favorite to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
The couple's spirit of adventure has lived on in their children and grandchildren's lives. Nita and Gene not only provided their children with rich life experiences by living in many different places, but also encouraged their daughters and grandchildren to expand their horizons by being educated in religion, music, and athletics. Through her example, Nita fostered determination to set and reach their own life goals. When they retired, the couple settled down in Hurst, Texas and enjoyed their home near Chisolm Park and many neighbors who had become and remain true friends. After Gene's passing in 2015, Nita remained in the family home until the sense of adventure came over her again and she found her next home at Atria Hometown in North Richland Hills. She lived with zest there and made many wonderful friends. Mom vigorously demonstrated the saying "Make new friends but keep the old-One is silver and the other's gold." At Atria and her next location, Nita was known as a very "smart cookie" when it came to bridge, Rummikube, Nickels, jigsaw puzzles and other games and pastimes. During 2020 wanderlust struck again and she moved to New Mexico, much to the delight of her daughter, Carol and dear son-in-law, Mike. She was very cozy in her just-like-home apartment at Rio Grande Gracious Senior Living in Rio Rancho.
Nita's faith in God was ever-present. In the 1960's, she and Gene were mentored by a fine Methodist minister, Reverend Raymond Kirk, at Wesley Methodist Church in Aurora, Illinois. Although there were many churches and ministers as the couple relocated often, the teachings of Jesus as presented by Reverend Kirk stayed with the couple and the family for the rest of their lives. The Amazing Grace of the Lord, with unconditional acceptance of all our flaws, gave a sense of freedom and safety that Nita was never without. During her late 80's Nita was guided by the Holy Spirit to find a church home again and found her church family at Smithfield United Methodist Church. Here in New Mexico, before her health impeded her mobility, Nita visited Paradise Methodist Church in Albuquerque and planned to join as a member there after hearing Pastor Jeanie Williams preach. Her faith in God and his merciful goodness was magnified in the way she pushed through her illness daily, listening to or singing hymns. Because of her faith, Nita had zero fear of death-although she loved to joke that it was something she had never done before! To the very end of her days, Nita was always thankful to God for her long and happy life.
It is difficult to put the essence of such a vibrant lady into words! There was so much laughter and conversation through the years and so many memories come to mind. Nita had such spunk and yet also had a natural restraint at the same time. She was just adorable and very much adored. She used to tell her family members there was "No time like the present." She defied most tendencies of human nature by rarely if ever procrastinating. Another saying she often relied on was "This too shall pass," which as children and as adults has proven to be beyond wise in giving perspective during chaotic times. In recent months when her health was not holding up, she tended to say, "We can do this!" during challenges large and small. It is that phrase "We can do this!" that her surviving family members are saying to ourselves now as we try to get through the long hours without our little Mom, Grandma and Nita, who was such a light in our world.
Nita lived bravely with diagnoses of T-Cell Lymphoma and Chronic Kidney disease and those who wish to donate in her memory might donate to foundations that support research to cure those diseases.
A Memorial Ceremony will be held on Saturday, September 11, 2021, 3 to 4 p.m. at the Rio Grande Gracious Senior Living, 2331 Westside Blvd in Rio Rancho. Later this year (date to be announced after scheduled) Nita's cremains will be enniched with Gene at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
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