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Saturday, August 18, 2007

We Interrupt The Business Life for Real Life

At 2:15 a.m. on Saturday the phone rang, and it was my Dad telling me that my Grandfather was gravely ill in the Critical Care unit of the Regional Medical Center in Madisonville, KY. Having just celebrated his 90th birthday with us two weeks before, Ed Thomason had suffered a series of mini-strokes from which he recovered within 30 minutes to 3 hours each time; but had this time suffered a significant stroke from which the doctors did not expect him to recover. His nurse called my dad since he lived two hours away, and he gave me a heads-up that the situation was grave. At 4:45 a.m. the phone rang again; Dad was in Madisonville by that time and was calling in the family. Luther Edward Thomason departed this world at 8:15 a.m. with all of his descendants who could be reached holding hands around his bedside. This included his wife Louise, 88, to whom he had been married for 73 years and their only son, my dad, who turned 70 earlier this year.

Such ended the earthly life not of one of our generations great thinkers or passionate missionaries, but one of the truly down-to-earth great guys who ever drew breath. Cars loved him, fish feared him, and I never met anyone who found him hard to talk to. He was the second-oldest and longest-enrolled member of the First Baptist Church of Dawson Springs. His death is made harder by the fact that it is the first in our family in 24 years, since the passing of his mother Jessie while I was in graduate school.

Born at home in Caldwell County, KY in July of 1917, Ed Thomason had a 10th grade education and, except for working in an aircraft factory during WWII, never roamed far from his home town. He saved the money he made at the aircraft factory in St. Louis and bought the Standard Oil station in Dawson Springs where he'd pumped gas as a kid. He later added an auto parts store, then the Texaco Station, and in retirement had a small car wash until his health would no longer allow it.

Although a Thomason by name, that branch of our family was heavily inter-married with the Ausenbaughs and picked up a healthy dose of German hard-nosed determination. Not only did he work his way up to owning his own businesses, but I remember being 10 or 11 and watching Ed study for and get his GED in his late 50's. He balanced that inherited grit with an easy smile and a disposition that put you instantly at ease. He was one of the nicest and most genuine guys I ever knew.

He retired modestly but comfortably in 1973 living in the same house in which he and his wife, the former Louise Clark, had always lived and in which they raised their son. His entrepreneurship inspired my Dad to go into business for himself, and the opening of a new drug store in 1985 (pictured in black & white below) and our gathering for Father's Day this year (pictured in color below) show four surviving generations of our family 22 years apart. That's Ed in the sweater vest and jacket in '85 and seated at center right in '07; our "baby" Rachel is in my arms in '85 and at my side in '07. That's my Dad trading a Pharmacist's uniform for a barbecue apron.

We will lay Ed to rest on Monday morning in Rosedale Cemetery in Dawson Springs. I'll be out of the office at least Monday, and possibly Tuesday depending upon how quickly I recover from being up all night a couple of nights in a row, and depending upon how my grandmother and dad are dealing with this loss given their respective ages. Late Monday after the funeral Dad and I, like two Chingachgooks from The Last of the Mohicans, plan a private visit to the nearby McNeilly family cemetery where our Ausenbaugh and Creekmur ancestors are buried.

We all have families and every family has a story. Yours does too and I'm not saying mine is any better or more special. But this is part of our story; part of who we are as people. Births and deaths remind us that our work life should be subordinate to our family life and not the other way around. The Business Life has fewer boundaries every year and the temptation or the habit to substitute business for family is a national epidemic. Dad and I are just as or more susceptible to this than most, so for the next couple of days we're going to repent of that, bury Ed, and help Louise cope with what must be inconsolable grief. I'll see you mid-week and we can go back to talking about EBITDA, Requisitions to Hire, and all the other stuff that pays the bills.


Scott, Melinda, Jessica, and Anna said...

Jim -

Thank you for sharing this. What an inspirational story.

I'm sorry to hear of your loss, but what a tribute to your grandfather (and family).


Jim Thomason said...

Thanks so much Scott. I love your family picture on your blog and on your comments. That's very cool.


Anonymous said...

Jim -
Keith & I are keeping you and your entire family in our thoughts and prayers. Your family is our family and we love you very much.

Rusty & keith

Jim Thomason said...

Thanks so much guys. You two are very special to us and you are very much family.