Following a recent funeral where the Rev. John Thomas had completed many months of pastoral care to the deceased, a member of the family wrote to him and, paraphrasing the Bible, thanked God that John had not lost his saltiness and that he had not hid his light under a bushel. That was John Thomas. He was passionate about his life’s work, his God and his family.
John Patterson Thomas died on Wednesday, January 11th.
John was born December 24, 1934 to the Rev. William S. and Janet Clutter Thomas. John’s father was then the rector of All Saints’ Parish, Aliquippa, where John was baptized. After serving at Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, the family, including John’s brother William, moved to Boston, MA when his father became Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral. In 1940, Canon Thomas became the Archdeacon of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the family moved to Crafton, Pa., then Dormont, and finally to Parker Drive in Mt. Lebanon.
John graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School, followed by three years at Washington and Jefferson College and then University of Pittsburgh where he graduated in 1957. While at a Mt. Lebanon High School basketball game, John took particular notice of a cheerleader named Janet Wissinger. John exclaimed to a friend “I’m going to marry that girl!”
They were married at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon in 1957.
John was ordained as a deacon and as a priest in 1961 by his father who was then the Bishop Suffragan of Pittsburgh. John served faithfully as a priest for 50 years. He was a Rector, Interim rector or Priest in Charge of 11 congregations in three Dioceses. Congregations included St. Francis-in-the-Field, Somerset, Trinity Church, Monessen, St. James, Penn Hills, St. Peter’s Church, Ashtabula, OH, St. Andrew’s, Mentor, OH and, most recently, serving at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon where he became a retired associate on the staff.
Father John served in many capacities across at least five decades at Sheldon Calvary Camp including 18 years as a Director and Executive Director. Most recently, he held the title of Director Emeritus on the Camp Board of Directors. Father John continued the work started by his father, the camp's founder. At the end of December 2011, Father John spoke at the 75th Anniversary Celebration of Calvary Camp, a special and emotional event.
John’s commitment to Camp and love for the children, young adults and families enabled the Camp to persevere through difficult times. Under his leadership, the camp raised in excess of $1 million dollars and became credited by the American Camping Association. He inspired a generation of young leaders with his infectious optimism and philosophy of abundance that would open the doors for all people and invite them into a community of care and respect that continues to thrive and flourish to this day. John was also a founding member of the national Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers, Inc. and later served as the group's Chaplain.
At a previous Sheldon Calvary Camp Board of Directors meeting, a prior Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt. Rev. Alden Hathaway, made a motion that stated, in part, “We see John Thomas as a priest who stands faithfully for his flock before his Lord and who stands boldly before his flock on behalf of his Lord. We see John Thomas as a man who teaches…people to value themselves and to know the comfort of unconditional love and acceptance."
Father John had a passion for and commitment to his work, his God and his family. He was deeply committed to pastoral care and the ministry of sacraments, prayer and presence with those who were ill or grieving. He described his faith as being planted and watered by those persons who have trusted him, and have sensed his trust in them. He was always quick to affirm the role and support of his wife Janet and her ministry.
In addition to his wife Janet, Father John is survived by two daughters, Jennifer Thomas and Julie (Terry) Michelitch and a grandson, Thomas John, and a brother, William.
Friends will be received on Friday, January 13, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228
A Funeral Service will be held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228 on Saturday, January 14, at 1:00 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to Sheldon Calvary Camp, 4411 Lake Road, Conneaut, OH 44030
–Contributors: The Rev. Canon Richard Davies, the Rev. Leslie Reimer,
David Dix and Tim Green
Please also see well crafted "The Rev. John Thomas / Served at Sheldon Calvary Camp as its 'heart and soul'" by Ann Rogers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12012/1202966-122.stm