James E. Thomas, age 85, of rural Darlington, WI, passed away Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at Dubuque Retirement Community in Dubuque, Iowa. He was born in Irwin, Pa. April 16, 1928, the youngest of four children, to James R. and Orpha (Cole) Thomas. He spent his early childhood in Pennsylvania. The family moved to the Chicago area in 1937, to Denver in 1945 and later back to Chicago. He attended six high schools during the family’s moves. Jim served in the U.S. Army 511 Airborne Division from 1950 until 1952, where he was a paratrooper instructor stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. He attended Carthage College and North Park College in Illinois and studied Industrial Engineering in Chicago; his expertise was plant layout design and personnel management. He worked for Weber Marking Systems in Arlington Heights, Ill. from 1947 to 1990 retiring as Vice President of Manufacturing. In 1970, he purchased the farm outside
Darlington, where he worked on the weekends raising beef cattle and building his ranch house overlooking the rolling hills of Lafayette County. Settling on the farm full time in 1991, he was active in Darlington’s Kiwanis Club and he continued his passion for nature preservation by planting walnut trees and renting land for horse pasturing and agriculture. In his earlier days, he loved hunting and fishing. In later years, his favorite pastime was traveling in his beloved RV exploring the wonders of the United States landscape and visiting friends and relatives along the way. He always loved adventures and inspired his many nieces and nephews with his love of hard work and appreciation of nature.
Jim is survived by five nieces: Gail (Henry) Rath of Lake Zurich, Ill., Janice (David) Moreland of Middletown, Ohio, Cheryl (Jim) Viant of Lake Zurich, Ill., Mary (Joe) DeAguero of Wheat Ridge, Colo., Denise (Michael) Parker of Las Cruces, NM; three nephews: James (Becky) Spangler of Dayton, Ohio, Steven Gillette of Clovis, N.M., and Brett Elgh of Eagle Harbor, Mich.; 11 grand nieces and nephews and 13 great-grand nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; three sisters: Marguerite Spangler, Lois Elgh, and Laverne Gillette; and one nephew: Alan Gillette.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 15, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at Erickson Funeral Home, 508 Main Street in Darlington with Rev. Luke S. Smetters of Wiota Lutheran Church in rural South Wayne, officiating. Military rites will be accorded by the Bates-O’Brien-Howe-Wiegel-Roelli American Legion Post #214 of Darlington. A visitation will be held Saturday, March 15, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. until the time of service at the funeral home. Online condolences may be expressed to the family at www.ericksonfuneralhome.com. For those who prefer, memorials may be given in Jim’s name to Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County, 800 Clay St., Darlington, WI 53530.