Walter, Jr. Eugene Thomas
1917 - 2012
Walter Eugene Thomas, Jr., 95, of Newport, R.I., died Thursday, July 5, 2012 in the home of his daughter Suzanne in Young, Ariz. He was the loving husband of the late Laura Silvia Thomas of Newport, who passed away on Oct. 2, 2006.
Walter was born April 3, 1917 in Decatur, Ill., the son of the late Nellie Viola Sawin and Walter Thomas. The family moved when Walter was 5 to Bell, Calif. where he grew up and attended school. He joined the Navy in 1934 when he was 17, and completed basic training in San Diego. Walter was first assigned to the light cruiser, USS Concord where he completed 41 months sea duty in the Pacific as a gunners mate through 1938. He was transferred east to Newport, R.I. and to the destroyer, USS MacLeish (DD220) as a torpedoman. From 1939 to the onset of World War II, he was on the MacLeish on Convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. The Macleish also was involved in the North Africa Invasion. Early in 1943, Walter was promoted to torpedo officer and transferred to PT Boat Squadron (RON) 36 which trained in Melville, R.I. RON 36 was in the Solomon Islands. He was later assigned to the USS Cyrene (AGP13) to support PT Boats in the Pacific Theatre of operations in and around the Philippines. He was at the battle of Leyte Gulf.
It was in Newport where Walter first met and soon married Laura Silvia Thomas on March 31, 1942 in St. Joseph’s Church in Newport. With the close of the war, Walter and Laura were assigned to Chincoteague, Va., and were later moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where they lived for three years. Upon returning to Newport, they settled in the Fifth Ward and lived there for 55 years.
Walter retired from the Navy in 1967 with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4th Grade after 31 years of service. He was selected to work for Naval Underwater Systems Center in Middletown as a test director for their ordinance programs, where he worked for 17 years until he retired in 1981.
Walter was a life-long golfer, occasionally taking his clubs with him on trips. He was a regular at the Wanumetonomy Golf and Country Club, and played every morning with his friends. He was noted for getting in to the club so early that he would make coffee for the staff.
The son of a pattern-maker, Walter was quite a woodworker, making intricate wood ship models, furniture, cabinets, home renovations, and the occasional sail or motor boat. He applied those skills by doing volunteer renovation work for a local school.
Walter was loved by all who knew him for his uplifting personality, generosity, readiness to help, humor and warmth, which made him a friend to everyone, and beloved as “Uncle Tommy” to his extended family. He was a Little League baseball coach, a Cub Scout leader, and a life coach to those in need.
Walter had a close and loving family including five siblings, the late Kenneth, Myron, Doris, David and Robert, all of Los Angeles.
He is survived by his son, Walter Thomas III and his wife Donna of Charlestown, R.I.; daughter, Suzanne L. Thomas LeFevre and her husband M. Dee LeFevre of Young; son, Steven Thomas and his wife Beth Ann of Freetown, Mass.; nine grandchildren, Abigail and Andrew Thomas, Laura LeFevre Schluns and Melissa H. LeFevre, Michael LeFevre, Tiffany, Walter Thomas IV and Shawn Thomas; 15 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews in the Newport and Los Angeles areas.
His funeral will be held at 9 a.m., Saturday, July 14 at the Memorial Funeral Home in Newport, R.I., with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in St. Augustin’s Church in Newport. Burial will follow at St. Columba’s Cemetery in Middletown.
Calling hours will be held from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, July 13 in the Memorial Funeral Home.
There was a funeral held July 10 in Young, Ariz., which was attended by family and friends he has there.
Walter was adopted by the White Mountain Submarine Veterans who also attended.