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1000 7th St
Clarkston, WA | 99403
509-758-2556
3521 7th Street
Lewiston, ID | 83501
208-743-9464

This Book of Memories memorial website is designed to be a permanent tribute paying tribute to the life and memory of William Thomas. It allows family and friends a place to re-visit, interact with each other, share and enhance this tribute for future generations. We are both pleased and proud to provide the Book of Memories to the families of our community.

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Obituary for William Charles "Bill" Thomas

William Charles "Bill" Thomas was born Nov. 27, 1929, in Lewiston, to Christina and Robert Charles Thomas, and passed away of natural causes Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at the Idaho State Veterans Home in Lewiston. Bill's life was centered on family and friends, as well as serving his country and community.

Bill graduated from Clarkston High School in 1948 as student body president. He played on the baseball team, was the captain of the football and basketball teams, and was active in music. After graduation, he attended Washington State University on an athletic scholarship for two years. Joining the U.S. Air Force in 1951, Bill was chosen for flight school out of basic training. Completing the U.S. Army's Airborne Training Course, Bill received the parachutist wings and the "Iron Mike" trophy because of graduating first in a class of 1,500. He was in 18 countries during his career, with the first overseas assignment being in Chaumont, France. In France he was in a classified test project to determine the capability of pilots to control and deliver nuclear weapons effectively. His next assignment was chief accident investigator in Clovis, N.M., where he met and married Daylene Sue Epperson in 1958. His career next took him to the Air Force Academy, where he was a cadet instructor. Education was always important to Bill, so he completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Colorado, graduating with special honors concurrently with continuing his career.

Bill's flying career was distinguished, as he flew the finest and fastest the Tactical Air Command had to offer, including the F-4, his favorite jet. His numerous military accomplishments include breaking the speed of sound numerous times, making a successful emergency landing of an F-86 Sabre jet with no landing gear on a 4-foot wide strip of foam on the runway during a French air show, and ejecting from a jet that exploded at 42,000 feet. He also flew with the

European 30th Bombardment Squadron (the acrobatic flying team later called the USAF Thunderbirds), where he barely survived a midair collision. He served two tours in Vietnam, first as the wing commander for an F-4 squadron, followed by a second tour as the chief of maintenance with an F-11 squadron. He retired from the Air Force as a full colonel following an honorable and selfless 22 years of service to our country. His strong love for this country was a foundation of his character.

During his career in the Air Force, Bill and Daylene had three children: Tommy, Chrisdee and Teri. After retirement, the family decided to make Clarkston their permanent home. Bill was always up for a challenge, totally immersing himself into a new career and getting involved in the community he loved. He was the corporate secretary and estimator at Poe Asphalt for six years, then moving to CCI as a senior buyer for 21 years prior to retiring in 2000. Daylene, sadly, passed away in 1989, yet Bill was favored with love again, marrying Arlene Hill of Montana in 1990, and being blessed with four stepchildren to love: Anne, Patty, Larry and Diane, and their families.

Retirement never slowed Bill down. He enjoyed flying as a corporate pilot, traveling the world with Arlene and continued volunteering in his community. His strong love for the community was another character foundation: born from their embrace of his family after his father's death when he was 2 years old, and the community helping his single mother of four children make it through the Great Depression. He was always the first one to help at any event, ringing the bell and donating money for worthy causes or helping someone in need. Bill served the community through roles as the chairman of the Tri-State Hospital Board, president of the Clarkston School Board, and co-chairman of the Commitment to Tomorrow's capital campaign for the Tri-State Hospital. He was a member of the Clarkston Rotary and the Clarkston United Methodist Church. He was also an active member of multiple military organizations and numerous other community organizations. He loved to sing and was involved in the Methodist church choir and singing at many community events. Always the athlete, his hobbies included being a champion racquetball player into his late 70s, plus attending every event in which his grandchildren participated in and cheering them on with enthusiasm, no matter the event's location. Bill made the time to be involved in all the lives of his family, friends and neighbors. He was someone who could be counted upon.

A good life leaves behind seeds that keep on growing - Bill planted seeds with his stories, values and a love of family that will live on in all those who knew him. His love of God, family and friends was his third character foundation. He is survived by Arlene Thomas, his wife of 28 years; his son, Tom; his daughters, Chrisdee (James) Imthurn, and Teri (Doug) Lenz; his stepdaughters, Anne (Perry) Anderson, Patty (Jeff Vaskey) Annala, and Diane (Dennis Wagner) Hill; four grandchildren; 10 step-grandchildren; and seven stepgreat-grandchildren.

Bill was preceded in death by his mother, Christina; his wife, Daylene (wife of 31 years in 1989); stepson Larry Hill; and sisters

Murine, Bernette and Bernice. Bill will be missed every minute of every day, but his sense of humor and laugh, his love and all the memories are the gifts he left for all who knew him.

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. April 21 at Holy Family Church in Clarkston. Memorial contributions may be made to Lewiston Veterans Home (care of Mark High, 821 21st Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501, www.veterans.idaho.gov/ISVHLewiston) or to the Clarkston Education Foundation (P.O. Box 361, Clarkston, WA 99403, www.clarkstoneducationfoundation.org/donate-now). Bill's ashes will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors at a later date.

To send flowers to the family of William Charles "Bill" Thomas, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.

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