MCC’s Tom Thomas loved music, loved his students

May 2, 2022

Tom Thomas

MCC’s Tom Thomas loved music, loved his students; community mourns his passing.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — Mason County Central Schools lost its music man this morning. Long-time band director Tom Thomas passed away at his home early this morning. He was 65-years-old. Tom taught music at MCC for 22 years, making him the longest serving band director in the district’s history. 

Tom and Donna Thomas moved to Mason County in 1996 when Tom accepted a band director position for Ludington Area School District, teaching sixth through 12th grade band students. In 2000, he accepted a position at MCC teaching band and choir. 

“In the end, there is not a calling more satisfying than seeing your students go on to love and perform music into their adult years, whether or not they go on to teach themselves,” Thomas said in a 2020 interview with MCP. 

During that interview he spoke of his health issues — he was in stage four kidney failure  — and why he wanted to continue to teach in spite of his medical condition. 

“Many of my friends have suggested that I should retire now and enjoy life while I can. However, I am not ready. I have more to give and I need these kids in my life. I love them all like my own. When the time is right, I will know.”

Tom continued to teach until March of this year when he was hospitalized while traveling. 

Tom was very active in the arts community and also in his faith. He served as pastor of Open Heart Fellowship Church in Ludington. He was also a member of the Scottville Clown Band and had directed a community jazz band. Through the years he also had participated in West Shore Community College’s music program as both a director and a musician. 

“He has had such an influence on my whole family and instilled a love of music to so many people,” said Mike Stream, whose son is a senior band student at MCC. “He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. I can honestly say that without Tom Thomas we would not have a house full of musical instruments. Thank you Tom for inspiring my whole family to start and start over our musical lives.”

Tom grew up in Royal Oak and started playing tuba the summer of his sixth grade year. “My junior high band director, Russell Peters was also a tuba player and the sousaphone they gave me to learn on belonged to Mr. Peters,” he told MCP in 2020. “It sat in the band room on a chair stand. The band room doubled as an overflow for the cafeteria and kids used the sousaphone as target practice for the fruit and milk cartons they were done with. I began my tuba playing by taking the sousaphone into my back yard and running water through it with the hose. All those things thrown in the instrument came out. Then we used silver polish and some elbow grease and made that sousaphone shine. The first day of school, Mr. Peters saw the sousaphone and got tears in his eyes. They put me in eighth grade band when I was in seventh grade because they did not have a tuba player in the eighth-grade band.”

During Thomas’ senior year of high school he auditioned for the U.S. Army Band. He enlisted in June, after his graduation. He spent eight years in the Army and performed throughout Europe, Central America, South America and the United States. He met his future wife, Donna Marston, while at Fort Devens, Mass., in 1978. Their son, Andrew was born in Panama in 1980 and their second son, Josh, was born in Fort Polk, La., in 1982.

After his enlisted was up, he decided to become a teacher. He enrolled at Ashbury College in Kentucky from 1983 to 1985 and eventually graduated with his degree from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. in 1988. After teaching in Missouri for eight years, he moved to Ludington, then, when he was hired by MCC, he and Donna moved to Scottville.

Tom was also highly respected amongst his peers. 

“Tom deeply cared about his students,” said Ted Malt, West Shore Community College professor and director of performing arts. “Tom was rooted in his  community, participating in many volunteer musical events and supported others. As a young band director at Ludington, I had the opportunity to get to know his two sons Josh and Andy. One thing I know for sure is that he loved his boys and his wife Donna. He was a proud family man.”  

“He was absolutely one of the kindest individuals I have ever met,” said John Taranko, retired Hart Public Schools band director. “It was always a pleasure working with Tom. At our district competitions he always had good things to say about everyone, he was just a great guy and I will miss him a lot.” 

Mason County Central Superintendent Jeff Mount said that students and staff were taking the news hard this morning. 

“His passion for the kids and for music, I would say was enlightening,” Mount said. “Despite having health issues, his life was devoted to Mason County Central bands and the students he served. It’s heartbreaking for us at Mason County Central to lose a family member who had such a genuine love for what he did. We will miss him dearly.” 

Mount’s sentiments were echoed by Jeff Tuka, high school principal. 

“We don’t even realize at the moment just how much we are going to miss him,” Tuka said. “We are going to deal with it day by day. We have missed him since he’s been on hiatus and now this is permanent. But, what I can say is that he just wore it all over his sleeve how much he loved kids. Just seeing him, by his smile, every day and how he interacted with kids and how much he loved them.”

Tom’s son Andy said the loss of Tom was was not just his family’s loss.

“Speaking for my entire family, this loss is not ours alone. Though he will be missed beyond measure, the music didn’t die with him. It will live in the hearts of all who had the honor of knowing him,” Andy said.

 

Obituary: Thomas Norman Thomas, 65, of Scottville

Thomas Norman Thomas, 65, of Scottville, passed away in his home on Monday, May 2, 2022.  He was a musician, music educator, minister and pastor, husband, father, grandfather and so much more.

He was born in Pontiac, on May 15, 1956 to Richard and Jeanette Thomas.  Raised in Royal Oak, Tom grew up with a love of music.  A love that would lead him to serve nine years in the United States Army Band, where he would meet the love of his life Donna.   He further pursued his passion of music education through Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky. and obtaining his degree from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo.   In his early years in education, Tom spent time playing tuba professionally in Missouri’s Springfield Symphony and many other small ensembles throughout his teaching career.

Tom’s very being was in his teachings.   It wasn’t a career, it was his heartbeat.  He was committed to his community and devoted his entire life to his students, ingraining his love of music in the hearts of all with a passion second to none.  He was generous, loving, sacrificial, and devoted.

Equally important to him was his church and his love of the gospel.  Tom spent years as a music minister in Southern Baptist Churches from Missouri to Michigan, later to become ordained by the church as a pastor of Open Heart Fellowship in Ludington, MI.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents Richard and Jeanette Thomas; his mother-in-law Lily Marston; and brother Paul Thomas.

He is survived by his loving wife Donna; father-in-law Ralph Marston; brothers Bill and Rick Thomas; sons Andrew (Michelle) and Joshua (Amanda); his grandchildren Elliette, James, Desmond, Juliet, Ever, Ty, and Emily; and multiple cousins, nieces, nephews, and in-laws.

In order for his loved ones to all be able to attend, there will be no service at this time.  A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington, www.oakgroveludington.com.

 

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