Vallie Viola Thomas
Vallie Viola Thomas, affectionately known to many as “Aunt Vi”, of Nederland, passed peacefully into the arms of Jesus on Monday, October 26, 2015, at the Community Retirement Home. She was 90 years old.
Viola was born on February 15, 1925, in Hall Summit, Louisiana, to the Reverend Otis W. Thomas, Sr. and Vallie Viola Allen Thomas. Her father was a farmer and an ordained Baptist minister. After her mother passed away when she was only two years old, he married Lillie Florence Kolb who she loved as her “Mother” all of her life. She attended school, worked on the farm and loved to go fishing with her father and to accompany him to the churches where he preached.
She graduated from Hall Summit High School in May, 1941, and in September she moved to Nederland, where she resided with her sister and brother in law, Ruth Thomas Hanna and Claiborne M. Hanna and their young son, Tommy. After working, first for the Nederland Pharmacy and then The White House in Beaumont lunch counters, Viola enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943. Sher served her country proudly until 1946 as a truck mechanic at Ft. Leonard Wood, in Missouri. After her discharge, she moved to Elmira, New York, with three of her service mates, with the intention of becoming farmers. It soon became apparent to all that the family farm was a thing of the past.
In 1949, the Baptist preacher’s daughter moved back to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist College in Marshall. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953 and then enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth where she earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree. She worked for several years at Riverside Baptist Church in Fort Worth before becoming Dean of Women in Bluefield College in Virginia.
After the untimely death of her brother in law, in 1970 she returned to Nederland to live with her sister Ruth. She became a member of First Baptist Church in Nederland where, at the urging of the pastor, Jimmy Heflin, she opened and served as Director of the Children’s Day Care. During the time that she was serving in that capacity, she decided to open Nederland Christian Literature and Supply in the garage of her duplex home, in Nederland. Her partner in that venture was Elizabeth Hanna and that small bookstore became Christian General Store with location in Nederland, Port Arthur and Beaumont. She also found time to earn a Master’s Degree in Education at Lamar University in 1972.
She loved being outdoors, bird watching and fishing in particular, a passion which endeared her to nephews and nieces and other children. Generous to a fault, she gave freely of what she had to others. And the only pedigree or trait a stray dog or cat needed to become accepted was to show up at her door. Her faith which was deep, demanded that she live it out in the service of people in need – the little, the least, the last and the lost.
Viola is survived by one brother, Lorenz George Thomas, of Minden, Louisiana, and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends who came to know her as simply their “Aunt Vi”.
Preceding her in death were her parents, her step-mother, brothers, Julian Thomas, O. W. Thomas, Jr., Joe Thomas, John Thomas, Charles Thomas and Bob Thomas; sisters, Ruth Thomas Hanna, Vivian Thomas Gibson, Elaine Thomas Mundis and Judy Thomas Nichols.
There will be a visitation for family and friends on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, her sister Ruth’s 100th birthday, at Melancon’s Funeral Home, 1605 Avenue H in Nederland, from 6 to 8 in the evening. At her request, there will be a private family, graveside committal service at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, October 29, 2015, at Memory Gardens in Nederland, where she will be laid to rest, near her father, step-mother and other family members. Dr. James R. Fuller of Calder Baptist Church in Beaumont, will preside.
In lieu of flowers, Aunt Vi would smile if she knew that you made a contribution in her memory to a charity or church of your choice. And if, with a piece of candy or small toy, you make some child smile today, she would think that you “had hung the moon.”
Her family wishes to acknowledge the kindness and care which she received from the staff and director of the Community Retirement Home, where she resided during the last years of her life.
Details and registry available at Melancons.org