John William Thomas (original stage name “Jack”). On October 7, 2019, our Dad took his final bow and exited the theater, onto his next act, venue uncertain.
Born in Detroit on February 15, 1932, he was the youngest son of James Lewis Thomas and Marie (Shanley) Thomas and brother to Wallace (Joe) and his lifelong best cast mate James (Jim). Dad attended Saint Theresa Catholic School for 12 years, graduating in 1950. After high school, Dad worked at Cadillac Motor until he and Uncle Jim took their act on the road with the Marines during the Korean War. Based initially at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he served from 1951 to 1954 and was honorably discharged as a Sergeant.
In 1952, Dad married a beautiful young starlet, our mother, Suzanne Manore Thomas. During their 26 year run they brought six original characters to life: the late Margaret Anne, Nannette Marie (John Kolasa), Cynthia Grace (John Vella), Karen Elizabeth, Maureen Ellen and Paul William.
With a growing family and ambition, Dad entered University of Detroit attending night school part time while working full-time at Cadillac’s Clark Street plant. Five years later in 1961, he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration auditioning for and winning a role in middle management at Cadillac. He retired from GM (Buick/Oldsmobile/Cadillac) in 1993 after 43 years, sporting a pony tail and earring during his last year just to poke at upper management.
Dad’s interest and talent in acting first became apparent when he took a Dale Carnegie course in the 60s, about the same time he perfected “the look” that made small children cry and silenced barking dogs in our Westland neighborhood. Although he did a great Mario Lanza impression in the shower for many years, he was officially bitten by the acting bug in the late 70s while appearing in a musical at Ladywood High School where his daughters attended. Thereafter, Dad joined the Dearborn Players and Wayne Westland Players where he worked on and appeared in their productions regularly.
After retirement, Dad moved to Florida and began pursuing acting and directing in earnest at numerous community and dinner theaters in Fort Myers, Naples and Sanibel. His credits also include a few local TV commercials. At age 64, he took on the cherished role of “Papa” to his only grandchild, John Anthony Vella Jr.
In addition to the five of us and the three Johns, Dad is survived by the families of his late brothers and a large supporting cast of Fort Myers bartenders and waitresses (some of whom actually enjoyed his shtick). We are grateful to his loving friend, Carole Clare, for her patience and companionship during his last few seasons, after he returned to Michigan.
For his curtain call, Dad requested no funeral or visitation. He was never really fond of non-speaking roles. Donations may be made to your local community theater; or simply raise a glass to toast the old Grey Wolf and give your favorite bartender a big tip!
Goodnight Dad. Through all of our drama, comedy, award winning performances and bad reviews you were always there to rehearse, critique, direct, and applaud for each of us. Parting is truly such sweet sorrow. XOXO Nan, Cindy, Karen, Mo and Paul.
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