Shirley A. Thomas, 88, formerly a lifetime resident of Lock Haven, PA and a current resident of Hendersonville, NC and Palm City, FL, passed away peacefully after a brief illness on Sunday, September 6, 2015 in Elizabeth House in Flat Rock, NC.
She was born November 22, 1926 in Bryn Mawr, PA to the late Mr. and Mrs. Norman Arnold, and the sister of the late Wayne Arnold.
Mrs. Thomas was a graduate of Lower Merion High School outside of Philadelphia. After obtaining her pilot’s license at the age of 19, she moved to Lock Haven, PA in 1946 to work at Piper Aircraft Corp. delivering planes to dealers and distributors throughout the United States. A born adventurer, in 1947 she jumped at the opportunity to deliver a plane to Seward, Alaska where she remained for a year working for an airline and flying school in Anchorage. The flight to Alaska took 6 days of flying time and 6 days of ground time, and she and her co-pilot were believed to be the first two women to fly a single engine plane to Alaska after WWII. During her stay in Alaska she obtained her seaplane rating so she could fly into the Alaskan interior. She was fearless in all her endeavors, and famously known for flying under the Jay Street Bridge in Lock Haven, PA. Upon her return to Lock Haven, PA from Alaska, she met and married local surgeon Dr. David W. Thomas, Jr. on May 12, 1950. They shared a love of flying together, and she devoted her life to her family, community service, and politics. She was a patriotic American and a person of principle who always believed you should give back more than you receive. Some of her many contributions to her community included being a two-time past president of the Women’s Auxiliary to the Clinton County Medical Society, a past president of Lock Haven Hospital Auxiliary where she initiated and oversaw many fund-raising events to benefit the hospital and local scholarships. She was past president of United Presbyterian Women’s Assoc. of the Great Island Presbyterian Church where she served on the board of trustees, and later was ordained and installed as an Elder. She served for 15 years on the Lock Haven University Board of Trustees, as well as 22 years on Salvation Army Advisory Board. She was an active participant in the Red Cross Bloodmobile program and became a member of the 5 Gallon Club. In addition, she was also elected to the Board of Governors to the Clinton Country Club. On the political front, she was a lifelong proud Republican who worked tirelessly for her candidates on the local, state, and national level. She served as Chairwoman in many capacities and in 1978 was elected State Committeewoman for Clinton County. Continuing her love of aviation she obtained her multi-engine rating at Opa-locka, FL in 1964 which enabled her and her husband to take their family and friends on many fun-filled flying vacations. Her passion for flying, travel, adventure and politics continued throughout her adult life. She was an accomplished golfer and snow skier, a lover of reading, literature and current events, and an avid football fan who enjoyed attending Penn State games for over 50 years with her husband and many friends.
She is survived by her husband, David, of 65 years; her devoted children, Jane Thomas Peck (Alden) of Palm City, FL; David W. Thomas, III of Lock Haven, PA; and Kimberly Thomas Levine (Ron) of Hendersonville, NC and Coral Springs, FL. She was also preceded in death by her much missed son Dean N. Thomas (Susan) and grandson David Alden Peck. She leaves behind her beloved grandchildren, Dr. Rachel Peck Sabo (Michael), Sean Thomas, Ashley and Kelley Levine, Jordan, and Deanna Thomas; and one great-grandchild, Benjamin David Sabo; as well as several nieces and nephews.
When her husband retired they enjoyed spending time with their family, and traveling to places they had not yet visited. She was a remarkable and independent woman, and her children and grandchildren will always remember and greatly miss her beautiful smile, indomitable spirit, unwavering integrity, and deep abiding faith and love. Her life story would not be complete without mentioning her great love of all animals and her many beloved pets through all the years.
A memorial service to celebrate her life will be announced at a later date. Memorial contributions in her memory may be made to Great Island Presbyterian Church, 12 W. Water St., Lock Haven, PA 17745, the Piper Aviation Museum, 1 Piper Way, Lock Haven, PA 17745, or to any Salvation Army, Humane Society, Animal Shelter/Rescue organization, or SPCA of the donor’s choice.
To offer online condolences, visit www.shulerfuneralhome. Shuler Funeral Home is assisting the family.