James V. Thomas, retired superintendent of the Manteca Unified School District, died of natural causes on August 11, 2018, at the age of 93, at his home in Manteca, with his family at his side.
Jim Thomas had a long and fruitful life. He was an amazing man; strong, honest, generous, loving, hard-working and very smart. He could smell “nonsense” from a mile away. He had no respect for people who do not tell the truth. He will be greatly missed.
Jim was born in Panama, Oklahoma on December 12, 1924. The son of a coal miner, he grew up during the depths of the Great Depression. He worked hard as a young man in order to make a better life for himself. He became the first in his family to attend college. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Oklahoma State University in Vocational Agriculture and received his Master’s Degree in School Administration from Tulsa University.
During World War II, Jim joined the United States Navy and graduated from Midshipman’s School at Columbia University in New York City. He became a naval officer and achieved the rank of Lieutenant (j.g). He was commanding officer of an amphibious (LSM) ship in the South Pacific. Near the end of the war, he was assigned to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines where thousands of warships were being amassed. He was privileged to top secret information that they would soon be launching an invasion of Japan as a part of Operation Downfall; however, the attack was averted due to President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan which ended the war. Following the Japanese surrender, Lt.(j.g.) Thomas sailed his ship into Yokohama and Tokyo as part of the U.S. occupation forces.
Following the war, Jim returned to Oklahoma and married Neva Hinton. Together, they had a long and happy marriage and had three children who loved them both deeply. Jim and Neva’s marriage lasted nearly 64 years until they were parted by Neva’s death.
In 2010 Jim met June Stine. They fell in love and were married. They had nearly eight happy years together enjoying their home in Manteca and their beautiful hilltop home in Twain Harte where they spent many hours enjoying the spectacular view and each other’s company. June was Jim’s angel in her loving care for him during his last days.
Jim began his career in education in 1946 as a vocational agriculture teacher in Oklahoma. He and Neva moved to the town of Owasso, just outside of Tulsa. After a period of time as an ag teacher, Jim became principal of Owasso High School and, shortly thereafter, became superintendent of schools in Owasso.
In 1959 Jim and Neva moved their young family to Manteca. He taught science and math at Lincoln School. In 1963 he became principal at Lincoln. In 1973, he was appointed to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Manteca Unified even though he had not applied for the job. In 1983, he was appointed by the Manteca Unified Board of Education as the district’s superintendent. He retired from that position in 1986.
During his career, Jim distinguished himself with his leadership, integrity and competence. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of Doctors Hospital of Manteca for several years during the 1980’s. He was inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame in 2002 for his contributions to public education. Following his retirement as superintendent of schools, he was instrumental in obtaining state funding for the construction of George McParland, Brock Elliott, Stella Brockman, Joshua Cowell, and August Knodt Elementary Schools, and Sierra High School, which was attended by seven of Jim’s nine grandchildren. They were very proud of the fact that Sierra High is on Thomas Street, which was named in honor of their grandfather.
Jim Thomas was an avid, and successful fisherman. He particularly loved salmon fishing on the Sacramento River and striper fishing on the Delta. He also caught a number of sturgeons in the Suisun Bay that weighed in at over 100 pounds.
Jim is survived by his wife June, and by his and Neva’s three children: Jeanne and her husband Bob Hall; Jim and his wife Carol; and Joe and his wife Julie. He leaves nine grandchildren: Jerri Brown and her husband Chris; Melissa Doty; Jessica Thome and her husband Austin; James, Janette and Joseph Thomas; John, and David Thomas, and Lisa Rhatigan and her husband Casey. He has two great grandchildren, Jackie and Maddie Brown.
Jim was a long-time member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
Final arrangements are being handled by P.L. Fry and Son Mortuary. Burial will be at East Union Cemetery. In accordance with Jim’s directions, there will be no public memorial services.
The family wishes to thank the wonderful people of Hospice of San Joaquin for their compassionate care and assistance for Jim. Memorials in honor of Jim may be made to Hospice of San Joaquin or to the charity of your choice.
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
Tuesday, August 14, 2018