Raymond Dean Thomas was born in Adams County, Iowa on June 26, 1929, to his parents, Eldon Thomas and Velma James Thomas and passed away in the presence of his family in Corning, Iowa on September 15, 2023. Ray had a large loving extended family as his mother was one of 11 living children born to his beloved grandfather and grandmother, Perry and Martha Williams James. Ray was, in fact, born on his Grandpa James’ 50th birthday and many comparisons were made that they were both dedicated to a life of service to family, church and community. Ray has also been blessed to have many nieces and nephews to whom he has also served as a father figure.
At the age of 19, Ray married his wife of 52 years, Evelyn Bailiff and to this union two children were born: Cynthia (wife, Cynde Tiesling) of Green Bay, Wisconsin and Timothy, of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Ray and Evelyn were very active supporters of their children’s school activities and even though he worked multiple jobs, he never missed a concert, dance recital, 4-H activity, or wrestling meet. He was blessed to have very close relatives on both sides of the family with which to enjoy both the good times and the difficult ones. He especially loved being a grandpa to his granddaughter, Kerry Dyer and great-grandson, Aidyn. He and Evelyn developed a set of very good friends in their farming and church communities and they took some wonderful vacations together with 2 other couples who were neighbors and lifelong friends. They especially enjoyed their fishing trips to Flin Flon, Canada and other road trips, piling all 6 of them and all of their gear into 1 car.
Ray was an active member of the Corning Christian Church, serving as Deacon and Elder for many years. His church family was another special blessing in Ray’s life and he was involved in all aspects of church life such as working with adult bible studies, youth groups, volunteering in multiple capacities over the years with strong faith and a big heart.
Ray was a military man, having served in the Iowa Army National Guard for over 20 years. His primary job was as a cook and he loved cooking for a big crowd. His brownies and his famous homemade fudge were legendary. He and some of his other cooks from the unit often did the cooking for community outreach events. In 2019, Ray received the honor of being presented with a Quilt of Valor at the annual presentation at the Fairgrounds.
Hard work has always been a cornerstone of Ray’s life and he told stories of working in the coal mines with his father scraping coal and working in the shipyards in Seattle as a teenager before starting a route hauling cream picked up from farmers in both Missouri and Iowa for the Corning Creamery. Farming and a rural way of life were always a cornerstone for Ray, having purchased a farm near Carbon and moving his young family there in the mid 1950’s. He still worked hauling cream, but added raising some livestock, chickens and growing crops to his daily chores. He later moved from hauling cream to selling livestock feed, primarily for the Lucas brand and owned a feed store in Corning for many years. While selling feed, Ray repeatedly met his selling goals and won several wonderful vacation trips in the United States and the Netherlands. After selling the farm and moving to Corning, Ray added school bus driver to his resume and many children learned the joy of hearing him “Balk Tackwards” to them. After retiring from bus driving in his late 70’s, Ray continued his feed route and started driving a truck for Bob Graf rentals, delivering rental equipment part time into his 90’s.
While Ray’s hobbies are many (listening to country western music, dancing, camping and working on projects), there is one consistent pastime that remained near and dear to his heart and that was fishing! From catching walleyes in Canada to panfish and trout in local ponds, there was nothing Ray loved more than having a fishing pole in his hands. He drove to camp with his daughter’s family in northern Wisconsin and he would be rousing Cindy’s wife very early in the morning to get the boat in the water by dawn and you could hear his soft calls of “Here, fishy, fishy” over the water.
After the death of his wife, Ray was lucky enough to find love again, right here in his hometown and his home church. He married Sandra Stueckradt Rhamy on October 23, 2004 at the Corning Christian Church. Ray really enjoyed having even more family with Sandra’s 3 children and their spouses along with more grandchildren and great grandchildren. After the Corning Christian Church closed its doors, Ray and Sandy began attending church services at the Carbon Methodist Church. They have been active supporters for the Carbon Community Hall for many years.
On weekends in summer and fall, Ray could be found camping with Sandra in the town of Carbon on a couple of lots transformed into a place where extended family and friends could gather. He loved mowing the grass with his big mower, gathering and chopping wood for the campfires and helping to make it a place for visiting and relaxation on the weekends. Ray always planted a huge garden and was very generous with his harvest.
Ray was preceded in death by his first wife, Evelyn; his father, Eldon Thomas, his mother, Velma James Thomas Johnson; all of his siblings: Betty Marsh, Shirley Sperry, Eldon Thomas and Gary Thomas; his sister-in-law, Beverly Bailiff Bohanan; his brothers-in-law, Richard Bailiff, Richard Bohanan, Ben Johnson, Bruce Marsh, and Jim Sperry; and his nephews, Mark Bailiff, Steve Marsh, Michael Marsh, George Marsh and Tom Marsh.
He is survived by his wife, Sandra; his daughter and son, Cynthia (Cynde Tiesling) and Tim Thomas; his granddaughter, Kerry Dyer and great-grandson, Aidyn Dyer; his sisters-in-law, Dorothy Johnson and Darlene Bailiff; his nieces and nephews, Cheryl (Ken) Herbert, Marty Davis, Margaret Smith, Pam Marsh, John (Dina) Marsh, Jacqueline Thompson, Jeff Thomas, Joni Thomas, Jennifer (Allan) Pettit, Jill Weider , Joel (Janelle) Johnson, Wendi (Larry) Steadman, Chris Bohanan, Monty Bohanan, Matt Bohanan, Chari Hilton, and Nick Bohanan, and their extended families. He is also survived by his step-children Tim (Katie) Rhamy, Tom (Marci) Rhamy and Tami (Marc) Carr; grandchildren Ryan (Kaitlyn) Rhamy, Rusty (Rachel) Rhamy, Tyler (Tasha) Rhamy, Andrew (Rusti) Rhamy, Bryson Rhamy, Emily (Andrew) Alsot, and Zach (Lexi Bird) Carr, along with several great-grandchildren.
To “Tay Rhomas”, we say that we, his family and friends, will miss you dearly until we see you again one day in that Heavenly Realm.