Henry Lee Thomas, age 88, of Menomonie, WI passed away peacefully on May 4, 2019. Hank was born in Seattle, WA in 1930 to Jared and Mary (McCahon) Thomas.
He worked in his family’s machine shop business from the early days. He enlisted in the Navy, serving on the USS McGowan in the Korean War. Hank earned his Bachelors degree from Aurora College in Illinois, where he met his beloved wife, Barbara. They were married in 1958 and started their family while Hank earned his Masters degree from UW Stout and worked at Caterpillar in Aurora and Keller’s Machine Shop in Menomonie. He taught at Winona State College and the University of New York at Oswego. He earned his PhD from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, moving with family in tow between New York and Colorado to accomplish it while continuing to teach.
Hank was a passionate teacher, becoming a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in the Metals Department and the Materials and Processes Department, now known as Engineering and Technology. His innovative teaching was as deeply felt as his community building, camaraderie and connection to students and faculty. He retired in 1995 and continued to support teachers in places such as Home School programs and Boyceville 2nd Grade.
He was a voracious explorer, learner and builder; seeking out new ways of approaching things with the overriding goal of having fun and building up his family, students, the community, and UW Stout. He loved to take on challenges and was uncanny in finding new opportunities and getting others involved.
Always generous with his time and abilities, he loved to help others, most recently at Stepping Stones, Meals on Wheels, Thursday’s Table, and Pounding Fathers, a group of Stout retirees who fix and build things for charities.
Hank and Barb were active in the Unitarian Society of Menomonie going back to the 1980’s. He was a kind and supportive presence for all and will be deeply missed.
He stood up for his beliefs as a member of the Veterans for Peace where he traveled to protest the School of Amercias in Georgia. He was an active member of the Barber Shop Singers, and of the Chippewa Valley Wood Turners Guild and the Northwest Wisconsin Woodcarvers. He offered many beautifully crafted wooden bowls and carvings for charity auctions and special gifts.
He loved exploring Wisconsin and across the county, camping motor cycling, sailing, canoeing with his wife, children and grandchildren, and connecting people through building projects.
Hank and Barb shared their home with foster children and students, friends and strangers.
His kindness and generosity are known by many and much loved.
Henry is survived by his cherished wife, Barbara (Stahler) of 61 years, treasured children Henry “Skeeter” (LeAnn) of Menomonie, Kerry (Peter Rosewicz) of the Milwaukee area, Andy (Fran) of Menomonie, and Thomas (Amy) of Bella Vista, AR. Grandchildren Shawn (Kim), Quinn (Courtney), and Art (Marianne) Carter; Brooke (Nick) Infusino, Thomas J. Thomas, Tina Thomas (Ryan Krueger), Joe Rosewicz; Great grandchildren Hudson, Rylee, Frankie, Lydia and Olivia Carter; Beckett and Parker Infusino, Kasey and Carson Krueger; and his nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents and sister Mary Whittlesey.
All family and friends are invited to a Celebration of Life and Sharing of Stories to honor Hank, held Saturday, May 18th at 3:30 with a reception to follow until 6:00 PM at First Congregational United Church of Christ (Fellowship Hall), 420 Wilson Avenue, Menomonie (parking behind the church.)
In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions to the Stepping Stones or other charity in Henry’s name.