Throughout his life, Thomas of Carthage, Mo. took care of his community by donating his time, money and experience to help those in need. It was only fitting after his passing that he continue to improve the lives of others – thanks to Thomas’ pledge to become an eye and tissue donor, he gave the gift of sight to two cornea recipients and helped as many as 50 individuals who benefited from bone and skin grafts.
As an attorney-at-law, father of three and local humanitarian, Thomas played a role in strengthening communities throughout Southwest Missouri. He was instrumental in helping numerous nonprofits in Carthage, Joplin and Neosho get off the ground, and worked as a child advocate through the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program in Joplin.
Thomas was best known throughout Carthage for using his legal experience to help the underprivileged. Said his wife, Carol Ann, “Thomas was described in the community as a ‘good old country lawyer.’ He went the extra mile and often worked out special deals with those who couldn’t afford legal help. If all someone could afford was $5 a month, that’s what he would charge them.”
Thomas was also an active Missouri Civil War Foundation board of directors member, an avid fisherman and a gardening enthusiast. In fact, his garden was recognized throughout the community, since according to Carol Ann, “Anybody could come by and pick whatever they wanted.”
Knowing Thomas’ caring spirit, it came as no surprise to Carol Ann when Thomas made the pledge to become an eye, organ and tissue donor by signing the back of his driver’s license. After he passed away from a heart attack in 2008, Carol Ann had no reservations regarding the donation decision.
“Donation was what Thomas would have wanted. There was absolutely no hesitation on his part to be a donor. It was his wish, and I was going to honor it. Even though he had cataracts, he was able to donate his corneas to someone in Wisconsin and another person outside the U.S.”
Like the hundreds of lives Thomas impacted each day through his tireless efforts in the Carthage community, dozens of individuals saw their lives improve through his final generous gift – a gift that brings consolation to his wife and those who knew him.
“Understanding that Thomas helped people through his donation was comforting, especially at the beginning,” remarked Carol Ann. “I know he is still able to live on in so many different ways.”