Saturday, January 27, 2018
4:00 PM EST
First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo
212 South Park
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Life Story / Obituary
Truly beautiful on the inside and out, Mary Helen Thomas was a blessing to all who were near. She was a woman of faith whose heart beat to be an example of what it means to be the hands and feet of the Lord she loved. Although Mary Helen treasured her roles as a wife and mother, she just might have argued that nothing was better than becoming a grandmother. Deeply devoted to her community, she made a significant impact in the lives of countless others. Life will never be the same without Mary Helen here, but she leaves behind a timeless legacy that is deeply rooted in unwavering faith and unconditional love that her loved ones will proudly carry on in her footsteps.
Wilbur and Mazzie (Brown) Rounds were filled with unspeakable joy as they announced the birth of the little baby girl they named Mary Helen on August 4, 1927, in Boise, Idaho. She was a premature baby and grew up always small for her age. Mary Helen didn’t let her size slow her down as she was very active. She excelled in dance and acrobatics resembling Shirley Temple with her curly, but blond hair. As her parents were older, she was very spoiled as a child.
However, life drastically changed for Mary Helen when she was only 10 with the sudden death of her father. Tragedy struck again with the death of her mother when she was only 16. Mary Helen then lived with her mother's friend to finish school in Boise. Fortunately, she remained close to her brother William and his bride Louise although they had moved to Richmond, CA for the war effort. Louise was like a close sister until her death in 2003. Mary Helen was a good student as well as a cheerleader, working as a babysitter to pay her expenses. Although Mary Helen earned a scholarship to college, she declined the offer to allow others to have the opportunity as she felt she had a good job working at the radio station.
As a young woman Mary Helen attended Boise Jr. College. While there, she met the man with whom she would share the best years of her life. He was a WWII veteran named Richard “Dick” Thomas, and they met briefly when Mary Helen picked up a wedding cake his mother had made. Then, after being told to be nice to the returning veterans, she chose Dick to sit next to in Chemistry class. It was the summer of 1946 when they met, and it didn’t take the couple long to fall deeply in love as attested by their love letters. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Mary Helen and Dick were married on August 31, 1947 in her little Methodist church when she was 20 years old. For the rest of her life she considered her wedding day to be one of the happiest days of her life.
After completing junior college, Mary Helen and Dick transferred to Oregon State College where they both earned their degrees. Mary Helen earned a degree in child development (then a part of Home Economics), choosing that field because of her love for children. Working to improve the well being of children would be constant for her throughout her life. Together Mary Helen and Dick welcomed two children, Rick and Linda, into their hearts and home. She followed him to Texas, Delaware and finally Kalamazoo where Dick took a job with the Upjohn Company in 1958. Mary Helen and Dick became members of the Portage United Methodist Church. After helping with building the new church, she soon took charge of the preschool Sunday school program in the new large facility. Over the years, she steadily added weekday nursery school and finally a daycare at the church because she saw a need for nurturing childcare to help mothers who worked outside the home. Mary Helen was very devoted to the Methodist church and was forever grateful to the church as the congregation of the church back in Boise were the ones who encouraged her to continue her education and go to college. Mary Helen and Dick were also involved in helping start the Portage Library as she helped collect books. They later became members of First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo.
As a mother, Mary Helen was second to none. She was caring and nurturing, encouraging her children to always try hard. Mary Helen wasn’t overbearing, but she was there to help both Rick and Linda find what they were good at and help facilitate success in their endeavors. She was involved with both of her children in their scouting adventures. Linda loved that her mother often made her dresses. Later in life Mary Helen became a very doting grandmother and frequently helped with Linda’s children while Linda was establishing her career. Mary Helen loved being with them, and she also felt that being with her grandchildren kept her young. She always inspired her children to work hard and to follow their dreams while also being the best they could be in whatever they were doing. In everything she taught her children, Mary Helen always led by example.
Together she and Dick saw some of the most amazing places. Because his work as a scientist for Upjohn often required that he travel the world, Mary Helen often accompanied him. Together they took many trips to Europe, and for a time they even lived in Japan.
All who knew Mary Helen Thomas would agree that she was truly extraordinary. She was loving, nurturing and generous beyond measure with a quiet and gracious spirit. Her smile warmed many. Her faith was of the utmost importance to Mary Helen, and a close second was the love she had for her family. She was an amazing mother who loved nothing more than becoming a doting grandmother later in life. Mary Helen believed in quality education and that everyone should strive to achieve their dreams. Deeply loved, she will be forever missed.
Mary Helen Thomas, of Kalamazoo, died on Monday, January 22, 2018, at Borgess Medical Center at the age of 90 and after 70 years of marriage. Mary Helen's family includes her husband, Richard C “ Dick” Thomas Jr.; 2 children: Rick (Ikuko) Thomas of CA and Linda Thomas of GA; 5 grandchildren: Mina Baba, Noah Thomas, Ema Roberson, Rick McDonald, Eva McDonald; and 2 great-grandchildren: Hinano Baba, George Baba. Mary Helen was preceded in death by her brother. Cremation has taken place and a memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 27th at the First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo, 212 South Park St. Please visit Mary’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.