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RALPH RUSSELL THOMAS
November 23, 1918 – July 2, 2023
Ralph Thomas, our beloved father and grandfather, passed away peacefully on Sunday morning at Luther Home in Winnipeg at the age of 104, surrounded by family. In extreme old age he remained his warm and gracious self, and we are so grateful for his loving presence in our lives.
Ralph was born to Percy Thomas and Alice Craig on November 23, 1918, on their farm in the Oakville district. His mother died when he was 3. A few years later he gained a loving stepmother, Opal Lee, and eventually became big brother to 9 children: Muriel and Vera (who died in childhood), Eldon, Verna, Ira, Irene, Allan, Carole, and Clayton.
Ralph’s stories of childhood tended to be about animals, and were a wonderful glimpse into life on a prairie farm during the Depression: the skunk kittens he found and carried into the house, the spirited horse he rode to school, the prairie chickens and jackrabbits he hunted to supplement the family diet, the turkeys too dimwitted to seek shelter in a hailstorm, the rats in the granary and the farm dog’s efforts to control them. Ralph completed Grade 12 in Oakville, worked a few years as a farm labourer, and in 1942 enlisted in the RCAF, where he trained as an armorer in Mountain View, ON. Later, while he was stationed in Portage la Prairie waiting to be deployed overseas, Ralph attended the First Baptist Church, and there he met and fell in love with Edna Brass. They were married in May 1944. In 1945, Ralph finally shipped out to England, where he helped with the demobilization of air bases in Yorkshire.
After returning to Manitoba, Ralph worked as parts guy for an implement dealership in Portage. He and Edna welcomed three daughters, Barbara, Joan, and Joy. In 1955, Ralph and his friend, mechanic Harley Pallister, decided to set up their own business. They chose the town of Carberry, where they established Thomas & Pallister, a thriving International Harvester and Volkswagen dealership that Ralph maintained for the rest of his working life. By the time he retired, the business had been reincorporated as Carberry Implements, and Ralph was in partnership with his friend Abe Wiebe and Abe’s brothers.
Ralph came to know every corner of the beautiful Carberry hills, driving the section roads both for work and for pleasure, alert to the crops in the fields and the wild life in the ditches. He and Edna enjoyed camping in the summer and skiing in the sandhills in the winter. They travelled through Eastern Canada to Newfoundland, through the American southwest, to England and to Germany. They were founding members of the Carberry Evangelical Free Church and the local Bible Camp, and Ralph served on the board of the Carberry Hospital. In 1962, they faced the heartbreak of losing their eldest daughter Barbara to cancer.
Edna developed health problems in 1986, and their plans for a Yukon/Alaska trip did not materialize. In Carberry through his retirement, Ralph maintained a big garden, cut wood to heat the house in winter, and for a few years, kept bees. He enjoyed long walks and visits with friends, and looked after Edna with great devotion. In 2011, he and Edna moved to a retirement home in Regina, where their daughter Joy and her family lived. In May 2012, Joy and her husband Eric died tragically in an aviation accident, and in August, Edna passed away. Through all these grievous losses, Ralph inspired us daily with his openheartedness, kindness, and calm acceptance. He drew strength from his faith, took an unflagging interest in the smallest phenomena of the natural world, and above all, savoured times with family and friends.
Ralph spent the last eight years of his life in Winnipeg, first at Concordia Village, where he lived in his own apartment until the age of 103. In 2022, in a year made so difficult by the pandemic, he moved to Luther Home. We are profoundly grateful to the staff there who accompanied him (and us) on this journey with respect, affection, and professional care.
Ralph was predeceased by all his siblings, by his daughters Barbara and Joy, his son-in-law Eric Jackson, and his beloved wife Edna. He was cherished and will be deeply missed by his daughter Joan and her husband Bill Dunn and by five grandchildren: Caitlin Thomas-Dunn and partner Carlos Portillo, Heather and Kent Stryker, Kirsty Jackson and husband Sean Biggin, Blair Jackson, and Cheryl Jackson and partner Sanjay Jacob; by five great-grandchildren: Samuel and Elijah Stryker, Alex Dale, Danielle and Logan Biggin; by sisters-in-law Evelyn Sherdahl and Mary Thomas, brothers-in-law Sidney Brass and Tom Brass, cousin Jean Knight, and numerous nieces and nephews.
A funeral service will be held at the Carberry Evangelical Free Church on Tuesday August 8 at 2 PM, with Reverend Ron Gartly officiating. If friends wish, please take few a minutes to honour his memory by sharing photos, memories, and stories, using the comment section on this page.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Ralph’s memory to Valley View Bible Camp, Box 430, McGregor, MB
Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
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