Andrew 'Andy' John Thomas
Andrew ‘Andy’ John Thomas
Andrew “Andy” John Thomas, 101, peacefully passed away on Saturday, Feb. 1, at Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in Brainerd.
He was born Aug. 4, 1912, in Johnson City, Tenn., soon after which he and his family moved to Illinois. Eventually, he moved to Forest Park outside Chicago and became a lifelong baseball fan who saw early Yankees greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play the White Sox at Comiskey Park in Chicago. As batboy for the Chicago Cubs, he met and became friends with major league baseball greats Hack Wilson and Gabby Hartnett.
Andy married his sweetheart, Dorothy Roussey, on Sept. 9, 1933. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy on an oil tanker in the Pacific theatre. After the war, Andy and Dorothy moved to Nisswa, Minn., in 1947 and, as Andy often put it, “I’ve been on vacation ever since.” They celebrated 76 years of marriage until Dorothy passed away at the age of 101.
Over the years, Andy continued his passion for baseball as a pitcher on numerous Nisswa baseball teams, and threw out the first pitch at a Brainerd Lunkers game on his 99th birthday. Off the field, he seldom missed broadcasts of Minnesota Twins games.
Andy was also an avid angler who particularly enjoyed flyfishing at their home on Round Lake, and in recent seasons, fishing with Bethany residents and auxiliary members on the local Let’s Go Fishing pontoon.
As an enthusiastic league bowler who carried an 183 average up until he was 85, Andy was inducted into the Brainerd Bowling Association Hall of Fame. He was a lifetime member of the Brainerd Elks, a founding member and former commander of the Nisswa American Legion, and the oldest living member of the YMCA in Minnesota, where he enjoyed exercising in the Silver Sneakers program.
Being a good listener, born salesman and visionary businessman, Andy’s career path spanned bartending at local hot spots like the Spotlight and Vogue Lounge, to selling boats at area marine dealerships, starting Gull Lake Marina, and establishing a convenience store at Sportland Corners before the concept became popular. He was often ahead of his time, and not afraid to try new things. “I’m not very good at this Facebook yet,” he once said, “but I’m fortunate enough that I can send e-mails. I get by, but Facebook, I haven’t conquered that — yet.”
Andy exhibited a special fondness for children by sponsoring the annual Forestview Builder’s Club Bowling Pin Art Project at Good Samaritan Bowl. Following his enthusiastic and heartfelt response to a recent Veteran’s Day concert at Baxter Elementary, one of the third-grade classes was inspired to adopt him as an honorary grandfather. Andy considered groups like these to be “his kids,” and praised their efforts by stating, “The world is in good shape with kids like these in charge of the future.”
Andy was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy; his parents, Dora and Andrew; his brothers, Willard and Ray; and his sister, Betty. He is survived by three sisters, Thelma, Dodie and Helen; plus nephews and nieces in Illinois and Michigan; and numerous great-nephews and great-nieces across the country.
He had a rare ability to inspire everyone he met, and his sense of humor, humility, unselfish nature and zest for life will be sorely missed by friends and family of all ages.
A visitation was held at Good Samaritan’s Bethany Chapel from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4 with an Elks Lodge of Sorrow service at 6 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial was at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, at St. Christopher’s Church in Nisswa with Father George Zeck officiating. Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery in Nisswa. Friends and family were welcome to gather at the church on Wednesday one hour prior to the services.
Military honors were provided by the Billie Brown Post, Nisswa American Legion Color Guard. Following the service, a celebration of Andy’s life was held at the Nisswa American Legion because Andy enjoyed nothing more than a good party surrounded by family and friends.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Good Samaritan Bowl, 804 Wright St., Brainerd, MN 56401.
Arrangements were with Nelson-Doran Funeral Home and Crematory, Brainerd.