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James Thomas (1945-2021)


Posted By: Ken Wright (email)
Date: 7/3/2021 at 14:18:46

James "Jim" Thomas

September 14, 1945-June 30, 2021

PEORIA-James "Jim" Thomas passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at 7:03pm on Wednesday, June 30 at Grand View Care Center in Peoria, Illinois.

He was 75. Born in Champaign, Illinois on September 14, 1945, Jim grew up on a farm in Foosland, Illinois-one of four brothers to Oscar and Helen Thomas. His life was marked with early tragedy, followed by many triumphs. His younger brother, Denny, died tragically in a train accident when Jimmy was only an 8th grader. Yet Jim went on to play college football at Illinois State University and become the youngest school superintendent in the state at 28. He met the love of his life, Jo Ann Sarver, during middle school in Gibson City, Illinois. They started dating in high school, married in August 1969 and raised two daughters (Tara and Sara) in Peoria. He devoted his life to educational leadership, serving as superintendent in Little America and Norwood (32 years) school districts for decades. Jim never met a stranger. He could talk to anyone-and usually did-anytime, any place and anywhere. Years after his retirement, he still enjoyed running into former students and sending two-dollar bills tucked in birthday cards to teachers who had worked for him. His devoted wife, Jo Ann, took on the role of caregiver this past year after Jim was diagnosed with dementia. She never left his side. Jim's best friend Ray LaHood was like a brother to him. They would talk daily if they weren't doing favorite activities like working out, going to a Bradley game or hitting the links. Jim and Jo loved to travel, and were grateful to visit places all over the globe after they retired. Two favorite trips include Spain and Tahiti. In recent years, Jim relished being back in the classroom as an acting administrator and substitute teacher. He also took much pleasure in watching his athletic grandchildren compete in multiple sports. Jim is survived by his wife, Jo Ann; his two daughters, Tara (Dave) Gettman of Waterloo, Iowa and Sara (Will) Ratliff of Peoria, Illinois; four grandchildren (Charlotte Gettman-15, Thomas Gettman-12, Liam Ratliff-11 and Ava Ratliff-8) and two brothers Dick (Bonnie) Thomas of Bement, Illinois and Pete (Denise) Thomas of Lexington, South Carolina. Special thanks to Dr. Tom Kouri, Dr. Jaya Attaluri and the angels on earth at Grand View. "I love you and I always will and even after then."

Cremation rites have been accorded and there will be a memorial visitation on Monday, July 5, 2021 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Davison-Fulton Woolsey-Wilton Funeral Home in Peoria. A celebration of Jim's life will be Tuesday, July 6, 2021 at 10 a.m. at the funeral home.

Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer's Association Peoria Chapter.

You may view Jim's obituary online at www.woolsey-wilton.com

To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published by Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on Jul. 2, 2021.


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