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Grand marshal hears God’s calling

Jack Thomas is one of those rare individuals who live their religion.

From an early age on, Thomas has tried to understand the message of eternity that is found in the Good News regarding Jesus Christ. He has actively sought to desire, pursue and honor God every day, and in any way he can. He has tried to do good and touch people’s lives in practical ways, even if it just means a smile.

His good deeds led to him being named Montesano’s Citizen of the Year and Grand Marshal of the Festival of Lights parade.

What he hasn’t done is spent his days searching for monetary wealth, or material gains, celebrity and the pleasures of life, or even the joys of family. And yet, to a considerable extent he has received them all.

There’s no one right way to live or to act, or carry out the Good works of the Lord, Thomas said.

“Most of the time it’s just living out what I believe,” he said.

After moving to Montesano with wife and family in 1976, Thomas accepted a three-year contract with New York Life Insurance in 1978.

He said he had never had any desire to get into the insurance business but the opportunity presented itself in such a way that he felt it had to be God’s plan. For Thomas, life insurance became the springboard for him to be able to speak with others about life assurance, and that assurance is the Good News of Jesus Christ. What started out as a three-year contract has turned into a long and successful career in the insurance industry that will culminate in his retirement next year, when he plans to turn his practice over to the agents he’s been mentoring.

Even though he thought he would have been transferred out of Montesano decades ago, Thomas has loved his time spent here. It has become so much more than the town he lives in; it’s his home, and it’s the only home his family has known.

He bought some property, built a house and raised his children in Montesano. He has played basketball with the same group of guys for 30 years, sings tenor in the Presbyterian church choir and after his retirement plans to shift his focus to setting up charter schools for struggling children.

Thomas said he has always tried to support his community in the ways he can. That’s not surprising, considering his vision for Montesano is a place where people will prosper,where they can grow and learn, be safe and care for one another. Thomas’ Montesano is a place where everyone influences one another for the good and helps each other experience a better life.

Thomas described himself as a man compelled by the Lord to do good works wherever best he can. Sometimes other communities need even more help than his own, he said.

Thomas’ missionary work has taken him to Uganda, Africa, where he worked in conjunction with 30 other churches on rural development projects throughout the country. The projects included building housing for homeless orphans in the hopes of improving their quality of life. Even after their life situation has been improved, it’s still at a level most Americans could hardly imagine living in day in and day out, Thomas said.

When asked about Thomas, people who know him aren’t surprised by his charitable acts.

“Jack is a quality kind of guy,” says longtime friend and business partner, Dennis Brumbaugh. “He gives where there’s need without thinking. If we had more people like him in our community, we’d have a better community. He’s just that type of guy.”

Thomas’ relationship with God doesn’t begin and end with Sundays and twice on Easter. He doesn’t just say the right words and perform the proper motions. For Thomas, religion is something else entirely. Every day, he takes the time to ask the Lord what it is that Thomas can do for Him that day. Thomas said he sees every day as a gift that he tries to pass on to others.

Recently, Thomas awoke in a hospital bed surrounded by a tearful family and even then, in his darkest hour, the words of the Lord came to him, comforting him: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So when you see this year’s grand marshal at the Festival of Lights give him a wave and a smile because for Thomas, just feeling fine is miracle enough.

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