See You Later, Harry

My brother-in-law, Harry W. Thomas, has a sound mind and healed body as he came into the presence of Jesus Sunday evening. Suffering from dementia and heart disease for the past 7+ years, he has been reunited with his daughter, Amy and all the saints, who have preceded him.

Still newlyweds in this photo, Harry was to lose his father a few months later from a massive heart attack, during the fall harvest. Harry, Sr. was 45.

I was eleven when he married my sister. Because I was the youngest and only boy in my family, he was my second brother-in-law, and I was overjoyed to have new “brothers” as reinforcements. In addition to having another guy to play Sunday afternoon hoops in the backyard, “Butch” added a rural dimension to our family. While he and my sister worked primarily as radiology technicians, he grew up on a family farm. That remained in his blood and they tried their hand at farming several times. But he ultimately advanced to the level of nuclear medicine technologist and for a while he and Valerie traveled the country as locum professionals, serving six-months temporary staffing positions in hospitals.

I won’t say that he corrupted me, but he did give me my first Swisher Sweet cigar to smoke. Then he gave me half box of cigars that unfortunately was confiscated as soon as they were discovered by my parents. Hunting was a passion and because we were not a hunting family, I never shot a firearm until Harry joined the family, and he gave me my first target shooting lessons. I even wore a John Deere cap as a teenager because of his influence.

He loved to eat and some of my best memories with Harry are centered around meals, whether at the family home on Barron where Mom prepared a big Sunday dinner or at the Thomas home in Arkansas where we shared many Thanksgivings. Mom always gave Harry one of the larger ice-tea glasses (likely to cut down of refills). On one occasion another brother-in-law noticed the disparity in his glass size and Harry’s. I think that brother-in-law received a larger glass at the next meal.

When Mom was at the hospice house, Valerie stayed during the duration. Harry came up for a short time, coinciding with “National Fried Chicken Day” (July 6). All day, he reminded us that for supper we were going to have “friiiieeed chick’n” (say that with your best Southern drawl). And we did. Throughout the meal he repeatedly said this is “gooood fried chick’n.” That was about the time that the dementia was becoming obvious and it was diagnosed shortly after that.

His love and laughter were both large. He always made a big entrance, and I’m sure he did the same yesterday evening! And I hope he was served some “friiiiiieeed chick’n.” I’ll see you later, Harry!