HAROLD EUGENE THOMAS
Woke up in the early morning August 21 to hear
“Welcome Harold, my good and faithful servant”
Harold Eugene Thomas (Red) was born in Glenns Ferry, Idaho on May 17, 1926. He was the son of Ralph and Ruth Thomas. Harold had two younger sisters – Helen and Donna and a brother Robert Blaizer. He grew up in Nampa and Boise during the depression and as so many of that generation he was industrious and worked hard to help the family. His father operated pool halls in the valley and at a young age Harold became a proficient pool player standing on a wooden Coke box. He also worked nights cleaning the pool halls.
He would do most any work in order to help his family.
In his memoirs he tells about a family that took him to church in Nampa. He enjoyed going and at 11 years old he prayed and asked Jesus to be his Savior – years later he would say this was the most important event of his life. Harold graduated from Nampa High School in 1943 where he also met Phyllis Swayne who would become his wife and life partner and companion. They were married for 68 years – Phyllis preceded him in death in 2013.
After one semester at the University of Idaho, Harold left school to join the Navy. Where he received the Clean Area Medal and WWII Victory Medal. He went to Meteorology School and was eventually stationed at Sandpoint Naval Air Station in Seattle. His contribution to the war effort was to collect weather data for ships and planes which meant flying out to sea on blimps to report weather. While in the Navy he became very lonely for Phyllis. He occasionally hitchhiked to Moscow to see her. In early October of 1945 he watched the movie “Rhapsody in Blue” and came out very lonesome for her – so he called her and asked her to marry him. She agreed right away – “the sooner the better,” she said. She got the green light from her father so she left school and returned to Nampa to pick up his mother. They boarded the train and headed to Seattle. Harold had arranged for the church and the minister but discovered they needed two witnesses so they asked two ladies off the street who were happy to help out.
Thus began an iconic marriage and partnership that would survive a lifetime of adventure and hard work, success and failures. The family eventually included three much loved sons – Rick, Marvin and David. Harold graduated with a degree in forestry from the University of Idaho in 1951. He did not want to work for the government so he went to work selling lumber for a company in Minneapolis.
During these early years, Harold developed a love for the lumber industry and made it his goal to become proficient in every aspect of the business. His motto was to make a decision about what you want to do then learn everything you could to make it succeed. In the late 50’s he was selling glulam beams for Weyerhaeuser, living in Boise, when this expertise caused Art Troutner – a well known architect – to call him one day for advice on a project. He was designing the Boise Little Theatre and wanted to know if they could use arched glulam beams for a round roof. It was during this meeting that Art mentioned a new type of joist that he had invented. This was the beginning of a very unique partnership – creator and marketer – that would become Trus Joist International – a public company whose annual sales would reach a billion dollars.
For forty years Harold led this company – developing talented teams of people. In January of 2000 Weyerhaeuser purchased Trus Joist which allowed Harold to retire and pursue other interests. Harold and Phyllis made lifelong friends during these years that produced many wonderful memories.
Anyone who knew Harold knew that he loved to fly! He was a skilled instrument pilot with over 10,000 hours logged. He owned many airplanes and used them in business, adventure, and philanthropy. He and Phyllis loved to fly the backcountry of Idaho, which led to the purchase of the Allison Ranch on the main Salmon River.
In 1987 Harold and Phyllis volunteered to fly in Ethiopia for humanitarian purposes. For three months Harold flew for many relief organizations providing food and medical supplies during the famine. In 1998 Harold became involved as a driving force behind the development of a new modern airplane to replace the Cessna fleet in mission aviation. This airplane would be known as the Kodiak, now used around the world by mission organizations. After Harold sold Trus Joist his life became about what he could do for others. He established a Foundation for the purpose of helping Christian organizations spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are some of Harold’s last words, which he wanted everyone to know: That “true happiness in this world is simply to know the Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to be the center of your life”.
We all miss Harold and his never ending love for Jesus and others. His life was lived with the goal of following in Jesus footsteps and he did it well. All of us were touched by Harold’s life and legacy and that is the ultimate gift he gave to us.
It is impossible to put a life such as Harold’s into a few words. Know this – he was loved and respected by many and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him. For many, Harold Thomas was best known for his practical wisdom in business; founding and building Idaho’s Trus Joist Corporation, whose success spanned over four decades. Others would point to his legacy of philanthropy. Still others might cite his key role in the Quest Aircraft Company and development of the unique “Kodiak” for international humanitarian applications. Insiders might emphasize his love of family and others. His life was a fascinating journey through the world of aviation, missions and philanthropy. (taken from editor’s (Don) notes from his book “Pilot with a Purpose”).
Harold was preceded in death by his parents Ralph and Ruth Thomas, his wife Phyllis, his sisters Helen Watts and Donna Mansell and brother Robert Blaizer and grandson Dash Thomas, and Shirley Janzen.
Harold is survived by three sons, Rick (Penny) of Boise, Marvin (Tamara) of Caldwell and David (Robin) of Eagle. Also his grandchildren Nick Thomas (Brandy), Tyler Thomas (Lisa Arnold), Daniel, Britni and Thomas. Troy Thomas, Chad Thomas, Zachary (Kelly), Allison (Jason Kellogg), Rachel (Collin Rudeen), great grandchildren Bailey and Emily; Lillian and Anders; Nikki Joe; Heidi and Amber; Samuel; Amos and Miles; and great, great, grandsons Aable and Kaidan … also many cherished nieces, cousins and other family … as well as many, many, dedicated friends. We appreciate your visits, calls and genuine care for Harold.
Services will be held at a future date. Memorials may be made to Heritage Bible Church.
Arrangements are under the direction of Bowman Funeral Parlor of Garden City.