James Henry Thomas, a lifelong Hagerstownian better known as "John" to his friends, died Sunday April 30 at the Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown. He was 87. John was born to Joseph Michael Thomas and Bertha Mae Thomas on Sept. 22, 1929. Growing up during the Great Depression, he developed a life-long love of sports. He spent his early years playing baseball at a place he and his friends called "the hole." He fondly recalled those days throughout his life as well as the time he spent at Dixons, a popular local restaurant. In the 1940s, he played for the Marketeers, a semi-professional football team. He was also well known for playing baseball and fast-pitch softball. He often recalled attending the 1947 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. While in New York City, he was amazed to discover pizza parlors and one-hour dry cleaning. Both were unheard of in Hagerstown at that time. In 1951, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and served in Korea during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Corporal in 1956 after serving in the reserves. He returned home and worked for 37 years at the Jamison Door Company in Hagerstown. He was known there as "Dude." He retired in 1990. John was a member of the 35-year club and was a fixture in the Jamison golf league. Throughout his life, John devoted his free time to youth sports. He supported or coached youth baseball, basketball and football. He was a volunteer at the West End Little League for more than 50 years. He served as league president during a time when lights were added to the field and a new second-floor press box was added to the concession stand among other improvements.
He was an avid Redskins and University of Maryland fan and attended every North-South football game from the start of the series through 2012. Only a disability kept him from attending after that. He was a member of the Maugansville Brethren Church and was a volunteer member of the Antietam Fire Company for more than 50 years. John is survived by his loving wife of 63 years Dorothy Shilling Thomas and three children, Debra Thomas Girard and husband Keith of Ellicott City, Md., Tina Kay Enders and husband Charles of Hagerstown and Tracy Dee Sanders and husband Daryl also of Hagerstown. He is also survived by one granddaughter Kristen Girard Morgan and husband Gabe, two great grandchildren Hunter and Wyatt Morgan and one sister Nelly May Hull. He was preceded in death by his only son John Steven Thomas.
The viewing will be held Thursday, May 4, at Rest Haven from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The funeral will be at Rest Haven on Friday, May 5, at 11 a.m. A graveside service and reception will follow. In lieu of flowers please send donations in Johns name to the Antietam Fire Company, 700 Potomac Ave., Hagerstown, MD, 21742