Life Story / Obituary
“When I lay down at night I thank the Lord above for giving me everything I ever could dream of.” For Dave Thomas, the words of Darius Rucker’s song “Alright” summed up his life. He was a loving husband and proud father and grandfather with a huge heart and a tender spirit.
1967 was a year of extremes. While 7,000 members of the National Guard were working to bring an end to the riots in the streets of Detroit, this same year was also coined “The Summer of Love” while teenagers grooved to likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and the Beatles. On April 17th of that year, Ray and Shirley Thomas were thrilled to welcome their son, David, into their hearts and home. Dave, along with his sister, Linda and brother Gary enjoyed a childhood of spending endless hours with their large group of friends from the neighborhood. Though Dave was always a good kid at heart, he was a bit of a “Dennis the Menace” who found more than his fair share of mischief! When he and his niece, Sandy, traveled with his parents they would spit “spitballs” in his mom’s hair taking count who did the most damage. Some of the best times of his childhood were spent on his grandparent’s farm in Lansing.
Dave graduated from Bentley High School and started working at Hayes Lemmerz full-time. He met his first wife, Christine, at Riverside Arena and moved into her grandmother’s house shortly after. They loved to take trips with the motorcycle club. They even took the motorcycle all the way to Maine. Three of the most important events in Dave’s adult life were the births of his three daughters, Danielle, Ryanne and Jaclynne. His girls always made him so proud and he reveled in their accomplishments. Dave looked forward to their annual trips to Boyne as well as their numerous camping trips. He was always up for an adventure, especially when family was involved.
Dave loved spending time on the water. He spent most of his summers hanging out at his brother’s house on Belleville Lake. He loved to take night cruises on the pontoon boat and hang out at the sand bar. He loved to sing karaoke and dance all night long. Dave was always the life of the party!
Dave’s first date with his second wife, Ann, was on a ski trip to Boyne Mountain on St. Patrick’s Day during Carnival Weekend 14 years ago. Since then, Dave and Ann have held St. Patrick’s Day close and eventually married on that holiday weekend. Dave and Ann considered each other to be best friends. They enjoyed weekends on their sailboat and riding off-road vehicles on the trails that West Michigan is known for. Dave would often say it didn’t take long for Montague to become a destination for family and friends to come and spend time together fishing, riding, camping and traveling. Dave would treat his guests to amazing meals of homemade Chicago-style deep dish pizza, quiche, barbeque or fish filets. Weekend guests could also count on a warm, hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Dave loved riding dirt bikes with his friends and was a bit of a daredevil! Boats, cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, wave runners…Dave loved his toys! He also enjoyed attending car shows and tooling around in his 1967 Camaro convertible. With any outdoor activity --whether skiing, ice fishing, tubing sailing or camping – Dave was in his glory!
It was rare that Dave didn’t have some kind of project underway in his garage. He was very creative and innovative and his engineering skills allowed him to create anything out of anything. He once made a side car to attach to his motorcycle, made a makeshift motorbike out of a lawn mower and bicycle; he even made a snow plow out of wood and hooked it to the back of his truck! If he wasn’t working on a project in the garage (with music blaring), he was inside working on his house.
Dave also had a special place in his heart for his pets. He loved his first dog, Buddy, so much that he rescued another dog of the same breed and named him Buddy too. As a matter of fact, when he later acquired a cat, he named the cat Buddy as well!
As much as Dave loved his home in Montague, the downside was being so far from his daughters, grandchildren, parents and other family members who meant the world to him. Dave worked every other weekend, so it was difficult to get away and see everyone as often as he liked. He made sure to make the most of their time whenever they were able to get together.
When he would come back to the Detroit area to visit, Dave could always count on a great breakfast from his Mom and the world’s best barbecue from his Dad. He looked forward to family gatherings, Christmas at his brother’s home and outings to the Cider Mill with his daughters and their families.
One of Dave’s favorite memories was when his grandchildren visited for Pumpkin Fest in Montague, rolling pumpkins down the hill before heading over to Lewis Farms for an afternoon feeding the goats and chucking pumpkins. He would often revisit that weekend by reaching for the coffee table book Ryanne and Nick put together to commemorate the day.
Dave and Ann love that all their children, Wayne, Danielle, Ryanne and Jaclynne get along so well. Dave was most grateful for this past year when Danielle and Nick moved back home from China. It gave him great comfort to have all his girls back together again, happy and with good men in their lives.
Dave was a “cup half full” kind of guy. He always sought ways to make things better and his positive attitude was infectious, Though his passing will leave a tremendous void, his memory will live on in the hearts of his family and friends.
David Ray Thomas, 52, passed away suddenly on April 29, 2019 in Montague, Michigan. Survived by parents, Ray and Shirley Thomas; his spouse, Ann Thomas and their dog Buddy and cat Buddy; his brother, Gary (Carolyn) Thomas; daughters, Danielle (Nicholas) Asplund, Ryanne (Nicholas) Fahnestock, Jaclynne Thomas and his step-son, Wayne Ditmore. He is also survived by his grand children Malia Fahnestock, Joshua and Matthew Sulkowski along with his niece, Sandy (Sean) Colburn and Sydney and his nephew, Hunter Thomas. Visitation Sunday, May 5, 1-6pm, followed by a funeral service Monday May 6, 11am at Neely-Turowski Funeral Home, 30200 Five Mile Road, Livonia, MI 48154. Interment Parkview Memorial Cemetery.