If, as William Shakespeare wrote in his play The Tempest, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep” than Albert “Al” Sylvester Thomas Sr. journeys onward from us to his final rest in that undiscovered country known to us mere mortals as the hereafter and yet his life and experiences bore no resemblance to a body at rest, but in constant motion.
To the contrary, a Florida native, born on March 16, 1930, to Jamaican immigrants Hilda and Reginald Thomas, Al Thomas grew up in Tampa, dreaming of leaving his hometown and seeing the world. Like many young men of his age who were raised on stories told them by their World War II era older brothers and friends, Al longed to leave the confines of the repressive south and see the world. Never one to wait for permission or to do something when it was someone else’s idea of the right time to do it, Al Thomas chose his own timing, leaving his home to join the United States Air Force (USAF) on June 23, 1947, but only after fudging his date of birth to make himself appear a year older; not an uncommon practice in the 40s and 50s. The gamble paid off, affording young Al Thomas with a nine-year stint in the UFAF with tours in Guam, much of Europe and later back home in the United States.
While stationed at Castle Air Force Base, Merced, California, young Al Thomas met a pretty young aspiring nurse who would capture his attention for well over half a century and on December 29, 1952, Al Thomas and Rachel Alice Golden were joined in holy matrimony at Saint Phillip’s Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. The marriage lasted through 57 years and four sons; Albert Jr. (1957), Richard (1960), John (1962) and last, but not least, Victor (1966). Those sons went on to produce eight grandchildren; Yolanda, Mark, Christian, Michael, Brandon, Brianna, Bryce and Brielle. Al and Rachel were also blessed with eight great-grandchildren. Regrettably, Al survived Rachel, who died on September 29, 2010.
Although deeply saddened by the loss of the love of his life, Rachel, Al quickly put his shoulder to the grind, further securing his position as head of the family by becoming active and involved with every member of the family and by providing them with guidance, stewardship, mentoring and friendship.
A few years after the passing of his beloved Rachel, Al’s health diminished. Still, it was not until a month short of seven years after Rachel’s death that Al succumbed to his ailments, dying on August 31, 2017. When he passed, Al Thomas did so peacefully and with dignity in the presence of loving family members and friends.
Al’s presence will be sorely missed by all and the memories he implanted in all of us shall live long past his body. In Al Thomas, we will always remember a hardworking friend, brother, father, grandfather and great granddad. We shall also never forget the love and patience he often displayed and we will remember the kind of person to whom we can all aspire to become if only we are willing to share of ourselves and show our love for our friends, family and fellow human beings.
Once more from the Bard who wrote in his play, Hamlet, “Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Farewell, Father, and go with love.