Elias T. Thomas
On Friday, March 20th, Elias (Lou) Thomas, beloved and devoted husband of Constance (Connie) and father to three adoring daughters, Andrea, Paula, and Barbara, passed away peacefully at home at the age of 90.
Lou was born on November 14, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York, to Constantine and Agape Thomacos. Liking to take things apart from an early age and liking science, he attended Brooklyn Technical High school. Showing an aptitude for engineering, he attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute to major in mechanical engineering. While there, he joined the swim team and during the summers lifeguarded at Coney Island.
He met his wife, Connie, at Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church (Kimisis Theotokos) in Bay Ridge, asking her to dance at a wedding, already knowing she was the love of his life. They were both 18. Dating for four years during college, they married on June 1, 1952. Within weeks, Lou left for military duty, and the newlyweds eventually relocated to Philadelphia where Lou served for two years at Frankfort Arsenal.
He built his career at General Electric in Valley Forge and then Philadelphia, moving into its aerospace division in the 1960s and playing an integral role in the launch of the first monkey into space. While at GE’s Re-Entry division, Lou earned a master’s in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. The family was raised in Cheltenham Township, then known for its excellent school system and a small Greek church in Elkins Park where Lou served on the church board that oversaw the building of a large and illustrious new edifice on Old York Road.
He shifted to GE’s weapon’s division in Burlington, Vermont in 1976 to work on the Gatling gun among other defense contracts until he retired. As a retiree, he joined the Lion’s Club and sold Christmas trees for the Boy Scouts even in the most frigid temperatures. A board member of Burlington’s Dormition Greek Orthodox Church for decades, Lou helped oversee that church’s expansion and regularly worked the annual summer Greek festival.
A systems engineer at heart, Lou loved to design and craft, not only for U.S. defense projects, but at home. Precision and meticulous attention to detail defined his craftwork as a cabinetmaker, home remodeler, gardener, and do-it-yourselfer. He could fix and grow anything, and he did, for years, until his self-declared retirement as a “handyman” at age 85. Lou and his wife created beautiful homes as a beacon for extended family gatherings, especially Christmas and mid-summers, full of books, tools, toys.
Not many can say that their grandfather entertained them by shooting rockets in the backyard or launching a homemade mini hovercraft on the kitchen counter, but that was Lou’s idea of fun. In the culinary world, his expertise fixed on ultra-light pancakes and the barbecue grill.
Principled, kind -- even noble, generous, caring, quiet, well-read, and deeply intelligent, Lou comported himself undisputedly as a consummate gentleman, always true to his word, always willing to lend a hand. Lou was a Dad with a quick-fired temper that dissipated just as fast and who could surprise and amaze with the occasional practical joke or his dry, dry wit.
He raised his daughters to be independent, open minded, and to know the value of serving others. His being a GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth of America) sponsor and his dedication to church showed his deep faith and commitment to serving his community.
Lou is survived by his wife, Connie, daughters Andrea (Alan Gnessin), Paula (Linc Gotshalk), and Barbara (David Frost); sister Antonia Baganakis (Peter), seven nieces and nephews, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His brother, Nicholas, predeceased him.
The family also wants to extend its deep appreciation and gratitude to Lou’s wonderful and dedicated caregivers from Home Instead.
A private funeral service will be held for immediate family, with burial and memorial services to be scheduled for May 2020. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Dormition Greek Orthodox Church, 600 S. Willard St, Burlington, VT 05401 or a charity of your choice.
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