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Gabrielle Hall Thomas, the matriarch of a family with deep roots in the agricultural history of the Ukiah Valley, died August 3 at the Sequoias in San Francisco where she lived in recent years. She was 99.
‘Gay’ Thomas was an informed individual of accomplishment and poise. Her graciousness and finely honed wit allowed her to easily engage with others, at family and social events and in public discussions of community importance.
It was Gay Thomas’ commitment to civic affairs that earned her widespread public recognition. In 1995, Gay Thomas donated substantial funding for the development of a plaza in downtown Ukiah that was named in honor of her late husband, Alex R. Thomas Jr.
Gay Thomas was a charter member of the Mendocino College Board of Trustees, and a two-time member of the Mendocino County Grand Jury. She served on the first general plan steering committee for the city of Ukiah.
Gay Thomas was an original member of the Ukiah Parks and Recreation Commission, and she especially delighted in the fact that the beloved ‘rocket ship’ at Todd Grove Park, a favorite for generations of local children, was installed during her tenure.
Gay Thomas graduated in economics from Dominican College in San Rafael.
After marrying Alex R. Thomas Jr. and moving to Ukiah, Gay Thomas became an active member of St. Mary’s Parish. She sang in the church choir, participated in the Ladies League, and actively supported St. Mary’s School after its founding in the 1950s. Gay Thomas was a charter donor to the St. Mary’s School Foundation, and she remained a longtime supporter of the school’s annual ‘Mardi Gras’, a legendary local fundraiser that continues today.
Gay Thomas was born on New Year’s Eve in 1922 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Red Bluff to John Hall and Anna Flannagan. Her father was a newspaper editor and publisher.
Gay Thomas and her older sister Mary Hall Prout remained close throughout their lives, and they enjoyed sharing stories of their childhood, and had many adventures together as adults.
For all of her civic and social attributes, what meant most to Gay Thomas was her family. “Her children are her testament” was a creed she lived by.
Gay Thomas had two daughters who predeceased her: Mary Catherine Thomas and Anne Irene Thomas Ito (Arthur Ito).
She is survived by four sons and their wives: Tom Thomas and Mary Leittem, John Thomas and Wendy Mae McCallum, Stephen Thomas and Diana York, and Daniel Thomas and Becky Erickson.
In addition, Gay Thomas is survived by seventeen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. There also are numerous cousins in the Thomas, Johnson, Golden, Cunningham, Gannon, Hall, and Flannagan families.
A celebration of life is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Burial will follow in the Thomas family plot at the Russian River Cemetery.