Caroline Joy Thomas passed away on March 13, 2020 in Raleigh, NC. She was born Caroline
Joy Nelson on Oct. 29, 1929 in Aurora, Illinois to Henry and Florence Nelson. Her older sister,
Juanita, preceded her in death. A child of the Depression, Caroline spent her youth in Big Rock,
Illinois where she was valedictorian of her high school class. After only two years of college at
Western Illinois University, she began her career as a teacher of elementary school children. In
1953, on a summer trip to California, she met Air Force non-commissioned officer David
Thomas of Waltham, Mass. Totally disregarding her parents’ advice to marry neither a military
man nor a Catholic, she and David were married August 24, 1953 at Chanute Air Force Base in
central Illinois. Over a 20-year career, they found themselves stationed at bases in California,
Maine, South Dakota, Puerto Rico, and finally back in Illinois. Along the way, they produced
seven children: Nancy, Andy, Joe, Mary, Jean, Amy, and Ed, as well as 15 grandchildren and
14 great grandchildren, with more on the way.
Caroline lost her beloved husband in December, 1972, with seven children still at home. She
spent the next year finishing her college education at Illinois State University and then taking on
the role of first-grade teacher in the Gibson City (Ill.) Grade School until her retirement in 1991.
Despite the hard lot handed to her, Caroline (or CJ, as her children called her) created a home
life filled with warmth and laughter and support. She was a member of Our Lady of Lourdes
Catholic Church in Gibson City where she was a Mass lector and principal of the catechism
program. She was an avid bridge player and an advanced Scrabble master. Her home on
Church Street was a center of activity for a couple of generations of Gibson City students who
found its convenient location and well-stocked pantry and capacious front porch a source of fun
and relaxation and (occasional) work. CJ managed the rough-and-tumble of life with an
easy-going attitude which her children have tried to adopt, which may explain why they are all
still speaking to each other.
In 2011 Caroline lost her oldest child, Nancy, a woman with a big heart and boisterous laugh.
Nancy and CJ’s other daughters spent the last 10 years caring for her needs with a degree of
tenderness and compassion that is hard to quantify but easy to understand - they took the
lesson from their mother that love will see us through anything.
A memorial Mass and funeral service will be held in Gibson City, but the date is to be
determined. CJ loved the public library in Gibson City and volunteered there, so we encourage
anyone who would like to make a donation in her name to send it to Moyer District Library, ℅
Sharon Heavlin, 618 S. Sangamon Ave., Gibson City, IL 60936.
October 29, 1929 - March 13, 202010/29/192903/13/2020
1 Tree has been planted in memory of Caroline Thomas.