Rachel A. Thomas, former educator and homemaker, passed away Wednesday September 18, 2019 in Fairbanks, Alaska at the age of 91.
Rachel was the third child born to Ernest and Henrietta Weinberg in the Hardin, Montana hospital. Her family lived on a ranch-homestead in the Sarpy area, about 30 miles from town. Their log house had kerosene lamps and outhouse but no running water or telephone. She rode a horse with her older siblings to attend first grade in a one-room school. Since the oldest would enter high school the next year, the family moved to Hardin where the family grew to four. This house had electricity but no indoor plumbing.
While attending high school, Rachel worked for Ben Franklin (5- and 10-cent store). After graduating from high school, she worked locally for two years as a stenographer for Holly Sugar Corporation to earn and save sufficient money to attend Montana State University in Bozeman, MT. During summers, she worked for Fish and Wildlife Service in Yellowstone National Park and Glacier Transport Company (red buses) in Glacier National Park. When her older brother was discharged from the Navy at the close of World War II, the two were able to attend the University together. Don and Rachel graduated in 1951. She received a Master of Education Degree from the University of Alaska in 1961.
She taught in Elmira, New York; at Billings Business College; and Powell County High School, Deer Lodge, MT. She and three teachers, including her sister, Dorothy, spent the summer of 1954 camping and driving up the Alcan to the Territory of Alaska, That fall she began her Alaskan teaching career, teaching shorthand, typing, English and physical education in Kenai.
In 1955 Rachel married Donald D. Thomas from Upstate New York, serving in Army Security and stationed at Wildwood Station, Kenai. While Don worked construction, as a technician for White Alice (communication system), and expeditor for Page Communications on the AK Pipeline, Rachel continued her teaching career, teaching grades 3, 4, and 5 in Aniak, accounting in UAF’s Old Main; physical education in the old gym which is now UAF’s Administration Building; and in what was the new UAF Patty Gymnasium. She retired from the Business Department at Lathrop High School in 1982.
Don died in 1984. In 1986, Rachel bought a unit in Venture Out, a large retirement park in Mesa, AZ. Here she enjoyed potlucks, cards, theater, tennis, pickleball, bocce ball, square and round, and ballroom dance. Her family was uppermost. She still spent most of her time in Fairbanks, living in her home on Totem Drive and visiting family in Upstate New York. One summer she played on a tennis team, playing in Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. She also traveled in Russia, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. She enjoyed cruises to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, and throughout Alaska and the South 48.
She was proud to be an Alaskan and a member of Pioneers of Alaska Igloo No. 8, International Sourdoughs, Fairbanks Tennis Assn. and Farthest North Pickleball Assn. She enjoyed Ollie, the adult learning classes sponsored by UAF. She played golf at the Fairbanks Country Club and danced in the Pioneer Park dance hall.
Rachel was preceded in death by her husband, Donald D Thomas, her parents, J. Ernest and Henrietta J Weinberg and her brother, Donald E. Weinberg. She is survived by her son, Timothy N. Thomas of Fairbanks, Alaska; son and daughter-in-law, Ted and Lori Thomas of Woodhull, NY; sister, Dorothy Arnold of Anchorage; brother and sister-in-law, Dr. Ernest and Virginia Weinberg of Vancouver, WA; sister-in-law Lillian Weinberg of Denver, CO; grandchildren Ariel and Dylan Thomas, Fairbanks; Jessica, Connor, Erin and Matthew Thomas ofy NY and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
In lieu of flowers, donate to a charity of your choice. A memorial service will be held Saturday, September 21st at the University Presbyterian Church at 1pm led by Pastor Neil McCoy.
Final resting place will be beside her husband in the Veteran’s Section of Hardin, MT Memorial Cemetery.
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