James M. Thomas

Sep 04, 2018
James Thomas

Camden — James McKenzie “Mac” Thomas was born in Worcester, Mass., Jan. 2, 1947, and died Sept. 1, 2018, at the age of 71 surrounded by his family at Sussman House in Rockport following an extended battle with terminal brain cancer.

Mac was the son of James E. Thomas, and Bertha Mae Spofford Thomas of Holden, Mass., both deceased. Mac is survived by his wife of 34 years, Mary Beth Leone Thomas, and his three adult children, Evan Paul Thomas, Maria Lenore Thomas and Elena Rose Thomas, as well as his brother, Paul Thomas, and sister-in-law, Betsy Sowers, of South Weymouth, Mass., along with many sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, cousins and extended family in the Worcester, Mass., area and elsewhere.

Mac was blessed with a happy childhood. He was welcomed joyfully, and was soon joined by his younger brother, Paul. From his babyhood, his parents noted his uncanny and persistent interest in all things mechanical. His mother commented that she would never leave a screwdriver lying around because he loved taking everything apart, including in-use radios and cameras.

His intrinsic need to understand the inner workings of things would serve him well throughout his life. During high school, he became interested in fast cars, engines and auto repair. This was the first of many areas in which he would develop proficiency.

His love of cars brought him as a freshman to General Motors Institute in Detroit to study engineering. His instructors were puzzled by a young man who demonstrated a love of his humanities classes -- a rarity at GMI. Mac was a lover of knowledge, how things work, political history, nature and creating an equitable society.

As a young college graduate, Mac objected to the war in Vietnam and took part in anti-war demonstrations, including multiple marches in Washington, D.C.

With a desire to serve his country and make a difference, he first thought being a teacher was his calling. He soon grew frustrated with being a classroom disciplinarian, but only after completing his master's degree in education from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

He was interested in community organization, and in the mid 1970s, he found himself as the director of a Detroit-area community center. This positive experience led him to attend Wayne State University in Detroit to complete a second master's in social work, the field which proved to be his professional calling.

After getting married and permanently settling in Camden in 1983, Mac ran a treatment program for years while also maintaining a private counseling practice in Rockport.

He then worked for 15 years as a social worker at the Maine State Prison, and was proud of his efforts to provide behavioral health services to those serving time.

In 2010, he joined his wife while fulfilling her dream of living in Europe. While living in Germany for three years, Mac first enjoyed working in an Army Post Recreational Facility, where he helped beginners craft birdhouses and operate machinery. He was then employed by a federal contractor, providing mental health counseling services for active-duty personnel. He and his wife also toured the German countryside on his Buell motorcycle, seeking a good spot to enjoy a German pilsner.

During all this time, he remained deeply interested in history and the political climate of his country and the world.

For fun, he would pit himself against crossword puzzles, and respond to online articles in the New York Times to bask in the personal glory of often making "Editor's Pick." Mac could be stubborn and principled, and would often get himself in trouble for being a bit too honest. He was known for his sarcastic wit and cynicism towards pretentiousness.

Mac possessed the knowledge necessary to build a house from the ground up, and was skilled with carpentry, wiring, plumbing and gardening. When asked how he become so competent in so many technical areas, his response was simple: "I take the time to read the manuals, even when they are technical and boring, I watch people who know what they are doing, and I ask questions.”

Mac was most proud of his role as a father and adored his three children. He found humor in sporting a custom-embroidered cap and sweatshirt emblazoned with “Average Dad,” a subtle dig at those who would purport to be “World’s Greatest.” In spite of his self-deprecation, spending time as a family with this children was his number-one source of happiness, and his success as a devoted father was beyond question.

In the spring of 2017, when Mac knew his days were numbered, he led a family RV trip across California, which included visits to Yosemite, Joshua Tree, San Francisco, and Malibu. That summer, he traveled with his family to the UK, to celebrate his youngest daughter’s graduation from university and to hike in the Welsh mountains of his forebears.

As the family patriarch, Mac loved being “Captain of the Ship” and never failed to competently command “his crew.” Although his executive directives were sometimes met with groans, faith in his leadership was never misplaced.

Mac loved the outdoors, especially hiking, taking his boat on Penobscot Bay, and going on long walks with his dogs in the Camden Hills, or visiting his human and canine friends at the PAWS Community Dog Park. Mac loved the egalitarian nature of the dog park, where the simple love of dogs brought people from all walks of life together.

When at home, he could be found leaned back in his computer chair with a curled-up cat warming his lap.

Taking a cue from the European model of open access to public walkways which he experienced in Germany, in his retirement Mac worked diligently on the Camden-Rockport Pathways Committee, and spent many tedious hours writing grants to complete the mission of open access for all. This led the town of Camden recently to honor Mac for his work with the Pathways Committee, and to place a memorial bench in his honor.

Mac will be greatly missed by all who loved him. The family would like to thank Dr. Christine Lu Emerson for her compassionate care and advocacy, as well as the extremely kind and supportive staff of Sussman House.

On Saturday, Sept. 15, the family will be available for visitation at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church, 11 Union St., Camden, with a funeral prayer service at 11. A reception will follow in the church hall.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center - Dog Park at 123 John St., Camden, ME 04843 or Pathways Committee, Town of Camden, specific Pathways Com.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Reade Brower | Sep 04, 2018 22:15

Every other time I hiked in the Camden Hills, I ran into Mac hiking with his faithful dog. What a wonderful person. We are SO sorry for your loss. -Martha Brower



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 04, 2018 16:32

Gone too soon. A man who taught what he believed by taking action that left it's mark on many. A thoughtful, encouraging human being. St. Peter will certainly say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."



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