James (Jim) Orrin Thomas Jr.

Category: Obituaries
Created on Wednesday, 07 March 2018 15:07
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James (Jim) Orrin Thomas Jr.


On December 9, 2017, James (Jim) Orrin Thomas Jr. lost his long battle with renal cancer. He passed peacefully, with his two youngest daughters by his side in Cody, Wyoming. He was 73. 

 Jim was born in McMinnville, Oregon, to Vida (Smith) and James O. Thomas Sr. —the second of five children – on May 17, 1944. He was raised in the Willamina and Rosenberg, Oregon, areas. He attended school in Willamina and graduated from Willamina Union High School in 1963.

After graduation, Jim worked as a truck driver throughout the coast and Willamette Valley of Oregon. In 1965, he married his first wife, Joann, and they had twin daughters, Carla and Marlene. 

 Jim soon drove trucks in Southeast Alaska. He moved to Wrangell in 1974 and worked at logging camps. In 1977 he re-settled in Sitka, married Lillian in 1979, and had daughters Katie, Kathy, and Mary.

In Sitka, Jim drove for S&S General Contractors, McGraw Construction and Dawson Construction, and had many union jobs throughout Alaska, most notably helping build the ice roads on the North Slope.

He was a long-standing member of Teamsters 959.

In 2001, Jim was diagnosed with colon cancer. He traveled to Portland, Oregon, for surgery as well as treatment and was soon cleared of his cancer.

Later, Jim rekindled his relationship with his high school sweetheart, Janice. The two lived in Alaska for a few years, then moved to Oregon and traveled around the lower 48. They eventually settled in Lovell, Wyoming, after he was diagnosed with cancer again. He spent the rest of his time there. 

 Jim Thomas was a true Alaskan, enjoying activities such as fishing, clam digging, and hunting. He also attended his girls’ swim meets and softball games. His girls cherish many memories of their dad, including singing carols from their Christmas carol book each Christmas. They often think of how Jim always included them in their work life by showing them where or what he was working on or by taking them with him in the big trucks. When one of them “wanted to ride with Dad” they would pack a lunch and sit on the sidewalk waiting for him to drive by and pick them up. Jim dedicated himself to his family, especially his girls and grandchildren.

Jim’s love of animals showed through with the family pets, the last ones being Luke and Kiara. He would often take them out for walks on trails and took them along on the many adventures he had traveling throughout the lower 48.

He was preceded in death by his parents James and Vida Thomas and beloved dogs, Luke and Kiara.

He is survived by his wife, Janice Thomas, of Lovell, Wyoming; daughters Katie and Kathy Thomas of Sitka, Mary Thomas of Lovell, Wyoming, and Carla and Marlene of Oregon; brothers Gene Jones, Frank Thomas of Gates, Oregon, and David Thomas of Alaska; and sister MariLu (Don) Ely of Washington.

He is also survived by grandchildren Troy, Drew, Kyler, and Kristina Petrey of Peoria, Illinois; Devin and Jade Kubik and Bryson Eddy of Sitka; and many more grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews.


Jim’s final resting place will be with his two dogs near his parents’ burial place in Willamina, Oregon. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m.  Saturday, March 10, with Don Shelton of Willamina Christian Church officiating.