Robert Elwood Thomas, 86, of Ramseur, North Carolina, passed away April 22, 2023, at his home. A service and celebration of his life will be held at Jordan Memorial United Methodist Church, where he was a long-time member, at 1511 Main Street in Ramseur, on Friday, April 28, at 2:00 pm. Officiating, Rev. Chris Smith and Rev. Josh Kurtz.
Bob was born in Asheboro, North Carolina, to Fred and Elinor Thomas. Growing up in Ramseur, Bob spent lots of time fishing and bird hunting, and made lifelong friendships with many of the boys he grew up with. He was very close to his older brother, nicknamed Tom, and grew up close to extended family. Always a hard worker, Bob’s first job was a paper route in Ramseur, which found him rising early to ride his bike delivering papers and collecting subscription money.
He graduated from Ramseur School in 1955, where he played basketball and football (including All County selections in both, he liked to remind his daughter, Amy). It was after a basketball game that a 16-year-old Bob caught the attention of a 15-year-old Martha with the line, “Hey, girl.” Following high school, he completed his undergrad and dental school at UNC-Chapel Hill. His courtship of Martha lasted through high school and college, and they married June 25, 1960. After completing his studies, Bob and Martha moved to Madrid, Spain, where Bob was stationed as an Air Force dentist - he described this as when he flew a dental chair for the Air Force. This three years in Madrid forever impacted them both with a love of travel and adventure, and the friendships they made while there have lasted decades.
When Bob left the Air Force, they moved home to Ramseur where he opened his dental practice in his first office, above the Bank of Coleridge on Main Street. Over the years, his practice grew and his reputation as a detailed and gentle dentist was established. He built a new office in the late 70s, and continued practicing until health concerns forced him to change course in 1989. He loved knowing his patients and their families, and he continued to hear from many over the years (one even wrote a poem about his finesse and skill in her book of poetry!). After leaving dentistry, Bob pursued life with an entrepreneurial spirit, and successfully started several businesses, including a hotel in Warrenton, Virginia, where his daughter and her family live. He managed his family’s timber properties and served on the North Carolina Forestry Advisory Council.
Bob was truly a renaissance man, with a love for literature (particularly Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, MFK Fisher and Mike Gaddis), travel in Europe, F1 racing, time in the woods with his Bernese Mountain Dog, Bert, fly fishing in the North Carolina mountains, bird hunting in Georgia, active in church renovations in the early 80s, and supporting Martha’s love of art. His storytelling skills were unmatched, and his memory was always sharp. Bob adored his grandchildren, Anna Galina and Toly, and he loved spending time with them, whether it was taking them on an incredible trip or teaching them to make something in his basement. Bob was skilled in refinishing furniture, wood carving, making flyrods and tying flies, building frames for Martha’s paintings, creating wildflower gardens, and identifying every type of bird, tree or plant imaginable (long before Google). An avid reader, when macular degeneration made reading more difficult, he quickly converted to the streaming joys of Netflix and spending time with the Yellowstone characters. Bob enjoyed following the Tarheels, but it was hard to top his experience being a student at UNC during the 1957 basketball national championship year, and his memories as a younger boy when Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice was on the football field. Kris Kristofferson was a music favorite for many years, as he loved the storytelling in his song writing.
Bob’s life was rich with friendships of people from all ages and walks of life. He was quick to call and catch up with friends from childhood, college, dental school, Spain, Warrenton and more. When sharing stories with Amy last week, he said to her, “You’re going to wish there was more time to talk.” He was absolutely right.
Survivors include his wife of almost 63 years, Martha Allen Thomas, daughter, Amy Thomas Petty, his grandchildren, Anna Galina Petty and William “Toly” Petty, and beloved nieces, nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. He was predeceased by his parents, his brother Fred “Tom” Thomas, Jr., and son-in-law Glenn Petty.
Martha and Amy thank the many family, friends and neighbors who have shown love through visits, calls and acts of kindness. Special thanks go to neighbor and friend Grant Cheek for his friendship and compassionate care in recent weeks, and to neighbor and friend Jameison Thomas for always lending a hand when one was needed. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Jordan Memorial Methodist Church, P. O. Box 848, Ramseur, NC, 27316.
Condolences may be made online at www.loflinfuneralservice.com.
Arrangements by Loflin Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Ramseur.
To send flowers to the family, please visit our floral store.
Jordan Memorial United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 848, Ramseur NC 27316