Don Roger Thomas died June 30, 2021, at his home away from home, the Cove House. In 1943 Don was born in Lincoln, NE. to Marilyn “Peg” and Floyd Thomas. Don was the youngest of three. His youth was spent delivering newspapers with his beloved dog Penny and working hard to earn his Eagle Scout Award. At Lincoln High School he was a “Mer-man” on the synchronizing swim team and played football. According to his high school yearbook comments, he had a fun “social life”! After graduating in 1961 he was enlisted into the United States Navy by his mom … hmmm wonder why? After his stint in the Navy, Don attended College and worked for the State Highway Dept. Don graduated from UNL in 1971 with a degree in Civil Engineering. He then began working for the State of Nebraska Roads Dept as an inspector on the new interstate system and designing bridges. In 1976 he began working for Lancaster County as the Construction Engineer. In just 6 short years, in 1981 his mentor Marv Nurenberger retired and appointed Don as a new County Engineer. Don held that elected position for 32 years! Don has scrapbooks filled with articles and photos documenting the county’s growth over the years, including Dons designs of the new Lancaster County Engineering Dept/Maintenance facility buildings on Cherrycreek Road. County Surveyor Larry Worrell said in ’88 “We are being the leaders in the state” because Don, Larry and crew were the first county in Nebraska to install GPS, this technology was new and exciting for Don. Can you imagine life without GPS?
As County Engineer Don had received numerous awards among those were “Admiral in the Great Navy of Nebraska” presented by, Governor Heineman and Nebraska County Employee of the Year. He was a member of the Nebraska County Highway Superintendents and Engineers Association. One of his favorite times of the year was the Associations yearly convention, which Don was honored by the title given to the golf tournament… “The Don Thomas Memorial Horse Turd Golf Tournament”. The Trophy is displayed in his son’s office.
To our knowledge there were only two women in his life that kept him in line... Candy his “Office wife” of 32 years and his “Nurse Rachet…” Diane at the Cove. Well done ladies and greatly appreciated.
Outside of his professional life Don was interested in swimming, golf, attending grandkids sporting events and a real love and talent for woodwork. He enjoyed fishing only in Canada with dear friends and a bottle of beer at 9 a.m.
After 8 years of methodically planning and prepping only like Don would do, he finally married his best friend, Carol on her 40th birthday. Don knew he was taking on more than just a marriage but becoming a role model and father figure to Carols kids. Later, he said his biggest surprise about being a stepparent, was the fact he fell in love with the kids. With 17 grandkids and 5 great grandkids, Don LOVED being a Papa, he would wrestle with his grandkids until they got tired. He taught them how to swim and cook his famous goulash.
Don’s older brother Larry (Judy) was a real “mentor” to him. He taught him how to skip church and not let mom know! Their game of tag lasted years.
Son-Dan McKee (Cindy) once said of Don. “I have two dads, one taught me how to work hard and the other taught me how to work smart.
Daughter-Shannon Lewis (Kevin) I was a daughter not by blood, but through love I cherished him every day. He was always there for me, and he taught me what a dad was supposed to be, so I did not have to wonder.
Daughter-Jodie Pike (Neil) Don taught me to stand up for what I thought was right and not look at someone as less than you. Ps you still owe me some movies!!!
Son-Matt McKee, He was the dad he did not have to be, and he did it well!
Candy Hunt, office manage for 32 yrs. Don was a great boss, a mentor but most of all he was a good friend. His wit and sense of humor will be greatly missed.
Nieces Karen and Diane, nephews David, Tom and Jon also loved their Uncle Don.
Preceded in death, his parents, His beloved sister Pat and his in-law parents Carl and Dee.
Later, this summer when all the kids can gather…we will be spreading his ashes. In lieu of a memorial, please pay it forward to someone just for fun!
As most of you know he had Parkinson, spinal stenosis but an infection that he just could not beat was the final for him.
Famous sayings “when pigs fly” and “get your ducks in a row”
His favorite place to eat…anywhere mother-in-law Dee is cooking.
Favorite treat, sister-in-law Nancy’s “dunking cookies”.
But his most prized possession was his integrity!
One day while don and I were floating around in our pool, I must have been extra chatty and he said to me “Carol, it’s ok to be quiet.” Love you Don.