OBITUARY

Charles F. "Charlie" Thomas

September 7, 1931January 15, 2021

Charles F. “Charlie” Thomas, loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather passed away on Friday, the 15th of January 2021, at the age of 89, due to health complications from Covid-19.

He is preceded in death by the love of his life Kittsie Thomas; parents, Oliver and Mary Evelyn “Polly” Thomas; and brother, Jim Fulton. He is survived by his daughters, Kelly Thomas Alexander (Michael), Robin Thomas Klaes (Danny), and Tracy Thomas Everist (Jeff); his cherished grandchildren, Tristan Schmidt (Mikelle), Chaz Klaes (Tany), Dakota Klaes (Joanna), Kittsie Klaes, Adam Everist, Mason Everist, Troy Everist, and Drake Everist; and as he said often his most brilliant great-grandchildren, Mary Frances Klaes and Charlie Thomas Klaes.

Charlie lived the American Dream. Born on the 7th of September 1931, into a blue-collar working-class family in South Knoxville, Tennessee during the Great Depression, he grew up observing the hard, long, and difficult work of his parents to put a roof over he and his brother’s head and food on the table. He would say later in life “he did not like being poor.” At the age of 20, Charlie would put it “I had no degree and no experience in anything. I had a high school education, my past jobs included being an usher in a movie theater, working in my father’s woodworking business, and bagging food in the local grocery store.” But he knew his life had to change because he found himself falling in love with then 16-year-old larger than life Kitts Bertha, the next-door neighbor’s babysitter. As a devoted reader of the newspaper (which he remained dedicated to until the day he died) he responded to an ad one morning in the summer of 1951 for an Oldsmobile parts pickup/delivery person position which changed the direction of his life forever.

Over the next 20 years Charlie would combine his God given talent for numbers, recall, salesmanship, and risk taking, to learn the car business. Working his way up from running parts, selling used and new vehicles, managing lots, to finally purchasing his first dealership in Baytown, Texas in 1967, Corpus Christi in 1970, and finally Houston in 1972. Along this path, which included a short call by Uncle Sam to serve between 1954 thru 1956 at a Georgia Army base, he would credit Kittsie’s support, and the countless amazing mentors and friends who shared their wisdom including John Echols, long time childhood friend Bill Munday, and San Antonio’s own Red McCombs for his success in the car business. In 1970, with his wife Kittsie and three daughters, Charlie would be put to the test once again. That June, his family would celebrate the Grand Opening of the 2nd Ford dealership back in Corpus Christi only for it to be literally destroyed by Hurricane Celia two months later. Sound familiar Houston Rockets fans of 1987? He would say later he did not know “if I was broke or not.” With the support of family, his drive, and willingness to work long hours, he took a lemon and made lemonade. The storm, which had destroyed his new dealership, had also devastated the entire coast and people needed cars. Ford sent new vehicles as fast as they could, while Charlie went north to buy as many used cars as he could get his hands on to provide for the customers who desperately needed vehicles.

By 1991 Charlie had transformed the auto dealer industry by becoming a multi brand dealer, accumulating a network of automobile franchises across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Colorado. He pioneered the idea a dealer could love and sell both a Ford and Chrysler-Plymouth, and everyone would benefit. His joy came from selling his customers the cars they wanted to buy regardless of the manufacturer. During this twenty-year span, he would also venture into the banking, oil and gas, hotels, movies, restaurants (didn’t you love those Charlie T’s lemon pepper zucchini strips), real estate, and of course his beloved ownership of the Houston Rockets between 1982 thru 1993 (Charlie and Kittsie loved those Rockets and the Rocket Fans).

In his 89 years on this earth, he accomplished much. He was proud to call Houston home and all its residence his extended family. Charlie was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (www.eihonors.org/about), honored as one of Houston’s Men of Distinction (http://menofdistinction.org/mission/), and inducted into the Texas Auto Dealers Hall of Fame. He would often reflect that his partnerships were key to his success. “Picking the right people is always the answer.” His motto in life was always make an honest sale because you need repeat customers, consider the other persons perspective, and try to help them get what they want, too.

Charlie would also say his greatest achievements in life was his 61-year marriage to Kittsie, seeing each of his three wonderful daughters Kelly, Robin and Tracy graduate from college and make their own successful marks in the community, taking trips and sharing stories with his seven grandsons, enjoying his favorite granddaughter’s baked treats, and having his two great grandchildren spend the night with him.

The entire Thomas family would like to thank the countless unknown men and women at Methodist Hospital who were our surrogate caregivers for Charlie in his final days. We are confident you did all you could to comfort him.

Charlie, we all will miss your daily call with the proverbial “What are you doing”, sharing a meal at Grace’s in your favorite booth, listening to you tell a joke, getting our tails kicked in Gin repeatedly, and hearing you shuffle off to bed with the final “Good Night” as you turned the corner. Well, goodbye for now, you lived your life well, we are sure Kittsie had another Thomas style welcome party when you arrived. God Bless!

Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from five o’clock in the afternoon until eight o’clock in the evening on Wednesday, the 20th of January, in the library and grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

A memorial service is to be conducted at two o’clock in the afternoon on Thursday, the 21st of January, at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Martin J. Bastian, Vice-Rector, will officiate.

KINDLY NOTE: for the health and safety of all guests, current state and local health protocols requiring social distancing and the wearing of facemasks are being strictly enforced at both events. Due to the attendance restriction of 125 persons at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, it is encouraged that those who are able attend the service virtually via livestream.

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in his name be directed to the Houston Food Bank at 535 Portwall Street, Houston, TX, 77029; or to the charity of one’s choice.

Services

  • Visitation with the Family

    Wednesday, January 20, 2021

  • Memorial Service

    Thursday, January 21, 2021

    VIEW VIDEO

Memories

Charles F. "Charlie" Thomas

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
WARREN TAFT

July 8, 2021

I MEET CHARLIE THRU LEE MAJORS...AT A BAR EATRY IN MALIBU, CA. WHEN THE ROCKETS PLAYED THE LAKERS...AND BECAME NBA CHAMPS..HE WAS VERY NICETO ME AND ALSO HAD TICKETS TO GAMES WHEN I WAS HOME VISITING MY FAMILY IN KATY, TX.. THE THING THAT REALLY IS STRANGE; HE DIED ON MY BITRHDAY.....WOW!!!!TO ALL HIS FAMILY ; I JUST WANT TO LET YOU GUYS KNOW THAT YOU ARE IN MY PRAYERS...AND IF ONE OF HIS SONS OR SON N LAWS WAS THERE IN MALIBU; GIVE ME A CALL 3104032690...I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE SOMETHING THAT HE TOLD ME...GOD BLESS!!

Ryan Kirkpatrick

January 23, 2021

I met Charlie almost a decade ago. He would often drive by my dealerships on his way out West which would prompt him to call me and give me the rundown of what was sold on my front line or when it was moved. He had an incredible knack for detail and building relationships. He would stop in the store sometimes to just walk around and say hello to everyone. There was no air about him at all, just humility and humanity.
Like for all of us, Charlie holds a very special place in my heart. He was a friend, mentor, and someone who I cherished for his advice and guidance in business, which he imparted willingly and passionately. He made me feel like I was family and treated my family like we were part of his. I feel incredibly honored to have known him in this capacity. I will certainly miss lunches with him and Mike in Columbus or in Houston at his favorite places. I was fortunate to spend quality time with him at dinner at Gracie’s in his reserved booth.
His service was so special and a flood of emotions. I teared up when they started playing “Amazing Grace,” because that was the song my mother chose at her service. Hearing Danny talk about his life and values put a smile on my face and has inspired me to follow those principles as well. Thank you, Charlie. You will be missed.

Clinton Holmes

January 21, 2021

I met Charlie (he always insisted I call him Charlie not Mr. Thomas) in 1982 when I was 6 years old. My dad was Charlie’s Chief pilot and every once in a while I was allowed to ride on the plane and go fishing at his ranch. In 2011 I became Charlie’s pilot. Charlie again invited me to fish at his ranch, eat at his house, and sit next to him at the car auction. These may sound like little things, but to me, these small acts of kindness were what Charlie was all about. He was a great person to work for and be around. I loved him, I loved flying him, and I loved being a small part of his life.
Hearing Danny tell the story about Charlie and neck ties made me tear up... we used to wear ties when we flew the Thomas family and about 5 years ago Charlie said “you don’t need a tie to fly us.”
Charlie never missed a chance to ask how I was doing, how my family was doing, and he always asked, “you been fishing lately” followed by, “you need to get out to my place and catch some fish.”
Charlie left a great legacy in his family and friends. Charlie made the world a better place and he was an iconic figure in the city of Houston.
I will miss Charlie, and I will never forget his kindness and the example he set for others to follow. Rest In Peace dear sir, you lived a good life.

Clinton Holmes
Chief Pilot
Gulf Coast Aviation

Dr. Carolyn Farb, hc

January 21, 2021

I will never forget when Harold and I lived in Tanglewood on Crab Orchid and Charlie gifted my son, Jake Kenyon Shulman with a Golden Retriever which we named "Charlie" who brought us much joy.

May you rest in peace and remembrance for all the many kindnesses you have shared with others. God Bless You
Carolyn

Tommy and Randi Magliaro

January 21, 2021

Charlie's friendship was an unexpected gift to our lives. We will treasure our memories of him forever. He has been a friend, a mentor, and a guardian angel since 1984. He remembered all the details of our life, and without judgement, guided Tommy, showing him how to live in the moment. We can smile through our tears, hearing him laugh at his own jokes -- even when he messed up the punchline! There remains a hole in our hearts -- missing him.

PURVIS SHORT

January 21, 2021

Our deepest sympathy and prayers to the Thomas family; Charlie will be deeply missed. Although I am incredibly saddened to hear of Charlie’s passing, I will always cherish the lunches we shared and his friendship. He had a significant impact on my life, and I thank God for allowing our paths to cross.

My family and I wish you peace that brings comfort, the courage to face the days ahead, and the loving memories to forever hold in your heart. May the good memories see you through the difficult times ahead.

Love forever,
Purvis Short & Family

Bob and Charlene Westrup

January 21, 2021

Charlie, you will truly be missed! You were a great boss, mentor and partner. It has always been one of my greatest privileges of being associated with you. May you rest in peace!

Mark Woods

January 21, 2021

I will remain forever grateful and appreciative for the opportunity Charlie bestowed upon me, and honored to have received his time, guidance and support later on.

Magnanimity thy name is Charlie Thomas. Godspeed, kind sir.

Todd Deveau

January 21, 2021

Charlie Thomas was the model patriarch of all patriarchs. He was loved and will be missed by so many. What an amazing and inspiring life he led!

Maria H Ruiz-Lopez

January 20, 2021

Charlie and Kittsie, you have left a large wonderful imprint of your earthly journey that shows what it means to Love, Embrace and Respect all those that you brought into your home and your life. You humbly shared how proud you were of your Beautiful Family and rightly so. It was my honor to have been a part of your life and to be included in the many wonderful journeys you shared. You will be greatly missed and Remembered. To all the Precious Thomas Family, may God provide you Peace in your hearts as you Treasure the Beautiful Memories you carry of Charlie and Kittsie in your hearts and embark on the new Era of your earthly journey. Sending Love to All, Maria Ruiz-Lopez

FROM THE FAMILY