October 6, 1939 – August 31, 2018
Bernice Thomas was born on October 6, 1939 in Washington, D.C. At the age of six, she and her family settled in Brooklyn, NY, where she spent her time as a child and teenager. Bernice passed away in Wichita, KS on Friday afternoon, August 31, 2018.
She was preceded in death by her twin baby brothers, her sister Hattie Mae Paige, her brother Booker J. Amaker and her mother Martha Amaker. She is survived by her husband Joseph Thomas, her four sons Joseph Thomas Jr.(wife - Jeri), Shawn Thomas of San Diego, CA, Gavin Thomas, and Tim Thomas. Her granddaughter Adrianna Seward (husband - Justin), and two great granddaughters Olivia and Chloe, and her sister Peggy Redd of Somerset, NJ, as well as a host of other relatives and friends.
Bernice came from humble beginnings. Her mother was a single parent who worked very hard to support herself and her family. Bernice learned the importance of family values from her mother and carried those strong values with her for her entire life.
After graduating from high school, she worked for Grossman Clothier on 5th Avenue operating business machines and issuing checks to their suppliers. She would walk to and from the subway station. During one of her walks, in early 1957, she passed in front of a dry cleaners where she caught the eye of a handsome Virginia farm boy who recently moved to Brooklyn to manage one of his aunt's businesses.
Joseph (Joe) asked a young boy who did errands for the cleaners to deliver a message to this pretty young girl that he wanted to meet her. She said she didn't talk to strangers and the message came back to her that if she told him her name, they would no longer be strangers.
Soon thereafter they started to date and as things started to get serious, Joe was drafted to serve in the armed forces and chose to join the Air Force. After basic training in Texas, Joe returned to take Bernice with him to his new assignment at Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, LA. They were married January 14, 1958.
Their first son, Joe Jr., was born while on a trip to visit family in Brooklyn in the fall of that year.
This young family moved to Wichita, KS where Joe was assigned to McConnell AFB . Their family continued to grow with the births of Shawn, then Gavin and finally Tim. Bernice loved her family deeply and cared for her boys and husband like a mother hen. She loved being a homemaker and embraced her responsibilities as a wife and mother.
In 1959, Bernice met her neighbor, Doris Dozier. They immediately made a connection and she volunteered to watch Doris' children while Doris went to the store. Doris then asked Bernice if she studied the Bible and scheduled a time for her and her husband Billy to visit Joe and Bernice.
Joe and Bernice enjoyed what they learned from the Bible and started to study with the Doziers, who were Jehovah's Witnesses.
Joe and Bernice were baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses in the early 1960's and became a part of a worldwide family of millions. They became a part of the local congregation and over the decades made close friends with many from surrounding congregations.
Bernice was never too shy to confess her faith and to help others learn the truth about Jehovah God and his son Jesus. She rarely missed an opportunity to witness in some form or fashion to those she interacted with on a daily basis.
Bernice was the quintessential conversationalist, a nice way of saying she loved to talk. Everyone who knew her said she immediately engaged them on their first encounter and wanted to know about them and their family and would not forget any of the details.
Bernice loved to dance and enjoyed music of various genres. She and her husband enjoyed gardening and canning their produce and sharing it with others.
Finally, her son gave her one of her greatest joys, a baby granddaughter named Adrianna, and they spent many happy hours together, including being the perfect tea party partners.
As time passed this special girl brought Bernice two more precious presents, great granddaughters Olivia and Chloe. She spent many happy times watching them thrive and play. Even though the family was of humble means, they always found something to share materially or spiritually with others. In doing so she gained many spiritual "children".
We would like to thank everyone who has shared in encouraging her during these final months of her illness. She felt your love and always appreciated your words and prayers.
- Visitation Wednesday, September 5, 2018
- Memorial Service Thursday, September 6, 2018
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September 7, 2018
Bernice loved telling her love story about how she and brother Thomas met. Her eyes would light up with a big smile on her face. Bernice was a wonderful cook and she and Joe would bring delicious collard greens, super moist turkey, tender meaty BBQ spare ribs or her special scrumptious pot of chicken and dumplings. When there were Gatherings at my home Bernice would get up and dance inviting everyone to join her. We all enjoyed her vivacious spirit and her love for Jehovah. Bernice will be missed but Jehovah's love of mankind will allow all of us to be United together again.
September 5, 2018
Bernice started my love of pins and brooches. I was around 11 or 12 when I complimented one that she was wearing and she told me that my outfit would look much better with a pin. I wasn’t sure but she looked very convinced that I shouldn’t have left the house without one. It’s led to a healthy collection for someone in their early 40s but I’m never without one when the outfit calls for it.
September 4, 2018
I'd known Bernice and the Thomas family since the early 1970's. She was always so nice, loving and encouraging.
I will miss her greatly, as will so many.
The congregation will not be the same without her. I say to the family, hold your memories close, as they'll bring happiness and to keep the resurrection hope closer as she'll one day soon be awakened healthy with no suffering and sickness. I send my love to you all.
September 4, 2018
I didn’t know her for long, but it was long enough to love her dearly. Always smiling despite any discomfort and thinking about the other person. Always had a kind word to share. I will miss seeing her sitting in the last row with her love, Joe. Long to see her young and vibrant as I can see she was! Love all of you her family.
September 3, 2018
September 2, 2018
I remember one the of my 1 st get together with The Thomas family, I was pretty shy so Iam in a corner . And Iam listening the family are all talking at the same time it was awesome, They all understanding what each other saying I could not keep up. And Bernice was head the conversation. I will greatly miss you, I well be so happy to see you again in the new system . Love you
September 2, 2018
(This poem was written by her husband, Joe Thomas)
I am known as "GG", "Bunk" and "Maw"
So call me if you need a helping paw
While some seem always to be in a hurry
Rather for me it seems I tend to worry
It is about this or that one thing or the other
Don't laugh if you think it's silly-I'm a mother
Doing what mothers regularly do
I have plenty of love to see me through
So settle down don't be a sap
If love doesn't work I'll give you a loving slap
So settle down you well adjusted few
Give me time to make it through
If what I say makes no sense at all
It's because I was fast asleep when you called
Now that I am awake and can clearly hear
I pretended to be asleep so you would come near
Now that we are face to face
We each can now see our proper place
Looking out after one another
There you will find a still worried mother
It's our assignment it would seem
Always giving more than our means
In the end it's not what you say
Just bringing the best out of others that they not stray
Mother is always there as flowers bloom in May
There is no such thing as "Mother's Day"-It's "Mother's Way".