BARBARA A. “ANNIE” THOMAS
1932-2023 Barbara Anna Ryan was born January 20, 1932, to Lester Franklin and Mildred Lenore (Nelson) Ryan in St. Joseph, Missouri. She grew up on a farm near St. Joe, attended Oak Grove rural school and then graduated from Central High School in St. Joseph. Annie went on to the University of Missouri in Columbia and earned her bachelor’s degree in Home Economics. She participated in many activities at school and was named Farmer’s Fair Queen her freshman year and Show-Me Queen as a Senior.
Annie married Neal R. Thomas on June 27, 1953, at Zion Lutheran Church in St. Joseph. Since Neal was in the Air Force, they lived at two Air Force bases before settling in Auburn, Nebraska in 1956. They were blessed with five children: Dennis R., Douglas R., David R., Dale R., and Leslie.
She and Neal owned and operated the Thomas Distributing Company beer distributorship, and when Neal passed away on February 22, 1978, Annie took over the day-to-day operations. The business was a member of the Nebraska Beer Wholesalers Assn., where Annie served as President as well as in other capacities. After selling the distributorship, Annie continued all her many endeavors and found time to join the team at Hemmingsen Funeral Home.
She was a member of the Auburn Christian Church and belonged to the Naomi Circle in addition to helping with other church activities. Annie not just joined, but was active in, Auburn Eagles, Legion Auxiliary, Kiwanis, Auburn Chamber of Commerce and Ambassadors, Senior Center Board, Keep Auburn Beautiful, 11&1 Bridge Club, and many other organizations.
Annie also participated in city government, serving on the Council for 8 years and as Mayor for another 8 years. As an offshoot from this work, she belonged to the Nebraska League of Municipalities and served as President of the organization. Another civic duty she fulfilled was serving on the jury for the Wounded Knee Trial, and in true Annie fashion was the jury foreman.
Annie was diagnosed with colon cancer in January of 2022. Although her prognosis was not good, she wasn’t quite ready to leave her earthly family. She did move from her longtime 16th Street home to Good Samaritan Society-Auburn and from there to Longs Creek Assisted Living. When the cancer rose again, Annie moved back to Good Sam in early February 2023. It was there she joined her heavenly family, including her husband Neal, son Dale, her parents and in-laws, brother Jack Ryan, sister Emelia “Micky” (EW) Raasch, and sister-in-law Dee (Bob) Humphrey, on Monday, February 13, 2023, just 24 days after celebrating her 91st birthday.
Among the many who honor Annie’s life here on Earth and rejoice in her moving on to Heaven are her sons and daughters-in-law Dennis and Dianne of Kenosha, WI; Doug and Diana of Omaha; Dave and Susan of Beatrice; daughter and son-in-law Leslie Thomas and Jeff Bratrsovsky of Auburn; daughter-in-law Suzzy Thomas of Auburn; grandchildren Alicia (Thad) Wagner. Ian (Hester Struben) Thomas, Hillary (Dan) Blayney, Nathan (Tricia) Thomas, Dustin (Jalanea) Thomas, Holly Thomas (Gabriel) Cisneros, Katy (John) Billings, Ryan Thomas; 16 great-grandchildren; sister Melody (Norman) Boring; sisters-in-law Barbara (John) George and Raphael Ryan; other relatives and many friends.
A funeral service was Monday, February 20, 2023, at the Auburn Christian Church, with Rev. Nate Powell officiating. Janell Janssen was accompanist for a solo by Rick Janssen and congregational singing. Casket bearers were Thad Wagner, Ian Thomas, Nate Thomas, Dan Blayney, Dustin Thomas, Gabriel Cisneros, Ryan Thomas, and John Billings.
Honorary bearers were Alicia Wagner, Hester Struben, Hillary Blayney, Tricia Thomas, Jalanea Thomas, Holly Thomas- Cisneros, Katy Billings, Roger Vogel, Steve Kelsay, John Trayer, and Bob Hemmingsen. Helen Casey, Pat Jarvis, and Marilyn Coatney served as flower attendants. Burial followed in Sheridan Cemetery at Auburn.
Services were entrusted to Hemmingsen Funeral Home of Auburn.