Bobby Allen Thomas died on April 19 at the home of his niece, Penny R. Gray at age 83. He was born in Luray in 1937, to parents Florence Mable and Harold Roscoe Thomas Sr.
After graduating from Luray High School in June 1956, Bobby joined the US Army where he served in post-war West Germany. In 1960 Bobby began a thirty-year career in law enforcement when he joined the Richmond, VA Police Department as a patrolman. “walking the beat” as he liked to say, was one of his most memorable positions.
In 1965 Bobby joined the INS/US Border Patrol as a Patrol Inspector assigned to Temecula, CA. In 1970 Bobby transferred to the INS New York City District Office as a Criminal Investigator; he later was promoted to Supervisory Criminal Investigator. Bobby was a graduate of the City University of New York and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he earned his BA degree.
In 1979 Bobby transferred to the INS Washington DC District Office as a Supervisory Criminal Investigator. And finally in 1982, he transferred to the INS Office of Professional Responsibility (Internal Affairs) where he remained as a Senior Special Agent until his “retirement” from the INS in 1987.
After retiring from the INS, Bobby became Police Chief in Luray, VA, his childhood dream, in his childhood hometown. Never satisfied unless on another adventure, subsequently, instead of staying retired, Bobby took on a number of active-duty assignments in the US Army reserve, including a deployment to NATO peacekeeping duty in Bosnia. Before his “final” retirement from the Army Reserve, he achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer (CWO4).
Bobby remained active and adventurous throughout his retirement years. He worked in the Denali National Park in Alaska for two seasons, traveling alone from Luray, VA to Alaska in his Ford pickup truck. He was also a Civilian Border Security advisor on the Iraq-Syrian border for almost two years. At an age when others would have been sitting comfortably on their porch, Bobby was on another adventure.
Bobby was an avid reader, student of history and intrepid traveler. He visited throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. He walked on the Great Wall of China, browsed bookshops in London, climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, and explored the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Bobby was once struck by taxi in Manila, Philippines and spent several weeks in a local Manila hospital with no contact to family or friends, “just another adventure”, he stated! On his last trip at age 80+ he visited ancient ruins in Morocco, Tunisia and Ethiopia.
Bobby is survived by a sister, Loretta A. Thomas of Richmond, VA, numerous nieces and nephews, a gadzillion cousins, loving and honorary sons, Daniel, Gerry, and Jovanny. He had a very large collection of friends throughout the world, all of whom will miss his wit, infectious laugh, and wisdom…
He was proceeded in death by his parents, brothers, – Homer, Harold Jr., Chester, & Kennard, and sisters - Carlos (Peg) Belt, Jenny Kennedy, and Helen Gray.
Bobby was a fiercely loyal friend to those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him and generous to many. On Saturday prior to his death, he said “I’m off to take my greatest adventure of all”.
A joyful “Celebration of Life” will be held in conjunction with the Thomas/Kelly Family Reunion on Sunday, September 26, 2021 at the Lions Club Shelter at Lake Arrowhead, in Luray, VA. If you must, memorial gifts may be donated to any local charity of your choice in his memory.
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