Jack Grant Thomas

March 10, 1941 ~ February 6, 2024 (age 82) 82 Years Old


Jack G. Thomas passed away on February 6, 2024, in Kalispell, Montana, surrounded by his loving family after a courageous battle with multiple myeloma. He was born on March 10, 1941, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, to the late Jack and Katharine Thomas.

Growing up as the son of a WWII Marine and a nurse, Jack embraced a childhood filled with sports, hunting, and fishing in the Pennsylvania mountains. It was during his years at Pennsbury High School that Jack's passion for aviation took flight. Enlisting in the United States Navy at the age of 17, Jack embarked on a journey that would shape the rest of his life.

Jack, along with two friends, attended basic training between his junior and senior year of high school. Jack and one of those friends trained as jet engine mechanics. The other friend trained in parachute packing which later earned the three boys some headlines in the Fairless Hills newspaper.

One of the boys knew a guy who owned a small airplane. They convinced the pilot to take them up in the plane and let them jump out using three parachutes that one of the boys brought back (with permission) from Navy parachute school. Jack said they had to pull the rip cords immediately upon departing the plane. This brought local traffic to a standstill and not long after a newspaper crew arrived and began taking pictures of the boys. Needless to say, there were three sets of very upset parents by the time the story hit the press the next day.

After graduating from Pennsbury High School in 1959, Jack pursued higher education at Slippery Rock University, majoring in education with a focus on math and physics. His achievements on the track and soccer field garnered him recognition, earning him a spot in the Slippery Rock University Soccer Ring of Honor in 2017.

Accelerating through college, Jack was immediately accepted into Navy pilot training at NAS Pensacola. Graduating first in his class, he went on to complete advanced fighter school in Texas, followed by training in the A-4C Skyhawk in California. Serving as a fighter pilot in the United States Navy from 1963-1970, Jack amassed an impressive record, including 238 combat missions over North Vietnam and 400 carrier landings.

In 1970, Jack transitioned to a new chapter in his life, relocating his family to Reno, Nevada. As a high school math and physics teacher and wrestling coach, he continued to make a difference in the lives of his students. Persistence paid off when he earned a pilot position in the Nevada Air National Guard, eventually reaching the rank of Colonel. Jack truly admired and cared for the flight deck, crew chiefs and maintenance personnel on the carriers from which he flew and in the Air Guard. They were friends and on a first name basis at work and afterward.

Jack's passion for flying extended beyond military service, as he became a pilot for Pan American Airways and Delta Air Lines. Additionally, his involvement in the Reno National Championship Air Races, where he served as "Air Boss" for 16 years, highlighted his enduring commitment to aviation.

Settling in Kalispell, Montana, with his wife Deanna, Jack embraced a life surrounded by the beauty of Flathead Lake. A man of few words, Jack's love for family, friends, and flying spoke volumes. His dedication to his faith was evident in his active role at Polson Community Church, where he served until illness intervened.

Jack's legacy lives on through his wife Deanna, son Reed (Ingrid), daughter Julie (Tom), stepchildren Gary, Don, and Dionne, sister Carol Hellings (Ed), brother Craig (Mary), and a blended family of nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Jack is also survived by Sally Thomas, the mother of Reed and Julie.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date, honoring the life of Jack G. Thomas.

Acknowledging the outstanding care he received, the Thomas family extends heartfelt gratitude to the oncology staff at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim 4:7

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