Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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July 7, 2006

Grandparents raising grandkids do it with love


He said he did not make the device full-size, due to the children’s small-size. “When they get older, they’ll be able to push themselves,” Thomas said. “The neighbor kids have helped us to wear it out already.”

The two children have luxuries that Thomas could only dream of when he was child. Born in Athens in 1939, Thomas was raised in the Walton community.

“We never knew we were poor,” he said. “We were extremely hard-working.”

Thomas’s father sold tires, boots and tire re-liners, but did not make much money until the end of World War II.

“All the rubber was going to the boys overseas,” he said. “So, once the war ended, he made some money and bought the place in Walton.”

He attended Walton School District No. 12, and “walked a mile every day through the woods to catch the bus,” he said. The two-room schoolhouse taught eight different grades in one room.

“They lost the school because they couldn’t get 21 kids,” he said. “They had to have a minimum of 21 kids to keep the school open.”

Tragedy struck in 1945 when the family home was destroyed in a fire. “We had gone in town to wash, since we didn’t have electricity,” Thomas said. “The neighbor came and told us the house was gone.”

The family bought another place in Walton, where the children lived until they were old enough to support themselves.

Thomas met his future wife, Mary Ann, in the fall of 1961. “Her mother told her she wasn’t going to marry me,” he said. The two married in March 1962, and had two children, Lisa, born in 1966, and Jason, born in 1968.

“Lisa was the first girl in the history of Henderson County to get a scholarship from the Aggie Club,” he said. She currently lives in Houston, with her son and husband, and works as a CPA.

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