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Denison M. Thomas
June 1, 1924 ~ August 24, 2023 (age 99) 99 Years Old
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Dr. Denison M. Thomas died peacefully at his home on Thursday, August 24th of old age and natural causes. He was 99 years old.
Denison was born in Portland, Oregon on June 1, 1924 to Franklin and Elizabeth Thomas. He spent his youth in Amity, Oregon and moved to Portland for his senior year of high school. He graduated from Franklin High School in 1942.
He enlisted in the army in 1943 and served in France, Austria and Germany. He was awarded the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf cluster as well as several unit citations. He was honorably discharged in 1946. He talked often about his military service and considered it a transformative experience. He was very proud to have served his country.
After his stint in the army, he attended Oregon State University where he was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. After earning his degree at OSU, he was accepted at the University of Oregon Medical School (now, Oregon Health & Science University) and graduated in 1952.
His medical career began at the Multnomah County Hospital in Portland where he was an intern. This was followed by a residency in General Practice at Contra Costa Hospital in Martinez, California.
He married his high school sweetheart, Betty O’Neil in 1951. She preceded him in death in 1973. Together, they had four children: Gregory (Martha McMurry) Portland, Oregon; Dana (Elizabeth Harkins Thomas) West Hartford, Connecticut; Martha (Andrea Toye) Tualatin, Oregon; Laura (David Nanson) Camas, Washington. In addition, Denison has seven grandchildren and six great-grand children. His grandson, Nathan Thomas, died in 1992 at age 12.
Denison practiced family medicine for 40 years in the same clinic- the Prineville Medical Clinic. Early in his career he drove to Mitchell, Oregon one day each week and practiced in a satellite office in what is now the local hotel. He especially enjoyed caring for the elderly folks in Mitchell who were so grateful to have “Doc Thomas” come to town. As a family physician, he estimated that he had delivered 100’s of babies over his career. He was past president of the Central Oregon Medical Society and served for many years as a trustee on the board of Blue Shield of Oregon.
Even after his retirement in 1994 he continued to volunteer in a medical capacity. He was active in home hospice and even had a weekly radio show called, “Your Health Matters”, which was carried on the local radio station, KRCO. He was able to participate in a medical mission trip to the island of Borneo with his wife, Sarah. He also served as ombudsman to local nursing homes.
Following the death of his first wife Betty, Denison married Betty O’let. They later divorced. He then met and married Sarah Spangler in 1993. She preceded him in death in 2008.
Denison had many interests. He loved photography. But he is rarely pictured in any family photographs as he was always behind the lens. Every family birthday, vacation and even backyard picnics were well-documented.
He also had a love of the outdoors. He enjoyed the many opportunities for hunting and fishing in Central Oregon. He participated in several trail rides, although he preferred to walk rather than ride. Closer to home, his outdoor activities often included an early morning tennis match with friends.
He was an avid reader, a habit he developed in his boyhood and that lasted his entire life. He was often reading 2-3 books at the same time with history books being his foremost interest. That love of history carried over to his everyday life; he was active in the Crook County Historical Society and was a past president of the society. In fact, several artifacts from his medical clinic practice are on display in Prineville’s Bowman Museum.
He also loved cars. Buying cars, driving cars and watching car races. Drives in the country with the family were part of growing up. One of his favorite drives was a loop through Twickenham, Oregon which led to the Painted Hills. The return route was through his beloved Mitchell, Oregon. Always with his camera in tow.
Perhaps his greatest feeling of accomplishment, however, was his four children. He was immensely proud of each one of them. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren were similarly adored.
A family-only funeral will be held on September 16, 2023 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal church in Prineville. Interment will be at Juniper Haven cemetery. The public is invited to a celebration of life on October 22, 2023 at the Prineville Country Club at 1:00 p.m. (7120 NE Ochoco Hwy, Prineville, Oregon).
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to:
The Bowman Museum
Meals on Wheels