An inspiration to the St. Paul Lutheran school and church as well as the Farmington community lost his long, hard fought battle with ALS on Monday.
Craig Thomas was 34. All who knew him said he never complained and fought hard.
St. Paul Lutheran School Principal Andy Sherrill said he and Craig had known each other for a long time. He was a year younger than Craig but they went to St. Paul together and were on the swim team together.
“As long as I am at St. Paul students will hear the story of Craig and what an inspiration he is to others. It is important for others to hear his story because he’s a true hero of the faith,” said Sherrill.
Sherrill said students are handling the situation differently, but with the help of God’s word and prayer they are trying to do anything they can to support the Thomas family. Craig’s nephews attend St. Paul, and his sister-in-law, Tanya, works there and many of the students know her.
“I think God allows challenges to build character. To say ‘why me’ would be kind of untrusting of what God wants to accomplish with my life. My strong heart and my strong will come from God. Without it I could not exist,” reads a quote from Thomas.
Pastor James King said the quote is hanging up at St. Paul Lutheran School and he took a picture of it because he wanted to always remember it because the quote says so much.
Thomas began having twitches in his arms in May 2003 and after going to doctors and having tests run he was diagnosed with ALS – Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis. It’s the disease that cut short baseball star Lou Gehrig’s career in 1939 and came to be known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease after his death in 1941. There is no effective treatment, no known cause and no cure.
When he was first diagnosed with ALS, Thomas immediately became a spokesman for finding a cure for the life-altering disease. When his health still allowed he made several trips to Washington D.C. to petition Congress to expedite research funding to find a cure. Over time the disease forced him to rely on technology which allowed him to form letters and words with a minimal amount of movement.
“He was an inspiration to all of us and never once complained about his disease but used it as a platform to encourage others to know the love of Jesus Christ. This morning, St. Paul lost one it’s most influential and courageous members in Craig Thomas. His battle with ALS is an inspiration to us all. He was a true pillar of faith,” was posted on St. Paul Lutheran school’s Facebook page. Over the years since his diagnosis friends and family held fundraisers to help Craig. His aunt Linda held a scrapbooking fundraiser at St. Paul Lutheran School gym. The most popular was the annual Hog Toss which was held in the small area known as Copenhagen, and had more recently moved to an area outside of Farmington with more room to accommodate the growing number of people.
Craig was born Feb. 20, 1977 to Stephen Duane and Deborah Ann (Christian) Thomas. He was a 1995 graduate of Farmington High School and a 2000 year graduate of McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill., where he was active in their football program. He went on to a position with GE Ionics as a field representative in water purification. A true outdoorsman, Craig will be remembered for his love of hunting and nature photography. He was a loyal supporter of the Farmington Knight Football Program and namesake to the Craig Thomas Character Award, which was created for recognition of a player with the character for which Craig had exemplified in both his football career and his life.
Friends may call at St. Paul Lutheran School Gymnasium tonight from 4 to 9 p.m. Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday at St. Paul Lutheran Church with Pastor James King officiating. Interment will follow at St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery in Farmington.
Memorials may be made to the St. Paul Lutheran School Building Fund. View Tribute Video and share your condolences and memories at cozean.biz.
Sherrill said activities at St. Paul Lutheran School are canceled Thursday evening and classes are canceled Friday out of respect for the family and so students and staff can attend the services.