Johnnie Francis Thomas

By on November 13, 2008

            Johnnie Francis Thomas, 76, of Poplar Bluff, Mo., formerly of Elburn, died Nov. 4, 2008, following a sudden collapse at his  home.

            He was born Sept. 24, 1932, in Big Rock, the son of Francis and Clarice Thomas. He grew up on the family farm and  attended  a one-room school house where Alice Yarnal was the beloved teacher he never forgot. As a young man, he served his country in the U.S. Army, stationed at Schwienfurt, Germany.

            Johnnie met Rosemary Blum and fell in love at the Blue Moon Ballroom in Elgin. The romance continued at weekly dances until he and Rosemary were married at the Kaneville United  Methodist Church on May 16, 1964.

            Johnnie worked as a farmhand for Vern Bowgren in LaFox, Ill., and also as a machine operator at Burgess Norton Mfg. in Geneva. For 28 years, he worked at Ace Hardware in Geneva, where he was a favorite among countless customers. Throughout the rest of his life, he would keep those customers as friends and meet them far and wide wherever he went. Following retirement, Johnnie and Rosemary moved to Creal Springs, Ill. in 1998 and then to Poplar Bluff, Mo., in 2001.  

            A devoted family man and community neighbor, Johnny spent many summers helping as an umpire with Little League baseball teams and the girls softball teams. He spent many winters plowing snow for friends and neighbors. He also loved working in his garden, and hunting for wild asparagus and mushrooms, and his favorite sandwich was peanut butter and mayonnaise. 

            From his boyhood on the farm, Johnnie loved animals, especially his farm dog, Pal, and his cat, Silver, who would gently wake him each day with her paws. As a young boy and into his teen years, Johnnie was a member of the Elburn 4-H Club. He raised and showed pigs and won many ribbons for his efforts. He also had a favorite prize winning bull, Percy. Another dog, Abby, won his heart after he retired and was his constant companion. Retirement allowed Johnnie to devote more time to his favorite sport, fishing. He shared that love with his children and grandchildren who will always remember visits with a loving grandpa who tickled and hugged them and loved to take long walks.

            Johnnie’s moral and spiritual compass was firmly aligned with the highest principles of Free Masonry. His sincere and genuine application of those principles to daily life was a reflection of his phenomenal memory for thousands of passages of ancient ritual, and moreover, his heartfelt appreciation for their true purpose and meaning. Johnnie was a 54-year member and six-time Past Master of Blackberry Masonic Lodge No. 359 AF & AM in Elburn; an honorary member of Fellowship Lodge No. 89 AF & AM in Marion, Ill.; and a frequent visitor at Poplar Bluff Lodge No. 209 AF & AM. He was also a member of Sword of Bunker Hill in Elgin, Fox Valley Shrine Club in Geneva, Medinah Shriners A.A.O.N.M.S. of Chicago, Commandery No. 22 Knights Templar, Fox Valley Chapter No. 265 Order of Eastern Star, Cryptic Masons No. 130 and American Legion No. 630 in Elburn. He was also a life-long, “die-hard” Cubs fan.

            Johnnie is survived by his wife of 44 years, Rosemary Thomas of Poplar Bluff, Mo.; their four children, David (Tracy) Thomas of Beebe, Ark., Jody (Robert) Jones of Sycamore, Robert (Susan) Thomas of Elburn, and Kathrine (Tim) Busch of Poplar Bluff, Mo.; 12 grandchildren, Michelle, Felisha, Rose and Amber Thomas of Beebe, Ark., Morgan, Alexis and Delaney Jones of Sycamore, Holly and Faith Thomas of Elburn, and Will, Bethany and Tiffany Fraser of Poplar Bluff, Mo.; one sister, Myrtie Ellen (William) Thompson; a sister-in-law, Sara Thomas, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

            He is preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Everett Thomas.

            Locally, visitation was held Sunday, Nov. 9, at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn. A Masonic Service was held at 2 p.m. His funeral service concluded visitation at 4:30 p.m. and webcast live at or can be later viewed as an on-demand video. The Rev. Jason Turner, pastor of the Kaneville United Methodist Church, officiated, and interment concluded on Monday, Nov. 10, with graveside services at 11 a.m. at the Kaneville Cemetery, Main Street Road in Kaneville. There is to be a visitation in Poplar Bluff, Mo. on Thursday, Nov. 13,  from 4 to 6 p.m., with a Masonic service to follow immediately afterwards.

            A memorial has been established in Johnnie’s name to benefit the American Diabetes Association, as well as Masonic and Shrine charities. Checks may be made to the Johnnie Thomas Memorial and mailed in care of P.O. Box 66,  Elburn, IL 60119. Tributes and condolences may be mailed to the family at the same address or e-mailed through his obituary at

            For information, call (630) 365-6414 or 1-800-8-CONLEY.