Dr. Walter Neal “Buddy” Thomas, 86, of Columbus, Texas, died Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, at the WoodCreek Bend Memory Care facility in Katy, Texas. Buddy was born June 29, 1937, in Sinton, Texas, son of the late Charles Gaston and Edith Faye Thomas.
He was a loving husband and is survived by his wife of 41 years, Marsha Dayton Thomas. He was a devoted father to his three children: daughter Melanie Rhea Thomas, son Walter Neal Thomas Jr. and wife Marnie Bottko Thomas, and daughter Michele Thomas Jaquier and her husband Frank Henri Jaquier.
Buddy was “Papa” to five grandchildren: Johnathan Andrew Dethloff, Christian Thomas Dethloff, Johnathon Morgan Thomas, Caitlyn Magdalena Dethloff and Taylor Carlson “Carly” Thomas; and three great- granddaughters, Addison Jaymes Dethloff, Poppy Kay Dethloff and Aurora Michele Dethloff.
He also leaves behind numerous loving nieces and nephews, close friends and his faithful posse of Australian shepherds, Bandit, Twist, Bella and Blush.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by siblings Marie Thomas, Ethel Thomas Noltkamper, John Thomas, Bernice Higgs McDonald, Oakland Higgs, Cecil Higgs, Jack Higgs, Patricia Thomas Ogura, Mary Thomas Williams, Charles Thomas and his wife of 23 years and mother of his children, Bonita Marlene Thomas.
Buddy was born Roman Catholic and was confirmed into the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in 1958. In 1982, Buddy joined the Episcopal Church and worshiped at St. John’s in Columbus for the remainder of his life. Buddy enjoyed visiting with his fellow parishioners as well as attending evening prayer and Bible study with his wife.
He grew up in Weslaco fishing, hunting, playing football and baseball with his younger brother and friend, Charles Thomas. He graduated from Weslaco High School in 1955 and studied premed and chemistry at Pan American University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1963. Buddy attended Texas Tech University to continue his graduate studies in experimental embryology and biochemistry and was accepted into the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston, Texas, in 1964.
Buddy moved his young family to Houston to continue his medical studies and served his internship at Memorial Baptist Hospital. Buddy completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology from the University of Texas Medical Branch, St. Joseph’s Hospital and M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, where he received his Doctor of Medicine on June 14, 1967.
Buddy was named a fellow of both the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1973. He also proudly served eight years in the Naval Reserve as a corpsman, which influenced his decision to study medicine and become a doctor.
Buddy partnered with Dr. John Gerdes in 1971 to begin their OB/GYN practice at Rosewood General Hospital in Houston. During his 27-year tenure, Buddy delivered thousands of babies and served as chief of staff and as a member of the board of directors at Rosewood. He also served as the director of obstetrics and gynecology for 13 years. In 1998, he transitioned his practice to La Grange, Texas, where he joined Fayette Memorial Hospital. He was the director of the Women’s & Children’s Rural Health Clinic, and was credited for restoring locally provided OB/GYN services to the Fayette County area and continued to serve his community until his retirement in 2005.
Buddy and Marsha were joined in holy matrimony on May 8, 1982. They lived an amazing life together, where they shared adventures and traveled to many places. They shared a passion for nature, wildlife and being on the water.
Buddy was a seaman for life. He was a skilled mariner and successfully competed in sailing regattas in the Gulf of Mexico near Clear Lake and Galveston Bay. He treasured spending time on and near the water with his family and sharing his wealth of knowledge with everyone, especially those he loved. He loved fishing, snorkeling, underwater photography and scuba diving. Many summers were spent with family in Florida planning adventures together and making memories.
Buddy was an avid outdoorsman and loved to hunt. He was an accomplished archer and marksman, and enjoyed hunting in the fall when he couldn’t be on the water. In 1980, Buddy achieved his dream of becoming a pilot. He loved flying and logged over 200 hours in his beloved Cessna planes. He also had a passion for astronomy and always had a telescope aimed at the heavens and a lesson for you on a distant planet or a constellation to share. He was a voracious reader and he loved to learn new things and share that knowledge with those around him.
Our family has been very blessed with much love and assistance from the many caregivers who have provided years of support and respite for Buddy and Marsha as he struggled with dementia; we consider them family. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Ramirez and family, Ms. Rebekah Lutes, Mrs. Maria Sanchez and Ms. Stephanie Gonzalez.
We would also like to thank our Visiting Angels, Ms. Blake Cunningham, Ms. Debbie Harrison and Mrs. Dominique Evans. You are truly angels who walk among us.
A Celebration of Life in Buddy’s honor will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at at the Columbus Hall, 3845 Interstate 10 West, Columbus.
Lunch reception immediately following.
Services are under the direction of Henneke Funeral Home, 1515 Montezuma St., Columbus.
Online condolences may be given at www.hennekefuneralhome. com.