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CARNIVAL OWNER BERNARD THOMAS PASSES
By Press Release
Carnival owner Bernard P. Thomas passed away in Austin, Texas, on April 11, 2007. His Mighty Thomas Carnival has provided the midway for fairs and celebrations in 15 states and in Canada for over 50 years. He was 83.
Born November 28, 1923, in Lennox, South Dakota to Vern and Florence Thomas, he grew up on the carnival started in 1928 by his uncle, Art B. Thomas, working on the pony ride, steam train ride, and in the penny arcade. He married Marvis Smith on January 15, 1944, and then served in the United States Army during World War II as a tank commander in the 893rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, surviving five battle campaigns including the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he returned to work on the carnival, purchasing a show from Art in 1951. Bernard operated the Thomas Carnival, Inc., for the next 35 years. In 1986, he sold the corporation to his daughters and their husbands, Margaret and Tom Atkins and Carolyn and John Hanschen.
He enjoyed aviation, earning his private pilot's license in 1948 and an instrument rating in 1970, and flew his own plane for over forty years.
He was a member and Past President of the Showmen's League of America, the Outdoor Amusement Business Association and the Midwest Showmen's Association. He was also a member Onion Creek Country Club, a fifty-year member of the Onion Creek Masonic Lodge and a fifty-year member of Ben Hur Shrine Temple. He was named Association of Iowa Fairs Man of the Year in 1979; elected to the Canadian Association of Exhibitions Roll of Honour in 1983; received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the South Dakota Press Association in 1988; named to the South Dakota Fairman's Hall of Fame in 1991; and elected to the Outdoor Amusement Business Association Hall of Fame in 2001. He was Commander in Chief of Onion Creek American Legion Post in 1999. He was a member of St. John's Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas, and also served a term as church treasurer.
He golfed, scoring his first hole-in-one in 1991, his last in 1994.
Bernard is survived by his wife of 63 years, Marvis Thomas; his daughters Deanna (Ross Payne), of Lockhart, Texas; Margaret (Tom Atkins) and Carolyn (John Hanschen) of Austin; sister Doris Peterson of Worthing, South Dakota; grandsons Christopher Atkins (Kristin), Andrew Hanschen, and Mike Hanschen; granddaughters Alison Denton (Loren), Dawn Kingsbury, Lisa Jardine, and Katherine Petree (Brandon); five great grandchildren and a host of good friends.
A Memorial Service will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17 at St. John's Lutheran Church, 409 W. Ben White Boulevard, Austin, Texas. After cremation, burial will be in the family plot in the Lennox Cemetery, Lennox, South Dakota.
Memorial contributions may be made to the scholarship fund of either the Showmen's League of America, the Outdoor Amusement Business Association or Onion Creek American Legion Post in the name of Bernard P. Thomas.