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Chester (Chet) Edward Thomas, Jr, 91, of Manchester, CT passed away peacefully on Sunday, October 23, 2022 after a short illness. He was born in Newark, NJ on June 26, 1931 to Viola Matilda Thomas (nee Geisheimer) and Chester Edward Thomas, Sr.
Chet grew up in a house that his parents shared with his Uncle Frederick’s family, and they were connected by a backyard to his maternal grandparents’ home. On Sunday afternoons, his grandmother would serve afternoon tea and cake and the boys would listen to radio shows on her big Philco radio. The boys would play street games like stick ball and as teenagers the neighborhood boys called themselves the “Jolly Boys.”
On special occasions in the summer, Chet and Hugo’s mother would take them to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn next to Coney Island. Since they did not own a car, they would take a bus to Jersey City, the ferry boat to Manhattan, and the subway to Brighton Beach. As boys, they enjoyed going crabbing at Bayonne Bay with their father. Chet inherited his father’s love of saltwater fishing and would go deep sea fishing once a summer with coworkers after he had settled down with a family.
While in high school, Chet worked at the local Ballentine Brewery, where his father worked after the Great Depression. Established in 1840, it was one of the oldest in the country and the 3rd largest producer at its peak.
Chet graduated from Upsala College in East Orange, NJ, with a B.S. in geology, commuting from home via two buses. He then continued his studies at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, where he met his future wife, Marion Virginia Fulbright at a church-sponsored square dance. Chet received his M.S. in 1956, married Marion, and accepted a job with Sun Oil in TX.
His work as a geologist involved several moves in the first few years of marriage before he moved to Albany, NY, to work as a hydrogeologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Chet transferred to the newly opened USGS office in Hartford, CT., where over the next few years he was instrumental in the first USGS assessment of all the watersheds in Connecticut.
After a two decade-long advancing career with the federal agency, Chet was promoted to Connecticut District Chief in 1984. His work involved studying, monitoring, and protecting the geologic and hydrologic resources of CT. He co-authored several publications on water resources in Connecticut. He assisted other district offices, attended annual conferences across the country, and even traveled to Brazil to help government scientists establish potable water monitoring stations. Along the way he made many career-long friendships. He was well known for tracking office budgets meticulously and getting the complex balances down to pennies at the end of each federal fiscal year. Chet regularly collaborated on projects between the federal USGS and the Connecticut Geological and Natural History Survey. A years-long project of particular note was the development of the groundbreaking digital geographic information system (GIS) which integrates all natural resources data into one system for use in land and water planning. Chet retired in 1995.
Chet was a huge fan of the Yankees, Giants, and UConn Huskies. His love of baseball extended to organizing and coaching for many years in the Manchester Little League system. He always made time for a little Saturday morning BP and “pepper” drills with his players. The family could count on a duffel bag full of bats and balls thrown into the back of the family station wagon most Saturdays of each season.
Chet was equally dedicated in the local Boy Scout Troop 25, joining his two sons on myriad meetings, camp outs and weekend trips, and extended his supporting roles for many years as the troop’s institutional representative to the regional scout council. He also taught rocks and mineral classes at the Lutz Junior Museum and at his daughter’s Girl Scout meetings.
Home gardening and family genealogy research with Marion took on a heightened love following retirement. Chet was well known for his homegrown tomatoes, sharing the annual bounty with delighted neighbors. And no one can forget Chet and Marion’s tag team work to roll out the annual luminary as Christmas eve approached up and down Gerard Street. He was a deacon at Center Congregation Church in Manchester, and a lifelong member of the Freemasons. He loved Bluegrass music, which could always be heard playing on the radio in the garage on weekends. While he normally deferred to Marion for meal preparation, Chet took charge of cleaning and cooking the bluefish he caught on charter fishing outings, as well as the traditional cheese fondue at the holidays.
He is survived by his three children — Eric D. Thomas and his wife Lisa, Glenn S. Thomas and his wife Sandra Pernal, and Susan L. Thomas and her husband John Roche. He also leaves his much-loved grandchildren Emma, Olivia, Sophie, Daniel, Kevin, and Owen. Chet is also survived by his brother, Hugo Frederick Thomas, and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife of 62 years, Marion Fulbright Thomas.
His family wishes to express its deep gratitude to all those who helped him remain independent at home these past several years and cared for him during his brief hospital stay. This includes the health care professionals at Manchester Memorial Hospital, and his caregivers, neighbors, and other local supporters. No service is planned at this time. He will be interred at East Cemetery in Manchester. Memorial contributions may be made to BSA Troop 25 in Manchester, CT (Troop25.com) or to a local charity. To submit online condolences, go to www.manchesterfh.com.