(PSert icM= f^ V/fu /
.eceme&o20, 1 92 mu ,22, 96'
ftmlcf, *AaUU.V, t<(996'<
Jh h7momass, VAJ VufyingM a9dsa
Voi Schomlim er(a)ee V.Im.etew.A
St. Thomas, V.I.
Celebrating her 100th birthday
S at age 50
Mom at age 50
At age 95
Helen Malvina Christopher Thomas, Mom to many and
Sister Thomas to most, was born in Tortola, British Virgin
Islands on December 20, 1892. She readily admitted that the
greatest influence in shaping her life was her maternal great
aunt, Ann Elizabeth Purcell, who had reared Mom and also
Mom's mother, Catherine Elizabeth Sewer Wells. Mom called
Mrs. Purcell "Nennen," and described her as a "dear, old
At the age of twenty-one Mom left Tortola to provide better
for the older ones at home. After short stops in St. Thomas and
Puerto Rico, she finally settled in New York. At that time the
horse and buggy were still on the streets of New York, and
Mom had interesting stories to tell of the families she worked
for, of their large estates that required the ringing of a church
bell to get them to dinner, and of life for the West Indian living
and working in New York.
In 1919 Mom married Damon Thomas, a Tortolian who was
residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mom then moved to Pitts-
burgh where their eight children were born: sons, Jonathan,
who died at age twelve; Leon, who died in infancy; Elliott; and
Clarence; daughters, Helen; Mildred; Blanche; and Bernice-
While the children were still young the family moved from
Pittsburgh to the Virgin Islands, stopping for a short while in
St. Thomas, then moving to settle in Tortola. Added to the
household at that time was a formidable figure in the person of
Mom's blind mother, Catherine Wells.
At a time when recreational areas for children were nonex-
istent, young people were drawn to the home of the Thomases.
They would visit to sing with the family around their piano, to
chat, to play games, and would frequently be a part of the Bible
teaching that was a staple in that home.
Following the pattern learned in her childhood, Mom taught
her children the ways of the Lord by beginning each day with
family prayers, Bible reading and hymn singing. She insisted
that her children memorize passages from scripture so that in
later years they would have "a guide and stay." Each Sunday
after church she would discuss with her children the sermon
and the lessons taught in Sunday school
As a Christian parent Mom urged her children to use their
talents and gifts to the glory of God. At an early age in Pitts-
burgh and in the Virgin Islands, the Thomas children sang in
children's choirs, participated in religious dramas, taught Sun-
day school, led youth groups, and were Sunday school pia-
nists, choir leaders, and assistant organists.
What Mom encouraged her children to do, she modeled in
her own life. A member of Christchurch Methodist, she served
faithfully as a leader of Class No. 23 for nearly fifty years. She
was the founding president of the church's Women's League
and was reelected to that office for six consecutive terms. As a
poor steward, for many years she furnished and prepared the
elements for communion and assisted the pastors in visiting
and ministering to the sick and shut-in members. In 1954 after
all their children had relocated to the United States, Brother
and Sister Thomas organized a prayer group fellowship in
their home. Among the Christian stalwarts who were involved
were the late Pearlina Penn and Essolena Hodge, Alvara Rabsatt
and Alice de Windt.
Those who knew Sister Thomas rejoice that the love and
service which she so willingly gave to others were returned to
her while she was still with us in "full measure, pressed down,
and running over." She had innumerable friends and well
wishers, and had been honored on four different occasions.
Having been brought up in a Christian home, Sister Tho-
mas, at an early age accepted Jesus as her light and salvation,
and walked humbly with her God until January 22,1996, when
she was called home to higher service.
May she rest ni peace.
Helen at 25
~~c Wr eT~r
Bishop Elliott G. Thomas of the Roman Catholic Diocese
Clarence Thomas, manager of the former Cathedral Pharmacy
Sedric J. Heyliger
Helen, Mildred, and Blanche Thomas,
Russell Thomas, John and Anneta Heyliger,
April Heyliger, Richard, Yvette and Leonise Vialet
Yasmin Heyliger, Richard Jr. and April Vialet,
Lonnie and Jerval Thomas
nieces, nephews and cousins too numerous to mention
Clarence Thomas, Eugene Kuntz, Liston Powell
Hubert Raimer, Leo Vanterpool, Richard Vialet