Ronald Emerson Thomas, 73, beloved husband, father, brother and community member, passed unexpectedly on July 1, 2019. He was born July 5, 1945, in Guilford, to Charles Thomas and Gladys (Emerson) Thomas.
Ron spent his childhood on the family farm in Dover-Foxcroft, where he honed his skills in all manners of farm life. He and his siblings dutifully performed their chores while also managing to partake in many childhood antics. His mother, Gladys, most certainly had her hands full keeping an eye on six rambunctious boys. In his teenage years, Ron had a paper route, cut wood with his father and brothers, worked for a furniture store and attended Foxcroft Academy, where he graduated in 1964. After graduation, like so many young men from Maine, Ron set his sights on Connecticut, where there were many job opportunities. He and his first wife, Ellen, packed a Volkswagen Beetle and headed south, where Ron would land an apprenticeship that eventually shaped the rest of his life. Ron often shared the story of his walking into a machine shop for the first time, where he first saw a working metal lathe that captured his fascination immediately. His aptitude for math, combined with his desire to learn and strong work ethic, resulted in his moving up quickly in the machine tool trade. Being a true “Mainer,” Ron couldn’t resist the call to return to his home state, ready to take on the machine tool world by storm. After working for various companies, and absorbing machine tool knowledge like a sponge, Ron went out on his own and opened his own machine shop, R.E. Thomas Machine Co., in 1973 in Bangor. He successfully built a business through long hours doing custom design and contract work for large corporations. In 1985, Ron relocated the business to Hancock, where he continued custom and corporate work until 2001, when an unexpected opportunity literally walked in the door when a potential customer arrived with underwater marine hardware that he wanted manufactured. Soon after Ron began manufacturing this product, the customer decided he was unable to take it further and offered the sale of his line to Ron. At this point, Ron and Karen raised the money to buy the product line as Ron immediately saw the potential to make vast improvements. It was a perfect marriage; boats, underwater marine hardware and fishermen. These are all the things Ron truly related to and he dedicated his efforts into designing safe and modernized products as part of R. E. Thomas Marine Hardware. His expertise and preciseness was matched only by his ability to make all customers feel as though they were his only customer. Ron’s shop had an open-door atmosphere where all were welcome, not only to do business, but to also chat and have a cup of coffee.
Ron had a big, warm smile, super friendly demeanor and absolutely loved to help people. If he didn’t know you, he damn well got to know you, one way or another. Ron was very proud of overcoming alcoholism with the support of AA, and its many members, who came to be like family to him. Ron’s most treasured pastime was fishing. He was always searching for “Timmy Toque,” as Karen called them, while they trolled along on so many of Maine’s gorgeous lakes, their dog Grady by their side. Ron served on boards for both Open Door Recovery and the Franklin Historical Society.
Ron is survived by his wife and soul mate in this life, Karen Macomber. Also surviving him are his two cherished daughters, Heidi Thomas and Ami Simbari; as well as son-in-law Ron Simbari; and stepdaughters, Leslee Differ and husband, Danny, and Joslyn Brenton and husband, Peter. Ron’s grandchildren include Gabriella and Isabel Simbari, Connor Dorr, Jack and Miles Differ, Quinn Kelly, and Clara Brenton. He is also survived by his siblings, Stuart Thomas, David Thomas and his wife, Joanne, James Thomas and his husband, Bob, Cathie Goodine and her husband, Greg, Cindi Lee and Vickie Parsons, along with brother-in-law, Mark Macomber. Ron was predeceased by his parents, as well as two brothers, Paul and Gerald Thomas, and his brother-in-law Danny Parsons. He is survived by many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Ron’s life will be held on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, at the Franklin Veterans Club, 4 Cards Crossing in Franklin, from 2-4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ron’s memory to the Franklin Historical Society’s School House Restoration Project at P.O. Box 317, Franklin, ME 04634. Ron’s passion for old buildings, along with his many vocational skills, enabled this project to get off the ground. His vision will continue to support the ongoing restoration.