I’ve been on quite a hiatus, but I’m back! This summer has been a bit of a whirlwind. I finished things up at my previous job, started my new gig at an LA nonprofit, continued with my community college teaching internship, found a new place to live and moved in, bought a new car, and visited a dear friend in DC a couple of weeks before she gave birth to her first child.

Grandpa all decked out in what I suppose was his "heyday" back home in Panama.

Amidst all of this, my family got the news that my paternal grandfather had experienced a slight stroke in July.  When my uncles and father went to see him in Florida they learned that his health was far worse than he had let on in their phone conversations with him.  Sadly, in addition to the stroke, he had already been battling cancer but did not want anyone in the family to be “burdened” with taking care of him. About a month after the stroke, just before he was to be transported to a care facility closer to my uncle in New York, he passed away in his sleep. 

Kenneth Thomas was my last living grandparent. As a family history researcher, there is something particularly sad and heavy and final about losing the last direct link to a previous generation.  Luckily, I recorded a phone interview with him some time in 2008 or 2009 and will share the transcript in a future post.  While I did not get a ton of detailed information from this conversation at least I can say I made the effort.  And he did provide me with one important gem, saying that he remembered his mother would talk about the part of Barbados she was from, Christ Church.  As I had mentioned in a previous post, being able to get more specific information about where in Barbados, St. Lucia, and Martinique my great-grandparents’ home was the first order of business in my genealogical quest.

"Kenneth was involved in the music business in Panama, he sang Calypso, Salsa, and R&B music with a popular group." - From the obituary

Fortunately, I was able to take a few days off and fly to New York for Kenneth’s burial even though I had only been at my new job for just a month. He was laid to rest in a plot next to my grandmother, who had passed away some 20 years earlier.  You can see the program for his homegoing here.  (Thanks to Uncle Tony for sharing the scanned images with the family and to his friend for scanning them.)

The pictures in this post exemplify two of the things Grandpa Kenneth was known for – or at least two things I remember him for: his love of music and for dressing with style and flair. My cousins will probably agree with me that all of our fathers definitely inherited one or both of these passions. I invite the Thomas family and others who knew my grandfather to share any favorite stories or reflections about his life and legacy.  Rest in peace, Grandpa.


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