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Joan Thomas

March 13, 1931 January 25, 2024
Joan Thomas
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Obituary for Joan Thomas

Miss Joan Thomas, GHS Educator and Guidance Counselor

Miss Joan Thomas of Gettysburg, passed away quietly on January 26 at the SpiriTrust Lutheran home. She is survived by her bother Laurence E. (“Tommy”) Thomas, of Naples, Florida, and her nieces and nephews Pamela Thomas, Timothy Thomas, Laurence Thomas, Stephanie Havenstein, and Bruce Wilson, eighteen grand and great-grand nieces and nephews, and her many close friends and Gettysburg High School students from over the years. Her sister Jeanne Wilson, a nephew Andrew Wilson, and her beloved parents Naomi (“Oma”) and Laurence C. (“L.C.”) Thomas preceded her in death.

Joan was born on March 13, 1931 in Shattuck, Oklahoma. She spent her early years in Oklahoma before the family’s move to Gettysburg at the beginning of World War II. Joan took great pride in the wartime contributions of her father, Major L.C. Thomas, who served as US Army Commandant of both the Gettysburg German POW camp located on the Emmitsburg Road and the secret interrogation center at Camp Michaux located at Pine Grove Furnace on the outskirts of Chambersburg. During the war, Joan learned to speak German from her father, and after his death she donated many artifacts of his time at the two Camps to the Adams County Historical Society.

Following the war, the Thomas family returned to Stillwater Oklahoma, where Joan obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Education from Oklahoma State University. With her sister Jeanne, Joan was a devoted member of the Phi Beta Phi sorority, and after graduation she spent time teaching English in Venezuela and then in Switzerland, before returning to Gettysburg in the mid-1950s.

“Miss Thomas” was treasured by generations of Gettysburg High School alumni, and her great passion as an educator was her long tenure, first as an English teacher and then also as the GHS Guidance Counselor. Students remember Miss Thomas for her high expectations and unfailingly candid advice, delivered firmly but often with a wry smile. Her summer breaks during more than three decades at GHS frequently took her back to the family farm in Perkins, Oklahoma, where she was – to the immense delight of her nephews and nieces – as handy with a chainsaw and grasshopper-baited fishing pole as she was with a pen and chalk during the academic year.

Following her retirement, Joan remained active in the Gettysburg community and for many years was an avid chorister at the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. She spent her final senior years happily ensconced at the SpiriTrust Lutheran home on Old Harrisburg Road, from which she often remarked that she could look down the hill to the new GHS campus and still oversee the current generation of students.

A memorial service celebrating the life of Miss Thomas will be held on Friday, February 16, 2024 at 11:30 am at the SpiriTrust Lutheran Home at 1075 Harrisburg Road, Gettysburg. All are welcome. Interment will be in Evergreen Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family invites those who wish to honor the memory of Miss Thomas to make a donation to either the SpiriTrust Lutheran Foundation in Gettysburg or to the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. Online obituary and condolences available at

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11:30 AM 2/16/2024 11:30:00 AM
SpiriTrust - Gettysburg Village

1075 Old Harrisburg Road
Gettysburg, PA 17325

SpiriTrust - Gettysburg Village
1075 Old Harrisburg Road Gettysburg 17325 PA
United States

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