Lawrence William Thomas (Larry) passed away peacefully on September 4th, 2005, at Nanaimo Travellers Lodge. He was predeceased by his parents William and Dorothy Thomas. Larry’s dad Bill passed away on September 4, 1995 and his son went to be with him 10 years to the day thereafter.
Larry is survived by Audrey, his wife of 51 years. He will be sadly missed by his daughters, Linda (Peter) Strathdee and grandson Connor of Campbell River, and Nancy (Bob) Arkell and grandsons Scott and Graeme Arkell of Nanaimo.
Larry was born September 26, 1930 in Revelstoke, B.C. His father’s work with the CPR took the family to Fort William, Ontario and many parts of western Canada, from Wynyard, Saskatchewan to Golden, Field and Beavermouth in the Canadian Rockies, then to Vancouver in the 1940’s, where Larry graduated from Kitsilano High School in 1949. He completed the Sprott-Shaw Radio Writing and Engineering course in 1951, then served in the Canadian Military as a Lance Corporal in the 8th Army Provost Reserve. After a brief stint at CKMO radio in Vancouver, Larry came to Nanaimo in 1951, where he began his broadcasting career as a staff announcer and then sports director at CHUB, then a 1,000-watt community radio station located in the Malaspina Hotel. He married Audrey Irving on March 17, 1954, then spent a year as a news and sports announcer at CJVI in Victoria, returning to Nanaimo as CHUB assistant news director until 1964, when he became staff news reporter and photographer for the Vancouver Sun’s Nanaimo bureau. In 1966 he returned to CHUB as news director and remained so until 1980, when he took a 2-year break from radio to work in the Nanaimo RCMP Detachment Communications Section. In 1982 he returned to CHUB again as assistant news director, then returned to the RCMP telecom office from 1986-1988. He served again as open-line host at CHUB, then as a court reporter working out of the newsroom after the CHUB/CKEG merger in the 1990’s. In 1989, on the occasion of CHUB’s 40th anniversary, Larry was presented with a gold record award commemorating his achievements in bringing the best in community radio to the citizens of Nanaimo.
Larry’s journalistic talents were not limited to the broadcast media. He contributed news stories and wrote columns for the Nanaimo Times, The Nanaimo Daily Free Press, the Vancouver Province, the Victoria Times-Colonist and the Nanaimo Bulletin, on TV, he hosted the Nanaimo Business Show. His intimate knowledge of the central Vancouver Island area and its inhabitants and of local and provincial politics, as well as his ethics and integrity in reporting, made him a highly respected and reliable source of information. He always said there were two sides to every story, believed in good, honest and fair reporting, and never in his career did he have to retract anything he reported. Over the course of his career in radio, Larry mentored many young announcers as they began their careers in broadcasting, imparting his wisdom and humour in his inimitable style. Larry Thomas talked to Nanaimo for years, and he wore many hats as a broadcaster. He had a wonderful sense of humour and could talk to anyone about anything. He was the voice of the Nanaimo Clippers and of the Nanaimo Timbermen, and for many years he covered the stock car races at Grandview Bowl. For many years he hosted CHUB’s “Open Mike” radio show, and was an interviewer of authors, movie stars, famous musicians, prime ministers and politicians. He covered many royal visits, coordinated election coverage, and did remotes of fires and disasters, as well as countless interviews on scores of topics of local interest. His coverage of the Lantzville bus crash garnered him the BC News Directors Award in 1978. He was the voice of the Nanaimo World Championship Bathtub Race from its inception in 1967. His voice could be heard each weekend as he plied local waters to bring boaters CHUB Marine Patrol fishing and weather reports.
An expert in the area of vintage radio shows and the music of the jazz and swing eras, Larry assembled a vast collection of the best of old time music and radio, which he shared with his listeners every Sunday when he hosted Canada’s second-longest running radio show, “A Peek at the Past.” In addition to his record collecting, Larry enjoyed curling, fishing, golfing, motorcycling and photography. In the 1960’s he was a member of MIARA citizen’s band radio association. He was also a 16-year member of Nanaimo’s RCMP auxiliary police. He played drums in the “Larry Thomas Orchestra” in the 60’s and 70’s, and, in later years, “We’re Diff’rent.” He was a charter member of the Poet’s Club and a parishioner of St. Paul’s Anglican Church.
Larry loved his adopted city and devoted a lot of his time to community service. He was variously a member of the Nanaimo Jaycees, the Lions Club and the Nanaimo Native Sons. He served on the Bathtub, Empire Days, Nanaimo Crimestoppers Committee Boards, and was a director of the Newcastle Island Preservation Society. He was an executive member of the Nanaimo City Centre Association and editor of the NCCA’s “Downtowner.”
As a Nanaimo City Councillor from 1993 to 1996, Larry was instrumental in the construction of both the Port Theatre and Nanaimo’s new library. In 1996, the Vancouver Island Regional Library presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation for Dedicated Service as a member of the library board. He was awarded one of Nanaimo’s 125th Birthday Certificates for his continued volunteer efforts over the years.
Larry will be remembered for his infectious laugh, his boundless energy and enthusiasm, and his extraordinary devotion to his family, his work and his community. His was a job well done and a life well lived. He will be missed.
A celebration of Larry’s life will be held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 100 Chapel Street, Nanaimo, on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 2 p.m., Father Brian Evans, Reverend Ron Macluskie and Reverend Lon Towstego officiating.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Society or the BC SPCA would be gratefully appreciated.
Arrangements by First Memorial Funeral Services.
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REST ETERNAL GRANT UNTO HIM, O LORD,
AND LET LIGHT PERPETUAL, SHINE UPON HIM