Thomas 'lived and breathed everything Janesville'
JANESVILLE Dr. Jeff Thomas lived life his own way, his daughter Megan Paulson said.
“He definitely, I would say, didn’t live the traditional life, in a good way,” she said.
But through all the phases of his life—his medical career, time served on the school board and city council and, later, his political career—his love for Janesville remained constant.
“He lived and breathed everything Janesville,” Paulson said.
Thomas, 69, died Wednesday at St. Elizabeth Manor, Footville.
Paulson remembers a warm and funny father, sports enthusiast and passionate health-care advocate. Thomas wrote two books of poetry, enjoyed skiing and playing the piano and loved Parker and Craig sporting events, she said.
Born and raised in Janesville, Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps and became an orthopedic surgeon. He served 12 years on the Janesville School Board and four years on the Janesville City Council. After he retired, he ran a free clinic downtown, Paulson said.
“He was the kind of person who had his door open 24 hours a day to anyone who needed care,” Paulson said. “He was definitely very, very giving of his time and made sure the patient always came first.”
Despite his busy life, Thomas always made time for his children: 38-year-old Paulson, now living in Texas; 42-year-old Greg Thomas, now living in Washington, D.C., and 45-year-old Gretchen Menard, now living in Milwaukee.
“He always made it to every single one of our events,” Paulson said. “I don’t think there was a tennis match or a basketball game or a track meet that he wasn’t at.”
Many knew Thomas in later years as a seven-time candidate for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District seat, including three campaigns against current Rep. Paul Ryan.
Thomas was a passionate advocate for universal health care, Paulson said. He also campaigned on education, senior citizen and job issues.
Tom Bier, a friend and former patient of Thomas, said Thomas always wanted what was best for people, and that carried over into his political career.
“I always thought that he was really a person that was very interested in trying to do the right thing for people,” Bier said.
Even though Thomas didn’t win, “he enjoyed going and speaking to people about issues he was passionate about,” Paulson said. “(He believed) no one should run unopposed. There should always be someone to push the issues.”
Besides his three children and their spouses, Thomas leaves behind a brother and eight grandchildren. Arrangements are pending with Schneider Apfel Schneider & Schneider Funeral Home, Janesville.