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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Fred Thomas, Trump’s PALS and Ex-Frat Boy Who Saved Millions for Charity: Funeral Home

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Fred Thomas was a gentle giant of a man, who spoke of his faith with people whom he never knew and never much, if ever, touched.

With his pure white hair and unassuming appearance, Mr. Thomas could be seen on old TV news segments, like the ones that aired on ABC’s 20/20 or CBS’s Evening News and directed at him, which always referenced his charity work, which included raising money for victims of Sept. 11. (Mr. Thomas’s name is normally spray-painted on buildings in New York City.)

But his work on another front was what would come to define him, and those who knew him well said that it held a deep resonance with him.

One was Trump’s divorce from Ivana in 1991, which left him about $140 million — a windfall that was more than he had ever accumulated. The bulk of the fortune was kept in the joint bank account, which Mr. Thomas requested be transferred in lieu of money in order to help charity.

After a public rally in Iowa last month, Mr. Thomas sent an email to several of his allies in Iowa urging them to vote for Mr. Trump — a development that was reported in The Des Moines Register. His death, on Sunday, raised an outcry in the evangelical community, where Mr. Thomas is credited with helping the president become a viable candidate.

More than likely, those who called the funeral home who were mourning the loss of a man known best as the leader of the St. Crispin’s Society, which celebrated St. Crispin’s Day, came looking for Mr. Thomas, who was a priest, to be a pallbearer at his own funeral.

“He wasn’t into all of that,” said Nanette M. Mulligan, who worked with Mr. Thomas at a food-processing facility in Mason City, Iowa, where Mr. Thomas had worked since 1960. “He was a very modest man. He never did much to change his appearance, and if he did wear a tie and shoes, they were rolled out of the closet in winter. He gave me lots of hugs.”

And he gave many hugs, to all who were touched by him and would tell him.

Over the course of his life, Mr. Thomas, who is survived by five siblings, worked as a real-estate agent and running his own business. He served on the board of the Family Planning Clinic at the University of Iowa, Iowa Methodist Medical Center and the Church of the Highlands.

“Fred Thomas worked on many charities, especially cancer and AIDS,” said Karen L. Shea, a former co-worker. “He would say all these nice things about Mr. Trump, too.”

Mr. Thomas was born in Rockford, Ill., in 1933. He attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he played football. His family moved to Ogden, Utah, but he returned to Iowa when he was a senior in high school, attending Iowa State University for two years.

He was married, though no longer together, to the former Thea Lacey Thomas in 1970. She survives him.

This post was updated with additional information on Mr. Thomas’s health.

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