The Ottumwa Courier

January 4, 2013

Mary Thomas, 90, What Cheer


WHAT CHEER — Mary Thomas, 90, of What Cheer, died Jan. 2, 2013, at the Northern Mahaska Nursing and Rehab Center.

Mary Jean Fender was born to Leslie Fender and Yvonne Maynard on July 6, 1922, over the Atlantic Ocean aboard a French ship named the USS Chicago. She was raised in several cities along the east coast before eventually joining the U.S. Army, where she served as a bookkeeper. While in the military, Mary met John Thomas. The couple united in marriage on July 22, 1944. After her honorable discharge, the couple moved to the What Cheer area, where John began farming and Mary became a homemaker, farm wife and mother.

She played a very active role in the day-to-day operations of the farm. However, before doing chores, her lipstick was always on. Etiquette and proper table manners were important to Mary. Mary will be remembered as a wonderful mother, trusted friend and a fun-loving grandma. She was a member of the What Cheer United Methodist Church and believed strongly in donating generously to charity.

Mary is survived by three sons, Jack (Terry) Thomas of Oskaloosa, Bill Thomas of What Cheer and John (Kathy) Thomas of Ottumwa; her two daughters, Kathy (Brownie) Brown of Bloomfield and Jennifer Meyer of Delta; 11 grandchildren; and 26 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, John Thomas; a brother, George Fender; and a stepfather, Robert Smith.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the What Cheer United Methodist Church. Burial will be in the Rice Cemetery near What Cheer.

Visitation will begin at noon today at the Holland-Coble Funeral Home in What Cheer with the family present from 5-8 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to the What Cheer United Methodist Church or What Cheer Fire & Rescue.

Friends may sign the online guestbook at

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