Cover photo for Dr. Harry L. Thomas M.D.'s Obituary
Dr. Harry L. Thomas M.D. Profile Photo
Dr. harry

Dr. Harry L. Thomas M.D.

d. June 14, 2018

Dr. Harry L Thomas died peacefully in sleep on June 14th after a long well-fought battle with lung cancer. He is survived by his daughter Harriet [Sue] Thomas, Philadelphia. He was proceeded in death by his wife Betty Ann and his son Harry C. Thomas. Harry is also survived by Lauren [David] Dies and Dara [Terry] Overstreet and his 5 great-grandchildren.   Dr. Harry L Thomas’ life story was filled with a series of inspirational lessons that epitomize his legacy as teacher, mentor, and friend. Born in Richmond, VA to Delia and Harry Thomas on April 5, 1919, he began his lifelong learning journey surrounded by the strong familial influence of his mom, aunts and grandfather. This thirst for knowledge continued as his formal schooling began at the Reynolds School in North Philadelphia and where early academic success led him to enter Central High School in Philadelphia at the young age of 12.   Harry had once joked that he had to be smart and fast being one of the youngest and shortest students in the school. This need to be fast led to a passion for sports both watching and participating in them including basketball, swimming and skiing.   Graduating high school with honors at the very young age of 16, Harry went on to pursue his education at Lincoln University where as a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, he continued to excel academically graduating in 1939. His college yearbook even then predicted he would be Dr. Harry Thomas someday and he went on to fulfill that prophecy by attending Howard University Medical School and graduating in 1946. After graduating medical school, Harry went on to his internship and residency Freedman Hospital. While at Freedman Hospital Harry was inspired by his mentor and teacher. Dr. Charles Drew, who was a pioneer in methods of storing blood which played a key role in saving lives during the war.   Harry enlisted in the army just as World War II was drawing to a close and completed his residency at the U.S. Marine Hospital while stationed in England. Before being discharged in 1950 he was Chief of Surgery at the hospital. While stationed in England Harry’s quest of for knowledge went so far as to put him in the seat of the small war planes hitching a ride with an airman to anywhere in Europe. He would take full advantage of the trips to experience the culture, art and local entertainment. On one such cross-channel trip, his small plane experienced engine trouble had to do an emergency landing in a field in France. Harry said that was more of an adventure then he signed up for and was grateful when the next morning they were picked up in a new plane and returned safely back to base. On another weekend trip, a friend from back home in Philadelphia, asked him if he would like to go with him to meet his date at a show. Harry gladly went along, only to find himself staring face to face with a ‘beautiful’ Lena Horn – his friend’s apparent date for the evening.   Harry and his wife Betty Ann raised their two 2 Children, Harriet [Sue] Thomas and Harry Cole Thomas in Philadelphia while Harry was working as a general surgeon and teacher at Women’s Medical. As a surgeon at Women’s Medical, which eventually became Medical College of Pennsylvania (M.C.P), he shaped and mentored some of the finest physicians in Philadelphia. These students and colleagues became lifelong friends of Harry’s keeping in touch no matter where their future careers and successes led them.   Harry was a top-notch diagnostician often taking the most difficult problems and through carefully listening to the patient coming up with diagnosis and treatments that saved countless lives. Despite numerous awards, publications and gratitude from his former students, Harry always remained humble. It was often difficult to get him to even talk about his successes. He once let slip, casually into conversation, that while practicing he was called in to conduct a history and physical on Martin Luther King Jr.   Harry’s distinguished medical career spanned 6 decades and hundreds of thousands of patients. Even after his distinguished service at MCP, he went onto continue serving patients for the city of Philadelphia until for another 25 years. Like any good doctor however; Harry was always one to consult with family and friends about any difficult medical questions – loving the challenge of a problem not yet solved.   As the consummate educator, Harry’s lessons did not end on hospital floor or even outside the formal classroom. He was constantly sharing his knowledge and teaching those around him, whether it was how to ski or how to enjoy life. Harry taught those life lessons by example as well. Harry swam several times a week for an hour until he was 97. He skied until he was 96 enjoying the moguls and fresh powder at various locations around the world. One of his favorite times of day was 3 p.m. - ‘martini time’.   While Harry will be missed by his family and friends, there is certainty in the fact that Harry’s legacy lives on in the lives of those with whom he shared his wisdom.Relatives and friends are invited to his Memorial Service on Saturday July 14, 2018 at St. Vincent de Paul Church 109 E. Price St. Philadelphia, PA 19144.  
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Service Schedule

Past Services

Funeral Service

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Starts at 11:00am (Eastern time)

St. Vincent de Paul Church

109 E Price St, Philadelphia, PA 19144

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