(Editor’s Note–Coach Baron Gray Thomas, beloved athlete, coach, teacher and banker passed away Friday, May 28, at the age of 79.)
On Friday afternoon, May 28, 2021, Coach Baron Thomas, 79, crossed the final goal line surrounded by his family having lived a full life and giving his all to so many. His life’s work is a testament to his love, faith, compassion and dedication to so many that he held near and dear to his heart. Baron Gray Thomas was born, Oct. 29, 1941 in Waynesboro, Mississippi to Birdie and Berdell Thomas.
He spent his youth playing many sports and achieving many academic accomplishments. He attended Jonesboro Jr. College in Mississippi and transferred to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. He then moved to attend McNeese State University in Lake Charles.
During this time, Coach Thomas joined the United States Army Reserves in order to answer the country’s call of service if needed. While at McNeese, he played quarterback and received a degree in biology and chemistry. While attending McNeese, he met and fell for the love of his life, Beverly Sue Rutherford. He said “she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen”, and he felt this way to the very last breath he took. They married in Creole at Oak Grove Baptist Church on Apr. 17, 1965.
Upon his graduation, he took an assistant coaching position at Marion High School, followed by an assistant coaching position at Welsh High School. In 1968, he transferred to South Cameron High School where he set his roots. He educated and coached generations of students.
Coach Thomas was a man who cared deeply for each and everyone he came into contact with and loved his Mighty Tarpons. Whether it was in a classroom or on the field, he made it a point to remind everyone about how important they were and how one could achieve a dream with hard work, the spirit of teamwork, dedication and loyalty. He always said, “that you can have the most talented person, but without heart, the road ahead will be a very challenging one,” and he tried to live this as an example.
He loved everyone around him and held all of his colleagues in high esteem making sure that victories were always shared and credit was always given. In 1974, he received Coach of the Year, which was one of his greatest honors and achievements.
In the late ‘70s Coach left South Cameron and worked at Cameron State Bank. During his 17 years at the bank, he acquired two additional degrees from Louisiana State University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as well as holding the positions of Vice President and President of the bank. In the early ‘90s, Coach finally returned to the place his heart never quite left, coaching and education. After returning to the education system, he returned to his alma mater, McNeese State University, to acquire two additional degrees. He retired in 2007, and upon displacement from Hurricane Rita, he moved with his wife to Kinder. While there, he voluntarily became a part of the Yellow Jacket football team. For as long as he was able, he dedicated his knowledge of the game and the love of the sport, athletes, and coaching staff.
Coach Thomas was a man who deeply loved and that love came from his devotion and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He exemplified what it meant to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk. The light of our Lord and Savior shone through him in how he treated his family, friends, students, athletes, and colleagues. He had a wonderful sense of humor and absolutely loved to share that with everyone, even the unsuspecting. He would make friends almost instantaneously with that famous and sometimes almost infamous sense of humor. He loved to sit and talk football for hours with anyone that would listen. Faith, family, friends, and football, meant the world to him and his presence will be deeply missed.
Coach Thomas was preceded in death by his parents, Birdie and Berdell Thomas; mother-in-law and father-in-law, Ruby and William “Bill” Rutherford; brother, Larry Thomas; sister-in-law, Carolyn Rutherford; and his brother-in-law, William “Billy Boy” Rutherford.
Left to forever cherish his memory is his beloved wife, Beverly Sue Thomas; daughters, Lane Thomas of Kinder, Kelly Thomas (Rusty) of Kinder, Sherrie Deshotels (David) of Kinder, and Julie Shields (Bennie) of Grand Lake; siblings, Judith Graham (Charles) of Waynesboro, Miss., Deborah Fields (Vaughn) of Laurel, Miss., Terry Thomas (Callie) of Hattiesburg, Miss.; grandchildren, Gerry Thomas, Jody Thomas (Bethany), Sydney Thomas, Alexis Deshotels, Samantha Deshotels, Thomas Deshotels, Matteson Manzi, Barron Shields, Bane Shields; future great-grandson, Harrison Gray Thomas; along with numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Services were held at Hixson Funeral Home in Lake Charles on Wednesday, June 2, at 11 a.m., with Bro. Don Barrett officiating. Visitation was at Hixson Funeral Home in Lake Charles on Tuesday, June 1, from 5 until 9 p.m. Visitation resumed at the funeral home on Wednesday from 9 a.m. until the time of the service. Burial followed at Grand Lake/Sweet Lake Cemetery.
The family would like to thank the staff at Kinder Community Hospital. The entire hospital’s outpouring of love and dedicated care will always be remembered.
Words of comfort may be shared with the family at www.jehixson.com.