Donald Thomas

Donald Thomas

1927 - 2018

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Obituary of Donald Thomas

Husband, Father, Grandfather, Judge, Devout Catholic

For all who had the pleasure to know him, Donald Thomas was one of the most honorable and compassionate gentleman anyone could meet. His humble and kind demeanor was evident to all, whether to those who knew him personally, or professionally as a Municipal Court Judge. He enjoyed a rare popularity in every segment of the legal community, and, in the view of many lawyers, epitomized what a judge should be: fair, hard-working, conscientious, and thoughtful--- a model of judicial temperament, legendary in local legal circles. After celebrating his 90th birthday, he declined in health, passing into the presence of his Savior on March 21, 2018.

Don was born in Montana in 1927 and was raised in the northern California farming country, graduating from Orland High School, Chico State College, and UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. He served the last months of WW II on the USS Flambeau (IX-192). In remembering those times he liked to proudly say, I earned the rank of "Store Keeper Third Class"! He met his beloved first wife of over 56 years, Shirley, as a law student studying in the Public Library where she was a librarian. Don was an altar boy in his local Catholic parish, an athlete in football and track in high school, a president of the Catholic Newman Club and a member of the Chi Tau Fraternity at Chico State. Later, he was a counselor at the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma, a Grand Knight in his parish's Knights of Columbus chapter, and a church lector.

During the 11 years Don and Shirley spent in Orland, CA while raising their family, Don enjoyed sailboat racing, golf, pheasant hunting and fishing, as well as listening to opera, attending symphony concerts, and playing chess. He was in private law practice for ten years (1955-1965), serving four years of that period as a justice court judge, a position he resigned in 1963 upon his election as District Attorney of Glenn County. He left the Sacramento Valley for Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1965 to be Deputy District Attorney at the courthouses in Salinas and Monterey. Before being appointed to the bench as Monterey County Municipal Court Judge by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1973, he was in private law practice with partners Joseph R. and Leon E. Panetta, and Ralph W. Thompson III.

Don found time to continue his sailboat racing, was a Commodore of the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, was an active member of the Sherlock Holmes Diogenes Club, and president of Beacon House recovery center. Upon his retirement in 1989, Don continued his golf, and varied cultural interests, especially reading and worldwide travel with Shirley. He also relished his monthly lunch with his friends in the "Romeos"- Retired Old Men Eating Out.

Two years after Shirley died, after a long, courageous battle with cancer in 2012, Don married the other love of his life, the beautiful and devout Joan Brophy, who had previously ministered to Shirley as their church's Eucharist Minister for the homebound. Don and Joan enjoyed four years of marriage before his passing. Don would often say, "I have spent a lifetime correcting my faults because I never wanted them to come out when I was on the Bench." His humor and quick wit remained keen to the end.

Don's life touched and inspired the lives of many, including even those who appeared before him as defendants. Don will be greatly missed by many, especially his beloved wife, Joan, and his three children, daughters, Pam and Terri, and son, Don Jr.; sons-in-law Andy Miller and Alex Kent; and three grandchildren, Abby, Ian, and Fiona; sister and brother-in-law Suzie and Daryl Gleason; brother Jim; sister Barbara; and preceding in death, brother Jack; many dear nephews and nieces; and stepchildren, Richard, Khasy, and Mark and their children.

A Visitation Hour will be held at 6:00 PM with the Rosary following at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, March 27 at the Mission Mortuary, 450 Camino El Estero in Monterey. The Funeral Mass will be at Carmel Mission Basilica on Wednesday, March 28 at 10:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Loretto Carmelite Monastery, where granddaughter Fiona resides (P.O. Box 57 Loretto, PA 15940-0057 or online: or The Carmelite Monastery (27951 Hwy 1, Carmel, CA 93923).


MAR 27. 06:00 PM - 07:00 PM Mission Mortuary 450 Camino El Estero Monterey, CA, US, 93940


MAR 27. 07:00 PM - 08:00 PM Mission Mortuary 450 Camino El Estero Monterey, CA, US, 93940

Mass of Christian Burial

MAR 28. 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Carmel Mission Basilica 3080 Rio Road Carmel, CA, US


MAR 28. 11:15 AM - 01:15 PM Carmel Mission Basilica 3080 Rio Road Carmel, CA, US

Graveside Service

MAR 28. 02:00 PM - 02:30 PM San Carlos Cemetery 792 Fremont Street Monterey, CA, US


San Carlos Cemetery 792 Fremont Street Monterey, CA,