Kathryn (Kay) Thomas

Kathryn (Kay) Thomas was born July 24, 1926, to Ivan T. and Jesse Maude Wilson. She died peacefully at her home June 23, 2022. She was born at home in Elwood, seven miles west from the downtown square in Springfield. Her great-grandfather J. D. L. Wiley, who fought in the Civil War, homesteaded the land in 1845. The farmhouse and land remain in the family today.
Thomas was proud of her education in a one room schoolhouse in Elwood with all eight grades. She attended Willard High School where she was a cheerleader and enjoyed debate. She graduated with honors as class salutatorian in 1944. Since high school days at Willard, 10 of her friends “The Willard Girls” met for dinner or shopping or traveling for the next 60 years.  
She received a full scholarship to State Teachers College, now Missouri State University where she was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority. She became a national officer of her sorority and enjoyed travel on behalf of the organization. While attending college, she met Wilber Delaney Long. They were married July 20, 1946. She was delighted to include in her family Wilber’s children; C. Wills Long, 10, and Anne Charmaine Long, 8. Their son, Michael D. was born in 1948. After her divorce from Wilber, she needed to make a living for her family. She headed to New York City to receive training as an electrologist. As a highly skilled technician, she was the first to open a business of this kind in Springfield called American Electrolysis. Soon, many plastic surgeons and dermatologists were sending their patients to her for hair removal as this was the cutting edge of technology at the time.
On April 7, 1962, she married Olen Tennis. They enjoyed building a home together on their farm in Battlefield. Olen’s sudden death at age 51, in 1968 left her widowed.
She later married James Emory Thomas, April 18, 1970. Kay enjoyed her extended family of stepchildren. As a couple they enjoyed playing golf at Twin Oaks Country Club and Ft. Lauderdale Country Club when staying at their condo in Florida. She was an outstanding golfer playing in the Championship flight at Twin Oaks and tournaments all over southwest Missouri and in parts of Oklahoma and Kansas. She had several “hole in ones” to her credit. They were married until Jim’s passing in 1989.
When she was in her mid-80’s another great man entered her life, James Wyatt Napper. They never married but spent many happy days together until his death in 2016.
Thomas was an immensely proud Christian. Her church up-bringing started at the Elwood Methodist Church, where most of the founding 22 members were her direct descendants. She was an early member of King’s Way United Methodist Church during their chartering. The group met and held services in the small house located on the property with only 32 people.
Thomas was predeceased by her mother, father and brother, Joe Wilson (Lena); husbands Wilber D. Long, Olen Tennis, Jim Thomas, stepsons C. Wills Long, Ron Thomas, David Thomas (Vicky), stepdaughter, Phyllis (Tennis) Herndon, and her significant other, Jim Napper.
She is survived by her son, Michael D. (Cathy) Long; stepdaughter Anne Davis (Warren); step-daughter-in-law, Pat Long; step-daughter-in-law Shirley Thomas of Georgia; ; nieces, Karen Fesperman and Tammy Corbin of Springfield and a host of grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home, Springfield. The visitation at the funeral home will be from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, July 19, 2022. A celebration of life, at King’s Way United Methodist Church, 2401 S. Lone Pine, Springfield, is at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Burial will be at Clear Creek Cemetery on 7782 W. Farm Rd. 108, Springfield, MO following the service. Donations may be made to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Isabel’s House or charity of your choice.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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