Tribute | Don Thomason was a gentleman with a can-do attitude


Don V. Thomason, 89, of Kansas City.

When and how he died:

Nov. 3 of pulmonary hypertension.

Devoted husband:

From the time Don met his wife, Lee, in college during the 1940s in the small Missouri town of Kennett, he devoted his life to her.

“Mother was a great beauty and was used to having people dote on her,” said their daughter, Donna Thomason. “He took her on a date and she asked when he would call her and he said he wasn’t sure. It was the first time someone hadn’t just dropped at their feet for her.”

Regardless, Don was smitten. Their marriage lasted 65 years.

Last year, Lee contracted meningitis, which left her impaired. Though the family moved her into an older adult living facility, Don, who was in poor health himself, felt compelled to care for her.

“He would pick up food for her,” Donna said. “He would arrive in her room at 8 in the morning, dressed in a coat and tie, and wouldn’t leave until late at night when she fell asleep. It was all about making her life as much like it had been. It was the very essence of what love is.”

Added their son, Bart Thomason: “He adored her, and to his own detriment in later years, he cared and doted on her.”

A family man:

Don’s family was his focal point, even as his career took him from Kennett to Jefferson City and ultimately Kansas City.

“You could set a clock by him in terms of his schedule,” Donna said. “He walked in the house at 6 o’clock … and then we had dinner together. It really was at least an hour talking about our day. It was a time of great communion.”

When Don served as Missouri commissioner of agriculture, he worked in Jefferson City. At first, rather than uproot his family, he commuted.

“He learned to fly during the war, so he flew back and forth in his little plane to Kennett for a year before my mom said, ‘Enough,’ and we moved,” Donna said.

When someone approached Don about running for governor, the family discussed it around the kitchen table. He wanted to run, but the rest of the family didn’t want him to, Donna said. He followed their wishes.

He also supported his children’s career aspirations and taught them tenacity, she said.

“There was never anything we weren’t supported on,” Donna said. “He told us, ‘You have the ability to accomplish anything you put your mind to.’”

Savvy businessman:

Bart described his father as a gentleman.

“He was a kind person — his demeanor and the way he treated people,” Bart said. “He would always stand when people came into a room.”

Bart said his father had a strong work ethic — another characteristic he imparted to his children. Don began his career in the farming and cotton processing industry, later becoming president of the Missouri Cotton Producers Association. He transitioned into state government as agriculture commissioner.

In 1965, he served as a regional director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Later he transitioned into banking. He served as an executive officer with United Missouri Bank and then bought his own banks before forming his own financial business.

“He was well liked and admired,” Donna said. “He had immense integrity — almost idealistic — that everyone was good.”

Added Bart: “I think he tried to be fair and honest with everyone.”

Survivors include:

His wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law, and one grandson.

Final thoughts:

Donna said her father’s legacy is twofold: “How he enriched the lives of others and his massive devotion to Lee.”