Ben Thomas had just returned to LeSeur, Minn, to reopen his veterinary practice following sixteen months of overseas duty in France during World War I when his in-laws prevailed upon him to consider funeral service as a profession. This was only natural, since his wife Lydia's family was actively involved in the ownership and operation of the Welander-Quist funeral homes in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Ben (B.J.) Thomas earned his embalming certificate from the University of Minnesota in 1924 and after working for two years in the Twin Cities a tip from his brother, Evan J. Thomas, one of Minot's first engineers, encouraged him to consider Minot, ND as an option for his career in funeral service. B.J. purchased the Van Fleet Undertaking Co., located at 121 South Main Street, in 1926. The funeral home was located in the building later occupied by Anderson's D&S Bootery. During those early years, Sullivan's Floral Shop was located next door, Mowbray's Plumbing was downstairs, and the YWCA was upstairs. During this era, B.J. received assistance in the operation of the funeral home from Rosena Musch, Almond Strong, Del Hurd and Charles Prine. Later, in the Ben Thomas era of ownership Dene Taylor, Weyburn and Dale Niewoehner and Warren Tollefson provided assistance.
B.J. Thomas died on March 3, 1964, at the age of 73. Ben Thomas served the Minot area as a funeral director and civic leader. He was involved with the YMCA, Minot School Board, Boy Scouts, American Legion, Masons, Shrine, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, First Presbyterian Church, and Order of Eastern Star.
Following the completion of World War II, Ben Thomas foresaw the need to upgrade and enlarge his facility to better serve the families that called upon him for assistance. He purchased the former residence of Martin Jacobson, located at 304 South Main Street, Minot, in 1944. After minimal remodeling, the beautiful white house was converted to a funeral home in May of 1945. The stately old home that dates back to 1903, graces the south end of Main Street. It has withstood the test of time and has served as the funeral home for Thomas Funeral Service, Inc., for more than 55 years.
Still present at the funeral home, and recently restored in 1999, is a stained glass window that depicts an embracing pair of beautiful young lovers as they shelter each other from "The Storm" in Pierre Augeste Cot's idyllically romantic piece dated 1880. The original painting is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York. Speculation by the window restorer is that the window was constructed shortly after the original painting was done by Pierre Auguste Cot and was placed in a building on the East Coast; then, purchased by Mr. Jacobson and transported from the East Coast to the prairies of North Dakota to serve as a focal point for his new home. During the 1920's and 30's, the home served as a rooming house for nurses employed at Trinity Hospital and for the general public.
Ben's eldest son, John W. Thomas, became affiliated with the family business in 1952, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota College of Mortuary Science. After a brief stint with the U.S. Army during the mid 1950's, John became a partner in the operation of the funeral home. John Thomas assumed full ownership upon his father's death.
During John's era of ownership George Magnuson, James Wankel, Dene Taylor, Rodger Haugen, Richard Anderson and William "Bill" Nelson assisted him in the operation of the funeral home. Additionally, the funeral home exterior was completely remodeled in 1979. The interior was redecorated and the third level was converted to offices in the summer of 2002.
As a young adult John was a member of the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, Downtown Merchants and Professional Association, Colin Brown Y's Men's Club, Downtown Merchants and Minot Curling Club slow pitch softball teams, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and KEM Temple of the Shrine. He satisfied all the requirements to become Eminent Commander of the DeMolay Commandry No. 10, Knights Templar and High Priest of the Tyrian Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons within the York Rite Bodies. John also served as the NW District Governor of the ND Funeral Directors Association.
Most recently, John was a member of the reunion committee of the Minot High School Class of 1949, Eagle's Aerie, Elk's Lodge, American Legion, Moose Lodge, Kiwanis Club, YMCA, Minot Country Club, and Minot Curling Club. He had served as coach of his children's youth basketball, softball, and baseball teams, which won several city championships and was a member of the Minot Recreation Commission Board of Directors. He was a five-time state senior men's curling champion and a national champion in 1986. Eight of the nine starters and ten players total from the 1977 state American Legion championship baseball team were members of John's city recreation league teams at some point in their younger years. The past few years, he enjoyed volunteering for the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Parker Senior Center.
Bradley J. Thomas joined his father in the operation of the funeral home in 1984, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota College of Mortuary Science. Bryan D. Thomas joined the staff in 1989, after completion of his mortuary science education at Mt. Hood Community College, located in Gresham, OR, a suburb of Portland, OR. Brad and Bryan have assisted their father on a part-time basis since the early 1970's. Their mother, Lorraine Thomas, has assisted at funeral services since 1983. Brad and Bryan Thomas purchased the business from their father in 1995. They presently co-own and manage the funeral home. John Thomas remained an active member of the funeral home until his death on November 9, 2001 (John W. Thomas Obituary). Professional staff, assisting Brad and Bryan during the past decade have been Paul Langhans, David Stimpson, Ben Slind and Doug Rode. Currently, Mark Roth assists Brad and Bryan Thomas as fulltime licensed funeral directors on staff.