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Jim Thomas

"I came out of high school in the middle of World War II," says retired professor Jim Thomas, who grew up on the Kansas prairie, then worked in a lab at Cal Tech. "I was part of the Manhattan Project and didn't know it. When I found out, in the fall of '45, I was appalled." He became a Quaker, switched his major from chemistry to philosophy, earned a PhD at Claremont, and taught at Mt San Antonio College. "Being Quaker, I did service abroad and in the US," says Thomas, who served with the Peace Corps in Tanzania in 1966-68. "My wife and three boys were there." Visiting Japan, he saw the area in Nagasaki hit by the bomb. "I worked on the detonator," he says. "I was weeping, and Japanese people came over to comfort me." In 1987, five years after the death of his wife, Thomas met Susan Chute at Pendle Hill Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia. "I had just retired," he says. "We sang together, and we've been in cahoots ever since." They spent four years at the center, then eight years on a farm outside Myrtle Creek, Oregon. "Susan is a horse person," he notes. After they moved to Eugene in 1998, the Thomases started a Quaker group called Alternative Responses to Military Service (ARMS) that for seven years put on a monthly Peace Pizza Party for kids of ages 14-18.

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 18 August 2011

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