Father Jerald Thomas, a longtime fixture in Sonoma County's Catholic community, was a priest with a passion for music and motorcycles.
Thomas died of natural causes Feb. 8 at Nazareth House in San Rafael where he was living in retirement. He was 86.
Thomas spent his final 11 years as an active priest at St. Eugene's in Santa Rosa, ministering as a part-time associate pastor until 1998.
"I don't know a soul who wasn't delighted when he appeared," said Deirdre Frontzcak, a choir member at St. Eugene's.
When his sister-in-law, Sarah Thomas, was going through some of his things this week, she found a poem with a strange title: "My Long Time Love Affair."
"I was taken aback for a minute," said Thomas, 89. Her momentary shock was allayed as she found herself reading a love letter to motorcycles. "He had a Harley," she said.
Born in Oakland in 1926, Thomas attended Vallejo High School and the San Rafael Military Academy.
Thomas said her brother-in-law was a thoughtful man who loved German Shepherds and was "civic-minded." When she met him in 1943, he had just graduated from the military academy.
Offered a scholarship at West Point, the young Thomas was conflicted about pursuing a career in the military or the priesthood. Eventually, the priesthood won out.
After attending college and seminary, Thomas was ordained into the priesthood in 1956 for service in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.