Thomas was a very kind man and a very gentle soul. I saw him several times a week for many years - more than I see most neighbors. He always greeted me warmly and wished me well. You couldn't help but smile after an encounter with Thomas.
We all knew him. When my boys Eddie and Tim were little they would point him out if we were passing him in the car shouting, "THERE'S THOMAS!" and wave. He rarely waved back because he wasn't watching passing cars. He lived right where he was. If you saw him while walking, he always had a wave and a kind word. Thomas was homeless and mentally ill. And he was lovely and seemed very happy.
For the last several years, Thomas lived in the trees along Park Presidio and spent his days on Clement Street. When I would see him at 9th and Clement he greeted me like an old friend. For many years before that he lived in Golden Gate Park off JFK Drive, right by 8th avenue. I know that because at one time he proudly showed me his "home" in the trees.
Thomas was a fixture in the park for many years. Maggie and I were also fixtures in the park and ran into him all the time. He would jump up when he saw her wheelchair coming and spout blessings and wonder and lovely things. He delighted Maggie and he loved Maggie - but then again he loved everyone. I've seen him many times since Maggie died and could never bring myself to tell him. I didn't want to do anything to make him sad.
We saw him all the time in the Park or at Safeway or just around the neighborhood. I tried to bring him a plate for Thanksgiving one year, but he was nowhere to be found. Tim tried to give him money one time, but Thomas refused it. He never asked for anything. He just spread joy.
Once my sister Ellen and two of her kids came to the City for a jaunt to the Park with Maggie and me. Her son Jeff and Maggie were both 3 or 4 years old and her daughter Leigh was probably 7 or 8. As we approached the area that Thomas frequented, I wanted to give them a heads up. They live in the suburbs and and Thomas was part of the colorful tapestry that makes the City so interesting. It was very different for them and it was entirely possible that he might scare them. As we got closer I spied him on the bench and said, "OK guys, this guy knows Maggie and he is going to say hello. He is a very nice man but he acts different than most people." I barely had the words out of my mouth when Thomas saw us coming, jumped up in his tattered clothing, with his beard and dreadlocks and threw back his head in greeting saying something like. "Oh there she is, my friend, she is blessed and she is beautiful and I love her. Hello Hello Hello my friend." Maggie gave him a big grin as she always did, and Leigh and Jeff looked wide eyed at the unusual man. They took it in stride, though and we went on about our day.
A few months later Ellen was driving a bunch of Leigh's classmates on a field trip to the Park. As they neared the park she spied a homeless man (not Thomas) walking along and said, "Hey mom, isn't that Auntie Sally's friend?" Her classmates were starting at her mouths agape wondering who in the world her Aunt Sally was. Thomas gave me street cred with the 3rd graders from Santa Rosa.
I learned of Thomas' passing from Eddie. He sent me the article linked below. Eddie lives 400 miles away now, and has for many years, but this hit him because Thomas was part of our life. I am so glad someone wrote this article and if you have time I encourage you to read the comments. Everyone had almost the same experiences that we did.
The Richmond District might not be the sexiest or most exciting part of San Francisco, but when you read the kind comments, you will see that it is truly the heart of this City. Here's the link: http://richmondsfblog.com/2016/10/27/thomas-resident-homeless-man-at-funston-clement-passed-away-wednesday-night/
Rest in Peace, Thomas. And thank you for so many years of kindness and love.