Can a smile and a wave really make a positive and lasting impact on passersby? Well, if you read the social media comments mourning the death of Christopher Alan Thomas, the answer certainly is yes.
For years, this retired Harris County resident performed his daily ritual of neighborly bonding: He greeted every vehicle driving by as he sat in a folding chair outside his double-wide, where he lived alone across Fortson Road from Bigham Chapel United Methodist Church.
That’s where family and friends will gather Sept. 21 for his memorial service, starting at 7 p.m., according to the arrangements announced by Cox Funeral Home in his obituary.
Friday morning, someone called 911 after finding Thomas collapsed and unresponsive on the front steps outside his home, Harris County coroner Joe Weldon told the Ledger-Enquirer. Weldon pronounced him dead from natural causes at 11:49 a.m. Thomas was 64.
Here’s a sampling of the more than 100 comments posted about Thomas on the Harris County, GA, Chat Facebook page:
“We looked forward to seeing him in the mornings and his sweet wave to every car,” wrote Melissa Phillips Hall.
“It makes my day going by his place I’m constantly blowing the air horn in my jeep and wave every single time super cool guy,” wrote Brad Davis.
“I went that way just so I could see him smile when I beeped and waved. He touched many people sitting out there. Such a nice man,” wrote Beth Martin.
“I’m so sad. He made me smile every day,” wrote Karen Norman.
“He will be missed. Made lots of friends with just a kind wave. RiP,” wrote Heidy E. McConnell.
“It’s like he was saying goodbye to all of us, people hadn’t seen him a few days prior and then he’s out the day before he passed to say a final goodbye,” DeAnna Wine wrote.
“He deserves a statue right off the side of Fortson road, so we can continue waving to him,” wrote Troy Moore.
Thomas’ niece, Lezlie Winters, was thinking about driving from her home in Florida to visit Thomas for his birthday, which would have been Saturday, the day after he died. Now, she’s helping plan a different celebration in his honor.
“He was a fixture in the community,” she told the Ledger-Enquirer. “He was a great guy all around, one of the nicest people you’d be blessed to have known.”
Who was Christopher Alan Thomas?
Thomas was born in Columbus and served in the U.S. Army for nine years, rising to the rank of sergeant.
After leaving the military, Thomas drove concrete mixer trucks for several companies.
In retirement, along with smiling and waving at passersby, his daily routine included walking 2 miles each way to the Chevron on Route 315 to hang out with his buddies.
He rode horses. He participated in Civil War reenactments. He smoked Marlboros and drank Coca-Cola. He watched the Georgia Bulldogs and NASCAR.
His favorite saying was, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
“He just loved life,” Winters said. “… He had a strong love for the community, and the community had a strong love for him. I and the rest of my family, we’re extremely grateful for everything and everyone. It’s just beyond words.”
Thomas also is survived by his sister, Barbara, and two nephews, Stefan and Jacob.
Tuesday, although Thomas was gone, that folding chair outside his home still was occupied — full of various tributes, as was the chain-link fence. Flowers, cards, notes and miniature American flags expressed appreciation.
“It’s beautiful to know that he had such a strong touch on everybody’s life,” Winters said. “Everybody is leaving this bright, colorful stuff because he brightened their day.”
Winters wasn’t aware of any health problems Thomas might have had.
“He was kind of private,” she said. “He didn’t want to worry us.”
Thomas will be buried in the church graveyard across from his home, joining his mother and brother there.
Winters welcomes anyone connected to Thomas to attend his memorial service, especially the countless passersby who benefited from his daily smiles and waves.
“The more the merrier,” she said. “… You never really know how much a small gesture could bring. You never know what type of day they are having and how impactful it can be.”
Folks who drove by the home of Christopher Alan Thomas have a good idea.