BEDFORD - Bill Thomas lived his life to the fullest.
"He was very congenial, he always had a smile on his face. He always said he was going to enjoy every day of his life and he did," said longtime friend James Vreeland of Hollidaysburg, retired CEO and president of UPMC Bedford Memorial Hospital. "He enjoyed every moment of his life."
William K. "Bill" Thomas, 84, died Saturday at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.
After graduating from Bedford High School in 1945, he immediately joined the family business, Thomas Chevrolet, and later became owner.
Bill Griffiths of Bedford, a close friend and neighbor for many years, said he bought several cars from Thomas.
"He was pretty shrewd but he was honest; if you asked him for the best deal, he would give you the best deal he could," Griffiths said.
Kerry Barefoot, president of Bedford Food Outreach Inc., said he worked for Thomas at the dealerships' body shop in the late 1960s before going to college.
"He was a great guy. He had great expectations for his employees, but I always felt that I was treated fairly," Barefoot said. "I enjoyed talking to him about hunting and fishing."
Thomas loved the outdoors: hunting, fishing and golfing.
"I am originally from Cambria County, and when he heard I loved to hunt and fish, he grabbed a hold of me. We went out on the streams together down in Yellow Creek in Bedford County," said the Rev. Donald Dusza, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bedford. "Bill also had a farm in the southern part of the county, and he took me hunting."
Thomas was an avid fisherman.
"He loved fishing so much, he would go up to Canada to fish for salmon and needed a helicopter to get back to the lakes," Vreeland said.
Thomas enjoyed young people as well.
"Bill was a real person; there was nothing put on about Bill. Bill was very caring and loving, especially the youth," longtime friend Joel Pyle of Bedford said. "He was a great mentor for hunters and fishermen. He really liked kids and gave them a lot of guidance and help."
"He enjoyed helping the young people with hunting and fishing so the sport could prosper," Griffiths said.
Thomas also was very involved in the community, serving as president of Bedford Borough Council and was active in many civic and charitable activities.
"He was very interested in the business community, and he was very generous to the community. He was always involved in fundraisers for the schools and Little League," Vreeland said. "He was a very generous guy, a pleasant guy, a real humanist."
"He knew everybody and everybody knew him. He was involved in many organizations," said Jim Tritt, sales manager at Thomas Chevrolet.
He is survived by his wife, Marianne; his son, Mark; two grandchildren; a sister, Joan Baker, and numerous nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. today at St. Thomas the Apostle Church. Burial will be at St. Thomas Catholic Cemetery.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.