IF YOU ever want to see what sunshine looks like when encased in human form, look no further than Tullahoma resident Deanna Thomas. Her smile warms everyone who receives it, and her bubbly personality and kind words will hit you at your very core. It will remind you that there are good people in this world, and Thomas is at the top of the list.
She seeks no recognition of reward for her actions but simply to know that she has left those she has come in contact with better than she found them. Thomas’s love of helping and hopeful personality is something she said comes from her parents.
“They were both children of the depression and blue-collar workers,” she said. “Life was difficult at times, but they just chose to be upbeat, and I have followed their example. My faith is also something that brings me hope and joy. God is a God of second chances. And so I just have joy.”
Thomas has moved throughout life as a teacher and substitute coordinator for the Tullahoma City Schools. She has acted as a caregiver for her parents, a mother to three, and a servant in the church. She has worked happily and diligently to spread love and kindness where she finds it lacking.
Thomas’s daughter, Kelly Orr, said her mother has always been a stickler for doing the right thing and helping others.
“When I was a brownie in Girl Scouts, I needed to fulfill a badge requirement,” explained Orr. “I went to a neighbor’s house and swept off the sidewalk. When I finished, she met me at her front door to thank me with cash. I was ecstatic and ran home to show my mom. My mother took that opportunity to teach me the true meaning of ‘help thy neighbor’ and quickly sent me back to return the money. I learned, that day, that an act of kindness does not nor should not need something in return.”
Orr added that she also has learned from her mother the quality of being positive. A quality that she, too, now carries with her.
“For as long as I can remember, my mom has always put others before herself. She’s not only a ‘cup half full’ kind of person, but she lives her life as if her cup runneth over. She is the most positive, thoughtful, and quietly generous individual I know, and I feel beyond blessed not only to have her in my life but to have her as a mother and a role model.”
Thomas said she has also enjoyed the role of a grandmother or “Nan,” as her grandchildren know her. She is also a member of King’s Cross Church. As a member of the church’s welcoming committee, she strives to treat each person that walks through the door with kindness.
“I remember times when I felt invisible,” explained Thomas. “When I would go somewhere, it didn’t seem to matter if I was there. I don’t want anyone walking through those doors to feel like that. If I can make anybody feel welcome, that’s my aim.”
Long-time friend and church member Cherie Olive said Thomas encompasses her faith through her welcoming nature.
“Deanna is the definition of joy,” she said. “She arrives with a smile and is so warm and welcoming. She is quick to lend a hand to help and doesn’t mind if the job she is asked to do is somewhat unique. She is also gracious when she encounters a bump in the road. You can tell she spends quality time investing in her relationship with God.”
Thomas said she hopes her impact on those she has been blessed to interact with is that of making a positive impact in their lives.
“For me, to make an impact would be to make a positive difference,” she said. “I think that’s my purpose. I think we all need a purpose. People have been good to me, and I want to pass that on. I’m big on being kind and being able to pay it forward. If I can be an example of that, or help my grandchildren do that, then that’s what I’m going to do.” GN