Melvin Walter Thomas was born Feb. 9, 1948, to Roger and Arlue Nix Thomas in Vermillion, SD. He was the third of seven children, having five brothers and one sister. His father was a Methodist minister, prompting the family to live in small towns throughout South Dakota. Mel attended Alexandria High School and graduated in 1967. Academics and athletics defined Mel’s formative years.
Mel was a gifted athlete. At Alexandria High School he starred in football, basketball, and track. He holds the distinction of being part of five championship teams during his high school and college career. At Alexandria, he was part of two state B championship teams and at South Dakota State University he was a part of three North Central Conference championship teams culminating in a tournament berth in the Division II National Tournament. Mel was a starting defensive back on the 1969 SDSU football team. Mel’s college basketball coach, Jim Marking, said Mel was the best defensive player he had ever coached. In his athletic endeavors, as well as his professional life, Mel had the heart of a champion.
Mel attended South Dakota State University on a basketball scholarship and majored in civil engineering.
He felt a call to practice medicine and attended the University of South Dakota School of Medicine, finishing his medical education at Eastern Virginia Medical School. After fulfilling his obligation as a physician with the United States Public Health Corp, he completed a General Internal Medicine residency at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine. He practiced as a physician for 45 years as a clinician and in academics. Starting in 2008, he was a partner with Avera Internal Medicine Group in Sioux Falls, SD.
A love for music, art, and books was central to Mel’s life. His appreciation for words was often expressed in his ability to write poetry. This year, he was honored to have one of his works accepted for publication in South Dakota by South Dakotans, an anthology of poems collected by South Dakota Poet Laureate, Christine Stewart.
In 1982, Mel married Carol Williamson and they had two children, Lindsey C. Thomas and Evan W. Thomas. Mel shared his love of basketball with his two children by coaching them in youth sports and attending many high school and college basketball games.
In 2008, Mel married Nancy (Hannemann) Thum. Together they enjoyed gardening, water sports at their Enemy Swim Cabin, attending prep and college basketball games, their love of dogs, and their church, Calvary Episcopal Cathedral. Mel was a soulful man committed to God, family, and patients. He shared a gentle touch and a listening ear with all he encountered.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Roger Thomas and Arlue (Nix) Thomas. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Thum-Thomas; daughter, Lindsay Thomas and her partner, Jessica Rosenberg; son, Evan Thomas and his partner, Keith Bynum, Jr.; step-sons Jonathan Thum (Melissa), Daniel Thum (Mary), and Joseph Thum (Lauren); grandsons Jonah, Roman, Eli, Jackson, Targhee, and Poppy Seed. He is also survived by his brothers Kent Thomas (Connie), John Thomas (Lee), Rod Thomas (Linda), David Thomas (Nancy), Gary Thomas (Lori), and his sister Mary Tracy (Mark); as well as brother-in-laws Keith Hannemann (Peggy), Scott Hannemann (Jane); his father-in-law, Henry Hannemann, and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
A visitation will be held at Heritage Funeral Home on Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 5-7 p.m. A family service will be held on Sept.r 16 at 2 p.m., and an open reception will follow at The Veranda at the Meadow Barn at Country Orchard, 1690 Willow Street, West Harrisburg, SD.
We will be complying with the CDC rules in regards to COVID-19 and gatherings. If you would like to participate in the memorial remotely, it will be livestreamed.