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Bill and Anita Thomas Died of Coronavirus Six Days Apart After 61 Years of Marriage

Here was love in the time of COVID-19.

Love that roused Anita Thomas as if by miracle from the depths of advanced Alzheimer’s disease to comfort her husband of 61 years as he fell victim to the virus.

Love that easily might not have been at all. She had received the last rites twice as a 4-year-old battling diphtheria and pneumonia in a wine cellar-turned-bomb shelter in wartime Germany. 

Love that began when she and Bill Thomas were just teens. She was a high school majorette who worked in The Midway, the luncheonette her family opened after immigrating to Northport, Long Island, in 1949. She would sometimes be sent to get lunch meat at Betcher’s butcher shop, where Bill worked. They would exchange glances at the end of the day as she rolled up The Midway’s front awning and he took care of Betcher’s trash.

Love that blossomed after one of his friends asked her older sister out and her parents said only if Anita goes too. Peter came along, making it a double date, also their first.

Love that led to marriage in 1959. They purchased a house in their home town in 1965 and had three children: Katherine, then Peter, then Eric, each two years apart.

Love that became only stronger after the death of 8-year-old Eric in a road accident during a family summer holiday in Canada in 1974. Ten-year-old Peter lost both his legs below the knee and learned to walk again at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Colorado in time to join his fifth-grade class.

“The loss of their youngest child deeply wounded Anita and Bill throughout their lives and shook their faith for a time, but to their credit, they never let it show,” Peter would remember. “Anita was always the most positive person in the room with Bill steadfast by her side. What easily could have driven the family apart brought them closer together than ever.”

Anita taught grammar school special education. Bill taught science and health in middle school, becoming head of the teacher’s union. 

At home, Bill liked to tend the lawn, garden and pool as well as the finances, keeping it all in perfect order, the checkbook balanced to the penny. Anita filled the house with her guitar-playing and singing. They welcomed friends for memorable meals.