On 100th birthday, Thomason honored for selfless giving
By Hugh Fisher
DAVIDSON — Saturday, on her 100th birthday, Billie W. Thomason was surrounded by family and friends.
At The Pines senior living community, the former Kannapolis resident celebrated with cake and punch, and memories.
Then, members of the Kannapolis Rotary Club arrived with another surprise, an honor not just for her but for the memory of her late husband, Max.
For decades following World War II, Max Thomason worked as an engineer at Cannon Mills.
He was also a member of the Kannapolis Rotary Club.
After Max died 19 years ago, his wife never forgot that commitment.
Ken Argo, the club’s Rotary Foundation chairman, said Thomason has continued to send in annual contributions to the charitable outreach, just as her late husband had done.
Saturday, Kannapolis Rotary honored her generosity by naming her a Paul Harris Fellow.
Argo worked with Max Thomason at Cannon Mills and helped coordinate the effort to honor his wife for her continued support.
Named for one of the founders of Rotary, the award honors those who contribute to the Rotary Foundation’s charitable efforts.
Those include a massive campaign to eradicate polio worldwide, as well as efforts to provide food, drinking water, housing and vaccinations in impoverished countries.
Tom Kincaid, a Kannapolis City Council member and past president of Rotary, said that in the 15 years he’s been a member of the Kannapolis club, he’s felt honored by Thomason’s quiet service.
He traveled with four other Rotarians
Her children said they’re humbled by how both their mother and father were honored.
“With Mother’s birthday coming up, I’ve gone back to memory lane,” daughter Billie Max Reid of Myrtle Beach said.
Max was a Salisbury native and graduate of Boyden High School.
He was an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, volunteering the day after Pearl Harbor, she said.
When he returned to Kannapolis and to work at Cannon Mills, he joined the Rotary club.
“Rotary was always really important to Dad,” she said. “He hardly missed a meeting. He felt like it was a wonderful organization that did a lot of good.”
Reid said her father remained active until he could no longer take part due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Saturday, with friends and loved ones applauding, she was presented the Paul Harris certificate and pin.
“We believe that her life exemplifies the humanitarian objectives of Rotary,” Kincaid said.
Club President-Elect Deb Carter presented a gold pin that is part of the award.
“When you wear this, wear it with pride and know that Kannapolis Rotary honors you,” Carter said.
Her son, Max Thomason Jr. of Charlotte, said he’d known his mother still gave to charity, but was humbled by her commitment and by the honor she received.
For her part, Billie said she was surprised and joyful.
“I’m very touched,” she said. “This is such an honor.”
Argo said that the quiet efforts of club members and those like Billie Thomason strengthen the organization and make it possible to do good in the lives of others.
“It’s humbling to be here and be able to honor her,” Argo said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.