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CEO of Rowan Y has fond memories of Thomas

By Susan Shinn

For The Salisbury Post

Jamie Morgan was 13 when the South Rowan Y hired Jack Thomas as its first executive director.

He gave me my first YMCA job,” says Morgan, now CEO of the Rowan County Y.

Morgan kept score for industrial league basketball games at what was then China Grove Junior High School.

Jack was the kinda guy who would stay around for an hour afterward and shoot hoops with me, and we’d talk,” Morgan says. “He was deadly all over the court, but he had this overheard shot no one practices anymore.”

Before long, the two were tight.

Everything I could do, I was doing something for him,” Morgan said Tuesday afternoon, remembering his friend, mentor and father figure.

Thomas died Friday at age 84.

When he turned 16, Morgan was hired to be a day camp counselor. He worked 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday during the summer, making what was to him a princely sum of $75 a week. A year or two before, Thomas had hired Lynn Lomax, now chief operations officer for the Greater Charlotte Y, the state’s largest Y.

In the Y,” Morgan said, “we pride ourselves on folks you bring in and they do well.”

That’s what happened in Morgan’s case, too.

In college, Morgan refereed games for Thomas and continued running summer camps. Even after he graduated and started teaching at South Rowan High School, Morgan said Thomas kept after him to come back to the Y.

You know you’re a Y guy,” Thomas would say.

Sure enough, Thomas hand-picked Morgan to succeed him when the South Y opened its new building in November 1994.

In 1992, Thomas went into “semi-retirement,” and the two sat side by side in desks in a cinderblock building next to the Y soccer fields. There was no heat, and they did everything from run programs to mow grass to clean bathrooms.

The reason we were so successful in opening the South Y is that Jack laid the framework with the programs,” Morgan said. “He was all about programs. He built relationships. That allowed us to raise funds and build a facility.

For me, the Y was truly a calling, and I think Jack saw that at an early age in my life. He showed me what kind of impact you can have on people through the Y by the impact he had on my life.

He just meant everything to me.”

The two had the opportunity to spend the afternoon together the week before Thomas died.

It was just a magic, magic moment,” Morgan said. “There were tears shed, but they were happy tears.”

Thomas had just received a cancer diagnosis, but, Morgan said, “He was just as hard-nosed as ever. We spent time talking about old times and reminiscing. We got our chance to tell each other we loved each other. Even then, he was still giving me advice on how to run the Y.

He was truly a Y guy, through and through.”

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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