Dec. 29, 1915 - May 3, 2016
Dorris Elizabeth Thomas, 100-year-old Bend native, died peacefully Tuesday evening, May 3, 2016, surrounded by her family. She was born in a small house near the present-day Dandys Drive-In to Walter G. Coombs and Leta Stewart Coombs on Dec. 29, 1915. At that time, Bend was in Crook County; three days later, Bend would be in Deschutes County.
Dorris started school in Bend at Kenwood Elementary and graduated from Bend High School in 1933.
She majored in Allied Arts at the University of Oregon, where she joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and met Robert W. (Bob) Thomas. After graduation, she took a lengthy trip around the world with her favorite aunt, sparking her life-long interest in travel and other cultures. Upon her return, she married Bob Thomas, a Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Their daughter Susan was born in 1939, and while Bob served in World War II, Dorris and Susan lived with Dorris parents in Lake Oswego.
Upon her husbands safe return, they moved to Bend, where Dorris father, Walter Coombs, still managed the Bend Garage Company, the automobile dealership he established in 1916. In 1947, Dorris and Robert W. Thomas had a son, Robert S. Thomas (not "junior"), and in 1958 Dorris husband took over the dealership, which became Bob Thomas Chevrolet Cadillac and would remain in the family until 2010.
Though born into, and even married to, the world of cars, Dorris had juniper and sagebrush in her blood. She loved the high desert and recalls riding horses as a girl with her father on her uncles ranch near Prairie City. Always adventurous, she learned to ski at a young age and would carry her skis up Bachelor Buttes slopes to ski down with her Skyliner friends. Dorris made regular trips on the train or by Buick to Portland and San Francisco, where her parents had business interests and friends. But her favorite space and refuge throughout her life was the small family cabin on the Metolius River near Camp Sherman. When she wasnt answering her phone in Bend, you knew you could find her "at the river" enjoying the peaceful Central Oregon scenery at the cabin.
Although Dorris loved the Bend area, she also traveled extensively with her husband. In later years, they enjoyed an annual month in Hawaii to "loosen up her dry Central Oregon skin." Among her other favorite places were the John Day Valley, Crater Lake, Santa Barbara, and Victoria, B.C.
A woman of many and varied interests, Dorris enjoyed reading, gardening, playing bridge, hiking, making people feel comfortable, and visiting. She loved taking unpaved, "bumpy", roads just to see where they led. One of her grandchildren remembers her unable to resist turning onto one of the rough red-dirt roads near Camp Sherman in a brand-new Cadillac, saying, "Oh gad, Dads going to murder me!" Dorris was extremely curious, taking many community education courses at Central Oregon Community College; she especially loved the ones that included trips around the high desert.
Dorris belonged to Chapter AI of the PEO Sisterhood, the Allied Arts Study Club of Bend, and the Bend Golf and Country Club.
Dorris was blessed with good health and a strong mind her entire life. A life-long Christian Scientist, she tirelessly looked for the good in all things. She taught her children and grand- children to pray, and sewed seeds of spirituality in us that make a beautiful bouquet of diversity. She rarely consulted doctors and still lived independently at her home of 65 years at the time of her death. She enjoyed watching the ducks, geese, and otters on Mirror Pond and the hawks and eagles above, and feeling close to the beauty and wonder of the natural worlda deep appreciation inherited by her family.
She was famous for her wise, pithy phrases like: "Just keep it rubbery," "What is the Fathers plan for his beloved child?," "Theres plenty of love to go around," "Home is the center but not the circumference" and "As my father used to say, Joy is a mode of transportation, and we’re in the transportation business."
Dorris loved to laugh and had friends of all ages. A true exemplification of the word "joyful," she brought joy to everyone she encountered.
Dorris was preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, Bob. She is survived by her daughter, Susan McKnight, and son, Robert S. (Bob) Thomas and his wife Clella, grandchildren Tim McKnight (and Wendy Cantor), Walter McKnight (and Sha Brown), Mark Thomas (and Gwen), Whitney Thomas Rudolph (and Jason) plus great- grandchildren, Libby and Alice McKnight, Rosie and Ian Thomas and Andrew Rudolph.
There will be an informal open house to celebrate her life at her home this Saturday, May 7 from 2-5 p.m. with remarks at 3:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested gifts in her memory be directed to United Way of Deschutes County, the Deschutes Land Trust Metolius Preserve, the Robert and Dorris Coombs Thomas Library Endowment Fund at the University of Oregon Foundation, or the charity of ones choice.