Oscar Melton Thomas was born December 1, 1946 in Artesia, CA, the son of Emma and Melton Thomas. He passed away August 15, 2016 at the age of 69, after a nearly three year struggle with esophageal cancer.
Oscar leaves behind his wife of 49 years, Sandra Thomas; his daughter Jennifer Snow, her husband Manny Santos, and their children Sierra and Paxton; his son Justin Thomas, his wife Rocio Thomas, and their daughter Sofia; and his sister Ginger Harris.
Oscar was proud to have served his country from 1967 to 1972 as a member of the United States Navy, being discharged as a petty officer, first class. He always retained an interest in naval postal history as a result, although he never collected it per se to my knowledge, and we would talk from time-to-time about some interesting cover he had seen or, more frequently, the ocean-travel related content of some letter.
"OT", as many of us called Oscar, gained an interest in western express postal history in a story he related to me only four days before his passing. Oscar said he was at AMERIPEX '86 in Chicago, going from dealer to dealer asking for covers from Inyo and Mono Counties of California (an area that remained of prime collecting interest to Oscar until his death). It so happened that WCS icon Irwin Vogel was standing nearby talking with some fellow collectors and overheard Oscar's interest. Irwin told Oscar about the Western Cover Society, gave him a copy of Western Express, and the rest, as they say, "is history."
Oscar listens attentively to a presentation at Richard Frajola's "Taos Philatelic Rendezvous" held in Taos, NM in September, 2013.
Oscar joined the Western Cover Society as member #1053, a designation he used frequently in his correspondence and in the articles he wrote for Western Express, including one being published posthumously in this issue (see page 49) (Western Express September 2016). He acted as the society's treasurer for 18 years, until his failing health intervened, thereafter becoming a Director on the WCS Board.
Oscar's "magnum opus" to the hobby was his 2013 publication of the two-volume set of books entitled "The Western Express Companies, 1850-1890." Such was the importance of this set of books that it won the prestigious Stanley B. Ashbrook Cup, given by the United States Philatelic Classics Society (USPCS), perhaps the highest honor any philatelic publication can receive. "Western Express Companies" will undoubtedly be "the" reference work for western express collectors for generations to come.
"OT" was instrumental in my development as a collector of western express covers. He jokingly said that he and Jim Blaine "created a monster" in nurturing my interest in the hobby. Our shared interest in the hobby changed through the years, though, such that we became much closer as friends than we did as fellow collectors. Many times, especially toward the end, we'd talk on the phone for an hour without once broaching the subject of postal history.
Oscar was a great man, a true friend, and a tremendous asset to our hobby. I will miss him greatly.
Oscar ventured to South Dakota in August, 2013 to help editor Ken Stach paint his barn.
The family has asked that donations be made to the WCS in lieu of flowers.