A Legacy of Love, A Life of Service
A beloved wife, sister, aunt, cousin, friend and teacher, Catherleen Brinkley Thomas was indeed worthy of the care, attention, and devotion she received from so many.
Born August 27, 1928, the second daughter of five, to Bertha and Brady Brinkley in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Catherleen was a unique and individualistic child. She was extreme bright and inquisitive. Her sight began to fail around age seven, and her parents made the decision that she would be given every opportunity to grow, learn, and experience life without regard for her sight limitation. She joined St. Luke AME Church as a young girl, and was active in many church activities.
At age fourteen she was enrolled in the State School for the Blind and Deaf on Garner Road, now known as the Governor Morehead School in Raleigh, where she proved to be and "all-star" student. She graduated in 1950, and because of her keen intellectual acumen, she was promised a teaching position at the school when she finished college.
Catherleen enrolled in Fayetteville State University (FSU) in 1950 and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1954 with a BS in Elementary Education. She continued her studies and received certification as Educator of the Visually Impaired at George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. While a student at the State School, she met and fell in love with fellow student, Arthur Thomas of Durham, North Carolina. They were married in 1954. Art and Cat, truly the family "love birds," shared a full life of love and wonderful experiences. Like two peas in a pod, invariably you thought of them together. So much so, that when you said Art and Cat, it was one word.
Catherleen Thomas returned to the State School for the Blind as a Kindergarten Teacher, and dedicated the next 36 years of her life to service in several capacities at the school. The Thomas's made their home together first in Durham, and later moved to Raleigh.
Catherleen served as "sous chef" to her accomplished Master Chef husband Art in their catering business for many years. A lover of flowers and avid gardener, Catherleen and Art could often be found planting and pruning in the lush foliage of their Raleigh home. She loved to read and was a great collector, with salt and peppershakers, dolls, and snow globes among her favorite items. The Thomas's included in their favorite travels: Germany, France and St. Maarten. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with family and friends on a wonderful cruise to the Bahamas and their 50th anniversary found them in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Catherleen and Art united with the Martin Street Baptist Church in 1952. In their church life, Deacon and Deaconess Thomas worked together in a number of ministries. On their assigned Sunday, neither sleet, snow, rain nor sun, could keep them from their assignments; the two could be seen diligently bringing prayer, comfort and Communion to the elderly, sick and shut-in, at home and in professional care facilities.
In her civic volunteer life, Catherleen’ s involvement was full. Making special relationships with organizations related to service to the sight impaired, she made numerous contributions, and was rightly heralded and honored for much of her work. She served as representative for The North Carolina Council for the Blind at many national meetings and was a member of the Governor Morehead Alumni Association, The Archives and History Program, and The Foundation Fighting Blindness.
Catherleen was an active member of the Raleigh Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, The Martin Street Baptist Church; where she served as President of Senior Missionary Department. Other organizations included the Wake County Retired School Personnel, Church Women United-Raleigh Wake County Unit, the Sir Walter Lioness Club and she was a dedicated Alumnus of Fayetteville State University.
Her parents preceded her in death, as did her beloved big sister and brother-in-law; Maybob and James Paye, and nephews; Jimmy and Patrick Paye.
Catherleen Thomas was exceptional and surpassed all expectations as she overcame obstacles, never with complaints but with grace and resolve. She transitioned from this life quietly at home, on Sunday, May 12, 2019.
She leaves to keep the memory and warmth of her life of love and service close to their hearts: her husband of 64 years; Arthur Thomas, her sisters; Lavonnie and Dolores Brinkley of New York City, Ellen McCrary (Dwight) of Fayetteville, North Carolina, niece; Anesha Rogers of Phoenix, Arizona, nephew; Shawn Gladden, grand-nephew; Apollo Gladden of Fayetteville, North Carolina, sisters-in-law; Gertrude Davis, and Delores Thomas of Durham, North Carolina, and; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and past students.