Longtime Spokane Valley music teacher and Central Valley High School band director Frank R. Thomas – known to many as Dick Thomas – died at his home on Dec. 14. He was 86 years old.
“I was there when he died,” said Ann Teberg, a family friend. “It was very peaceful.”
Teberg has been best friends with Thomas’ daughter Debbie Jesperson since they were both in fourth grade.
“Dick was my band director in high school and he was also like an extra dad,” Teberg said. “He was so supportive. He would help any kid with just one little tweak that would make that kid better.”
Thomas was married to his wife Barbara for 60 years and the family celebrated a big family reunion in Oregon this summer.
That was the last time his grandson, composer Ryan Jesperson, saw him.
“He was an amazing man and an incredible teacher,” wrote Jesperson in an email from his home in Hartford, Connecticut. “I always tried to make him proud with my music.”
When Jesperson finished his doctorate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Thomases flew out to attend the premier of his flute concerto in Kansas City.
“All he wanted from that visit was to hear the music and a UMKC T-shirt, probably to tell people that’s where I was finishing my doctorate,” Jesperson wrote. He added that Thomas was equally supportive of his siblings and cousins, attending concerts and rehearsals whenever he could.
Thomas was a veteran who served in the 560th Air Force Band so it’s not surprising that Teberg, who graduated from Central Valley High School in 1976, remembers him as “being very military” as he outfitted the color guard with rifles.
“We were quite the marching band,” said Teberg, who was in the color guard and played the flute.
Thomas, who was known to many students as Mister T, also taught at North Pines Junior High, and toward the end of his teaching career he worked as a substitute in the Central Valley School District.
“He stayed active for a very long time,” Teberg said.
Thomas was a clarinet player but he encouraged students to play many different instruments.
Spokane Valley resident David Sean Smith met Thomas in 1977 when he was 12 years old and a student at North Pines.
“I was a bit of a brat and it was hard to keep my attention,” Smith said. “But Dick Thomas did that.”
Smith had never read a piece of music or played an instrument when he joined the band and asked to play drums.
“Dick Thomas was so patient and clear and concise in his teaching,” Smith said. “I give him so much credit for where I am now.”
Smith is the drummer in the local Beatles tribute band, Meet Revolver.
“My love for music is because of his influence on me as a teacher,” Smith said.
Jesperson said he received a pile of Thomas’ old records at Christmas.
“I have been listening to them a lot,” Jesperson wrote, “It’s like we are still talking because each time I put on a record I hear
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