Robert Thomas, 81

SOUTH WHITLEY — Robert E. Thomas, 81, of rural South Whitley, died at 1:20 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, at Miller’s Merry Manor, Columbia City where he had been a resident since January.He was born March 21, 1930, in Cleveland Township, a son of the late, Russell S. and Lillie (Kendall) Thomas.His formative years were spent on the farm in ClevelandTownship. He attended South Whitley Elementary and graduated from South Whitley High School fourth in his class in 1948.A life long farmer, he began his career raising chickens as a young boy. He became a dairy and grain farmer for 70 years, 50 of which was Grade A dairy.As an accomplished dairy farmer, he was the first in the area to participate in artificial breeding and worked with Purdue University to improve area dairy herds.He provided milk testing services to other area dairy farmers. Retiring from dairy farming, he then raised sheep with more than 250 head. He took great pride in providing quality food for the consumer market. He was a member of Pleasant View Church of the Brethren, where he served as a Sunday school teacher, fostering youth participation and activities. Surviving relatives include his brother, John F. (Deborah) Thomas, South Whitley; nephew, Bryan (Carolyn) Thomas, Fort Wayne and two nieces, Anita Karst, Memphis and Suzanne Thomas, Cincinnati. The funeral service will be 10 a.m. Thursday at Smith & Sons Miller Chapel, South Whitley.The burial will be in South Whitley Cemetery. The visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home. Preferred memorials are to Pleasant View Church of the Brethren. Condolences may be sent to