Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Memorium: Arthur Thomas

This week, I lost a friend.

I first met Mr. Arthur Thomas in fall of 2003, on the steps of Central Hall at Hillsdale College. It was my first day there as a freshman, but I knew instantly who he was. Earlier that summer, my twin sister and I had done a portrait of him. The college paid us for it, but it was also kind of a "test" to see whether or not we qualified for art scholarships. Mr. Thomas had donated substantial funds to the Hillsdale music department in honor of his late wife, and as is customary at Hillsdale, a portrait of him was then commissioned to acknowledge his generosity.

Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Thomas, by Anna & Emily Holsclaw - colored pencil - 2003

Emily and I worked on the portrait together, and when it was finished, we were proud of our efforts, and excited to begin our four years at Hillsdale. Little did we know that we would become fast friends with the subject of our painting!

When I first met him, he was extremely gracious and sweet. I saw him nearly every day after that, for the next four years of school. He spent most of his time in the music building, donating his time to record all the recitals and musical productions. He would also wander into the art rooms and stop by during painting classes, just to say hi.  A perpetual student, Arthur took classes at the college because he loved to learn. He would join the other students for lunch in the cafeteria ("It keeps me feeling young," he said), and would sit next to Emily and me at nearly every play or concert we went to. Emily was the music major, and Arthur loved to hear her play piano. It's hard to imagine an 80-something-year-old man being such a techie, but he was... he recorded all of Emily's piano recitals, and gave both of us copies on CD. When he wasn't taking classes, helping out in the music department, or socializing with students, he could often be seen zipping around town in his little red sports car.

Always a giver, Mr. Thomas modelled for my portrait class once. I'm not sure whether or not he liked the portrait I did of him, but he purchased it anyway, to help me pay for frames and art supplies.

Portrait of Arthur Thomas - 24x18 - oil on linen - 2006

Art was like a grandfather to me and my sister; he was a constant for us and a source of wisdom and maturity whenever we felt overwhelmed by the pressures of friends and college life.

Above and below: Emily and Anna with Arthur Thomas, spring 2007.

He attended both of our weddings (mine in 2008, Emily's in 2009) and sat at a place of honor along with our own parents.

Mr. Arthur Thomas passed away in Coldwater, MI, at the age of 93. He will always be remembered as a generous giver and a man who loved knowledge, art, and culture. Rest in peace, dear friend. You will always have a special place in my heart.  



  1. Thank you for posting this...I was not aware of his passing. Mr. Thomas was a special treasure of Hillsdale and was a wonderful friend. We spent many hours discussing music, life, friends and bread-making in the basement of Howard. You were always near and dear to his heart--he mentioned you frequently. He will be remembered with fondness.

    1. Thank you, Whitney - he loved you and your musical gifts as well. What an honor to have known this man!

  2. I did not realize that Mr. Thomas had passed (this week?). Thank you so much for posting this! He was an important and integral part of Hillsdale and though I did not know him well, I loved the very sight of him.


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