William Michael Thomas
William Michael Thomas was born on September 25th, 1939 in Toronto, Ontario.
He lived much of his life in Ontario and then moved to the Yukon in 2007.
In the comfort of his own home surrounded by love, Bill left us on October 26, 2021.
The youngest of 4, Bill grew up in Toronto with his mother Olympia Maizis and father Tedore Zisovich, both immigrants from Macedonia. He studied at Western and at Queens, earning his Masters in Economics and starting a PhD but chose to leave the program in 1969 to accept a teaching position at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. Bill taught there until 1982 when he switched over to Sheridan College, where he remained until retirement in 2008.
Bill was an educator. He was a gentle, focused, wise and compassionate leader and a natural teacher. He had an endless love for reading, research and constant learning. These traits made him exceptional at what he loved to do – engage and provoke others to think, question and take action.
Bill has made lasting contributions to our community by taking an active role in helping to make it a better place, especially for vulnerable and marginalized people. Right until the end, Bill was the Co-Chair of both the Anti-Poverty Coalition which he joined in 2008 and Seniors Action Yukon since 2018. He was a board member of the Options for Independence Society from 2007-2015, a member of the Northern Cities Supportive House Coalition from 2010-2011 and enjoyed working with the Yukon Development and Education Center over the years (now Northern Council for Global Cooperation). Bill had a powerful yet quiet presence and always believed that no one can help anyone from a place of judgement.
Bill led an impressive life and had a positive impact on many, yet if you met him I’m sure he wouldn’t have told you about any of those accomplishments for he was a humble man who did all of that for its own sake and not for any recognition or acknowledgement. What he may have told you about was what he would call his “beautiful family”. He was the proud father to David and Ellen and the loving and generous grandfather to Kendra, Iain, Asa, Thomas, Liam, Elliot and Sophie. And of course Bill was the loving husband to his beloved wife Valerie Lavinia Thomas who we lost this past April. I don’t think Bill quite knew how to live his life without her.
We will remember dad and grandpa as supportive, gentle, honest and kind. He was a dedicated father and grandfather who put in countless hours driving kids to after school practices, bringing little ones to the park and never, ever, missing an opportunity to spoil all of us whenever he could. Bringing us joy brought him joy. It should also be mentioned that he was a darn good dancer with a love for good music.
Bill leaves behind his loving big sister Vicki, late brothers George and Alec, cousin Andy, and his nieces Sara and Julie. He was so proud of them and all that they accomplished, including the beautiful families they built with their spouses Kevin and Martin.
In England, Bill leaves behind his brother in-laws, Haydyn and Arthur and their wonderful families.
And finally, Bill leaves behind long time friends, coworkers and community members who he enjoyed talking to so much and loved all the opportunities he had to work with others to make the community we share the best it can possibly be.
As some of you will know, Bill always signed off with the simple but powerful word:
If you’d like to honour Bill’s memory get involved in your community. As he would say, “have the courage to step through your fears and to keep what’s true in front of you”.
Our family will have a quiet celebration of life for mom and dad in the spring.
We are so grateful to everyone who has reached out to help us, support us and guide us through this loss. Special thanks for support provided by the Palliative Care doctors, Homecare, Hospice Yukon and the respectful service provided by Heritage North Funeral Home.
What a lovely tribute for an extraordinary man. He will be sorely missed by many. I hope his kindness and compassion are the root of memories that will give comfort to his family for many years.
As his cousin Andy, thank you for mentioning Bill. I so regret not seeing more of my dear cousin, as he would refer to me.
Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss.
I only met your dad once, but even then I could tell he cared very much for you and his family.
My condolences, Always enjoyed talking with Bill , there wasn’t many subjects he couldn’t partiake in.A great guy and great example..
Bill and Val where like second parents to me and I loved them both accordingly. I met David Alexander Thomas in kindergarten and have remained best friends since. To all of you in his incredible family my condolences, but what a great life lived!
I have had a glass of red wine and a toast to them both for Val the Stones of course for Bill some Boz Scaggs! 💕
Beautiful words, Ellen. Your dad’s humility belied the depth of his accomplishments and the breadth of his impact on his community.
Your mom and dad were both so accepting, open to people and ideas, and gracious. We’re grateful that they touched our lives, too.
Holding you and the kids in our hearts,
Kathy, Georg and Robin
Ellen, this is so beautiful !! So much of Uncle Bill I wasn’t aware of, it’s funny how you know a person through one lens and can miss so much more of their greatness. I will forever remember this quote “no one can help anyone from a place of judgement” .. that hit me to the core when I read it. Hugs to you all !!
Bill was an extraordinary person and an inspiration to keep giving and thinking and acting with your head and your heart. I will miss his twinkly eyes and unique sense of humour. I feel lucky to have known him.
It was such a privilege to have worked with Bill over the years. He approached every discussion with dedication, knowledge and passion. His gentle words and kindness kept us focused while always reminding us how important the work was. My sincere condolences to Bill’s family and friends and thank you for sharing Bill with us. May we hold our memories close and always remember Bill’s hope that we will have the courage to help those most vulnerable in our community.
How sad it is to lose a friend of some fifty years, and not just any friend, but one of deep loyalty, compassion, generosity and love. May you rest in peace, dearest Bill.
Such sad news to hear about the passing of our dear Uncle Bill , but my first thoughts were “he is with Auntie Val now” – she was the love of his life and the two were inseparable. We loved Uncle Bill from the first time we met him – aside from his boyish good looks and endearing Canadian accent, he was gentle, funny, generous, kind and so very wise. He was proud of his Macedonian heritage and I like to think of him in the tradition of the great Greek philosophers – always ready with an apposite quote. He certainly had a way with words and was able to put his point across with clarity and calm determination, whether discussing current affairs, literature, film, art or music. I know Uncle Bill particularly enjoyed the company of young people and was always open to new ideas, but he was able to interact so easily with all generations. I was lucky to have shared many holidays and trips with Uncle Bill, but will remember with particular fondness my trip to the Yukon in 2008 to celebrate his and Auntie Val’s 40th wedding anniversary, when we shared many hours playing cards, listening to music, chatting about wildlife and history and enjoying the company of friends and family. Uncle Bill was a genuine socialist and continued to campaign for local causes right until the end. He was an inspiration to many and I feel so very lucky to have known and loved him – I will remember his wide smile, his infectious laugh and his great dance moves! I know they are dancing together now, he and Auntie Val; we will miss them both immeasurably.