FAMILY Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas

FAMILY Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas


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Carol Jean Wehrwein 1946
Carol Jean Wehrwein 1946

George Washington High School, Alexandria, VA, senior photo in the 1946 yearbook, "The Compass"


"It was early in 1942; our country had just become deeply involved in World War II; one last street was added to the Beverley Hills Community of Alexandria, Virginia and filled with lovely two-story brick colonial homes. Marge Lyman and her family moved into 708 North Overlook Drive and Carol Wehrwein and her family moved into a house across the street. Little did we realize that the friendship forged between those two young teenage girls would thrive and be so meaningful for over 70 wonderful years. Carol and I would meet each school day and walk five blocks to catch the school bus together; we walked home every day after school together; we shared homework in each other’s homes, and we confided teenage secrets with each other.

A major part of our lives was the youth group at Beverley Hills Community Church, where Rev. Bill Basom was our spiritual anchor during those wartime years of fear, anxiety, rationing, and concern for my father, who as a career naval officer, was on board ship fighting in the Pacific. Weekly meetings at the church, confirmation classes, sledding and field trips forged a close bond for our group of about a dozen teenagers that all of us remember to this day.

George Washington High School was our only high school in Alexandria, Virginia and we were diligent students and strong supporters of our teams and our friends. Carol was a member of the Girl’s Glee Club, along with Jane Reynolds (Hayum), Agnes Feild (Burke), and Mary Jane Abdill (Hunt), all members of our Youth Group. On the other hand, I was involved with the Girl’s Athletic Association and played volleyball, basketball, and softball. The statement alongside Carol’s senior picture in The Compass (our high school yearbook) for our 1946 class read: “Carol Jean Wehrwein – rated A by students and teachers alike” to which we all agreed. These were good growing years for both of us, and then we were all off to college – Carol and Mary Jane Abdill to Florida Southern; Marge and Jane Reynolds to Albright College – but even as our paths diverged, we stayed in touch with Christmas and summer visits and letters to each other and by 1950, it seemed those college years had gone by very fast!

And then came the news that Carol was in love and getting married September 9, 1950 – and Carol asked me to be one of her bridesmaids at her wedding where we met Roy Thomas. I remember flying to Detroit, Michigan for several days of wedding preparation and making our own bridesmaid dresses, which were all in lovely pastel colors. An added surprise was that my Dad happened to be on a business trip and arrived by train for the wedding of his neighbor’s daughter and to see his own daughter walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid.

And then on April 16, 1955, Carol was among my bridesmaids when Art Miller and I were married in Beverley Hills Church with Rev. Bill Basom officiating and Mary Jane Abdill as our soloist. Among those attending were Mr. & Mrs.Wehrwein, Roy Thomas, and three-year old Susan who was adorable in a pretty white dress. I still use and cherish the silver tray that Mr. & Mrs. Wehrwein gave us a wedding gift. Carol & Roy’s gift was typical “Carol”, and one of the most valued, appreciated, and ever so practical – ten kitchen utensils in a large waste basket

The years that followed were busy and family-filled as both Carol and I filled our homes with four children each – Carol & Roy in Colorado and Maryland; Art and Marge in Northern Virginia, then Potomac, Maryland and finally in 1974 to Pennsylvania. Thanks to Carol’s genius for clever Christmas cards and an eagerness to stay in touch, our friendship flourished over the years as we watched our sons and daughters mature and grow, marry, and begin families of their own. Carol and Roy traveled to Wayne, PA in April 2005 to help celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, and Marge and Art were honored in 2010 to celebrate with Carol and Roy at their 60th anniversary luncheon in a Georgetown restaurant near Washington, DC. A few years ago, we gathered for a delightful luncheon in Exton, PA where Susan joined us and we shared pictures and stories of our families as well as our mutual interests in music and genealogy.

Now that Carol has gone on ahead of us, it is with gratitude and a thankful heart that I dedicate these fond memories to my longtime friend, Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas." 
Carol Jean Wehrwein 1948
Carol Jean Wehrwein 1948

Holton-Arms Junior College, photo in the 1948 yearbook, "The Scribe."  
Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas and daughter, Susan Rebecca Thomas in 1954
Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas and daughter, Susan Rebecca Thomas in 1954

As the eldest of four children and the only daughter of Roy & Carol, one might conclude that I was highly favored and most blessed. However, I recall wishing at times that I had at least one older brother who could forge a sure path ahead of me, especially in what must be wildly uncertain teenage years. Unlike Mom who did not have an athletic bent or have siblings, I loved playing outside to explore on foot or on my bicycle, definitely preferred climbing trees, played sports, and pretended to ride horses rather than having dolls or frilly clothes. Driving along country roads on a Sunday afternoon was the best fun because we could stop at any time discovering the beautiful mountainous areas of southern Colorado. My vast rock collection was indeed special, an avid past time no matter where we lived or where I “ended up” as the years progressed. Nose to the ground, that was me! In addition, piano lessons included much dreary practice, and yet being able to read lovely notes on a diverse set of pages was an advantage I enjoyed much later just like our Mom and Dad, but while playing the flute and piccolo beyond college. Our family certainly has a long history of incorporating music into our lives, both choral and instrumental.
Once adult with my own two daughters to raise (no sons, but now four Grandboys!) while moving from Army post to post, my Mom and I began to share more similar experiences than ever before. Husband Jay served as an Army Facility Engineer so that my connections, interests, and literal adjustments managing a growing family took shape just as our mother had to find ways to run a family of six while working full time. Once our daughters reached middle and high school age, I finished my Bachelor's degree, we moved to Jay's last duty station near Atlanta before he retired, and my full time professional career launched. Guess what else? Just like our parents, our family continued moving from place to place for years as Jay's company transferred him to new positions. Thus, my own career took several twists and unexpected turns much more than for Mom.
Here's what's most fascinating: I wanted to be a teacher as a young gal, but actually first spent ten years as a Children's Librarian at a branch library in Chattanooga, TN before obtaining my M.Ed in Elementary Education years later. Our mother began working full time by teaching a variety of English, Drama, and Journalism classes in a small southern Colorado high school in La Jara before spending several decades as a Media Specialist at Rockville High School in Montgomery County, MD. Talk about having much in common as we were both hip-deep into full-time pursuits of family and career!
And yet, our rather diverse hobbies also brought us together even more with hand work like sewing and needlecrafts, customized projects, and homemade gifts. Strange in a way to think about the legacy of Mom's mother and grandmother who focused on delicate filet crochet generations earlier, the very craft I discovered while living in Bavaria, Germany in 1986-89. So delightful and very lovely. For me, it was extremely addictive as I gathered German patterns no matter where we traveled, regardless if magazines and books were in English or German. One of our genealogy trips took us to Rothenberg, Germany to visit a distant cousin. Mom was thrilled to discuss family history printed on a long sheet which they pored over with great detail. This type of dedication and determination to learn through new ventures and to nurture talents is now evident in the next generation. Our daughter Becky's love of quilting no doubt comes from several family members, and more recently knitting just like Grandma Thomas who made some of her own sweaters. Daughter Jennie extends our family's legacy of beautiful photography as well as being an educator and writer. Dare I say that both daughters Becky and Jennie have athletic ambitions unlike their grandmother such as for triathlons, marathons, biking, yoga, and more? No sweat. Mom's not at all jealous, but quite proud of their achievements.
To top it off, Mom always had words and their origins running through her mind so that she would be prepared for tutoring multi-cultural students learning to improve their English speaking skills as a second language. She developed her own course materials and unique approach: created original word games, made numerous lists of word forms, and devised corresponding meanings with appropriate examples taken from real life, of course. No fiction! For nearly ten years I was able to utilize learning American Sign Language in the 1980’s in two different jobs. Thus, another legacy of our mother's was a love of language, good books, great writers, and excellent speaking voices, all of which she could recite at a moment's notice to illustrate a specific point exactly. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “ It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'” Or perhaps, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” That's our Mom! 
Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas, 1954
Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas, 1954
Rockville, Montgomery County, MD 631 Crocus Drive (1975)
Rockville, Montgomery County, MD 631 Crocus Drive (1975)

Carol had no brothers and sisters and her mother did not drive. Therefore, when Carol's father suffered a fatal heart attack in December 1967, Carol wanted to be closer to northern Virginia where Jennie Wehrwein lived. In the summer of 1968, the Thomas family moved from Colorado to Maryland. The family lived at 631 Crocus Drive until the three boys finished high school. In 1979, Roy and Carol sold 631 Crocus Drive and bought 9116 Falls Chapel Way, Potomac, Montgomery, MD. 
Four generations: great-grandmother - Jeannie W Wehrwein - Carol Jean Thomas - Susan Rebecca Thomas Treadway and Rebecca Mae Treadway 1975
Four generations: great-grandmother - Jeannie W Wehrwein - Carol Jean Thomas - Susan Rebecca Thomas Treadway and Rebecca Mae Treadway 1975


"Our Mom and Dad were delighted to have their first grandchild, Rebecca. I visited when Becky was about eighteen months old. Mom rented several key items for us to have on hand at their home, including a high chair, stroller, car seat, and portable crib. Very helpful!

As a busy toddler, Grandma Carol and the new mom, Susan, were kept busy while Becky explored their Maryland home both inside and out. Such fun to share numerous activities, especially with some of the familiar toys and blocks Mom kept from our own childhood in the same blue and brown boxes. Neat indeedI

Much later on, Mom and I ventured forth together to visit brother Bob and his wife Debbie, who were stationed in southern Germany. Packing our belongings prior to that memorable trip was nothing compared to skillfully packing afterwards to come back home safe and sound. Oh yes, we had some shaky moments: maneuvering through German train stations, managing to speak a smattering of broken German as we went sight-seeing, taking many, many photographs, exploring the countryside where Bob and Debbie lived, and tasting new items from German menus. Yet, Mom was proud to say that daughter Susan was a Master Packer, since we had numerous bulky, fragile souvenirs which needed extra care and layers of protection. It was an incredible, wonderful trip!

Cooking and baking have grown in interest for me over the years, from when I first enjoyed Home Economic classes in middle school to marriage and having my own family. Much of the time, I don’t use a specific recipe, and yet some of the family favorites require using Mom or Grandma Wehrwein’s special take on a dish. We have quite a collection of their recipes both clipped from magazines and newspapers, but also in their own handwriting. Seeing Grandma Wehrwein’s familiar cursive writing when making Banana Bread, for instance, provides extra meaning and a unique connection across generations. Now, daughters Becky and Jennie also make this famous bread, even by adding in milk chocolate chips & omitting the walnuts in the case of Becky’s family —son Owen has tree nut allergies. Delicious all the time!

My hot dog fell out of the bun, while I was perched in an awesome big tree in the huge front yard in La Junta, CO. While I was devastated, Mom didn’t have much sympathy, as I recall .

I remember singing acapella in lovely harmony with Mom and Dad: “Follow Follow”

Mom collected "Jane Ace-isms" ("Easy Aces," a radio program written by Goodman and Jane Ace), which brought chuckles to me every time, very similar to spontaneously cracking puns by Uncle Chuck and his sons, Steve, Kevin, and Keith:

'Time wounds all heels.
He has me sitting on pins and cushions waiting.
You could have knocked me down with a fender.
Home wasn't built in a day.
I look like the wrath of grapes.
Congress is back in season.
Up at the crank of dawn.'" 
Roy and Carol Thomas Family, Christmas in La Junta, Otero, CO
Roy and Carol Thomas Family, Christmas in La Junta, Otero, CO

L to R: Susan, Russell, Steven, and in Carol's arms, Robert.

Susan had been born in Washington, DC in 1952, just before the family moved to Colorado. Steven was born in Salida, CO. Russell and Robert were born across the street from this house at the Mennonite Hospital.


My Mother had a strong personality and she focused her energy and attention on immediate family and a few co-workers. I can see her influence in me -- intellectual interests, discernment, high standards, speaking patterns, sense of humor, and social/political values. But she was also different from me and my brothers and sister in many ways, which made for difficulties and life-long struggles for all of us. One thing for sure: nobody in the family was neutral about or indifferent to Mom/Grandmother/Carol.

As an adult I had many opportunities to ask her about her life. One broad theme, especially in parenting and family life: "I have tried so hard. I was so unprepared. I had to do it myself, figure out things myself...All I had was Dr. Spock books [on babies and children]."

Here are a few vignettes that, together, paint a vivid portrait:

- Summers in Colorado, lunch was ALWAYS the same 3-day rotating menu: baloney sandwich, cheese sandwich, followed by peanut butter sandwich (our favorite). Plus canned Campbell Soup, whole milk with graham crackers, and fruit.

- She had a huge recipe collection which she clipped or wrote on cards and then cataloged. Once in the early `80s she said, "Why would I ever want to use a computer? Maybe if it helped me with organize my recipes..." Later, she learned how to use an Apple ][ computer, and even helped other teachers at at Rockville High learn how to use computers for teaching and tutoring. "If I can do it, then anyone can."

- She never cooked with garlic, which was probably a cultural inheritance from her German parents and grand parents. "I don't want to taste my food the next day."

- In 1980, she gave me serious Mother-to-Son advice just before I moved to California after college: "Don't join any cults". She was earnest and serious, even though I laughed it off (because I believed I was the LEAST likely cult-joiner in the family).

- Christmas morning had to be a certain way: No opening gifts until everyone was up and had finished breakfast. Then, gifts had to be opened one person at a time, one gift at a time, with ritual appreciating for the wrapping, the gift, and the giver.

- She had some favorite TV shows, including the "Carol Burnette Show". I can remember her crying with laughter so many times while watching the skits.

- She always liked Baroque classical music, especially Bach. "I like what I like." Throughout my youth I hated it. Then, in college, I found my way into it as study music for my Electrical Engineering homework. Thereafter, we always had that in common and she delighted in my knowledge and appreciation of the fine points of composition and performance.

- She always had many questions. This is how she encountered life and relationships -- intense need to know what is going on and why. "I have another question..." was something she said many times in our conversations, and the questions might keep coming for an hour or more. (My late Sister-in-Law Debbie nicknamed my parent's house: "The House of the Third Degree" because of the intense questioning.)

- Just as we were finishing a family dinner (circa 2000), she announced "And now is the time for scintillating conversation!" My brother Robert and I immediately responded in unison: "Scintillate scintillate scintillate scintillate scintillate scintillate ..." to much laughter. (Words like "scintillate" and "chortle" were normal family conversation words, even when we were little kids.)  
Thomas Family home in winter, Monte Vista, CO
Thomas Family home in winter, Monte Vista, CO

The San Luis Valley, population about 45,000, elevation 7500 feet, is a high mountain desert environment that has about the same amount of annual precipitation as the Sahara in Africa. Most snow falls on the mountains, especially on the western slopes. 
THOMAS Carol , Russell, Robert Monte Vista.JPG
THOMAS Carol , Russell, Robert Monte Vista.JPG
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017), Needlework: Owls
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017), Needlework: Owls

While visiting her daughter, Susan Rebecca (Thomas) Treadway in Germany, Carol saw this needlework kit and bought it, at Susan's suggestion, because of her interest in collecting memorabilia related to owls.  
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017) Needlework #1
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017) Needlework #1
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017) Needlework #2
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017) Needlework #2


"There are many things I think about when I think of my Grandma Thomas. I remember the clippings she liked to send, the banana bread recipe passed down through generations, the cross stitches she made for us over the years celebrating our marriage and the birth of our kids, the brightly colored furniture in her house when we would visit, the plants that were always around, and many other tidbits that make me smile. I love that we shared a love of history and politics, even though we were often on opposite sides of issues. I could see in myself the passion that she had for these things, so even when we disagreed I still felt close to her in just the fact that we both cared so much about it. What I hold so dear in the last few years of her life though, was the way she reacted to Owen's hugs. Owen loves to give hugs and I'll never forget the broad smiles on Grandma's face those last several visits as she embraced Owen. I could tell it was special to her, and that made it special to me.

Grandma has left quite a legacy in her children, grandchildren, and students that she has influenced over the years with her dedication and passion to education, music and current events!" 
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017) Needlework #4
Carol Jean Wehrwein (1929-2017) Needlework #4
Peter Khanahmadi with his grandparents, Roy and Carol Thomas 2003
Peter Khanahmadi with his grandparents, Roy and Carol Thomas 2003

Graduation from Towson University, Towson, Baltimore, MD; B.S. in Business, May 2003

Peter worked as an analyst at the corporate headquarters of the Washington Post Company, Washington, DC. until entering the MBA program at American University. 
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Thomas family gathering honoring Roy and Carol.jpg
Thomas family gathering honoring Roy and Carol.jpg
Thomas Family gathering honoring Roy and Carol (2006)
Thomas Family gathering honoring Roy and Carol (2006)

"Had a great time last weekend w/ mini family reunion. Russ was here on b'ness, and Sue decided to drive up from Tennessee to join the fun. Thus, rare opportunity for all six of us to be in one place at the same time, along w/ some of the spouses and kids. Sue, Steve, Russ, and I took advantage of the event to celebrate Dad's 80th B-day (1 Dec) and Mom and Dad's 56th wedding anniversary (9 Sept) by SURPRISING THEM w/ a written tribute thanking them for being our parents."

Robert Carroll Thomas Fall 2006 
Jeffrey Daniel Thomas (2006)
Jeffrey Daniel Thomas (2006)


Grandma always made time for the things that were important to us. She wanted to know about what we studied in school, what we wanted to do with our careers, and everything in-between. Growing up, I remember our Elementary/Middle School held a Grandparent's Day every December. The entire student body performed for their grandparents, and afterwards took them to see their teachers and show them what they'd been learning. She and Grandpa came ever year. No matter what, missing Grandparent's Day was simply out of the question.

And Grandma never stopped caring for us. As I took the - admittedly scary! - step towards making a career out of game development, she wanted to know all about it. Truth be told, I don't know if Grandma ever played a video game in her life, but she wanted to know everything I could tell her. And always, she encouraged me to stick with it. When I looked to the future, and I didn't know where it would take me, she would tell me how much she was looking forward to seeing my first game released. How excited she was to see me following my dreams.

No matter where life takes me, I will always keep her caring spirit and encouragement in my heart.  
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Peter Khanahmadi & Family, May 2010
Peter Khanahmadi & Family, May 2010

M.B.A. Graduation, American University, Washington, DC

Front, l. to r.: Peter's mother, Rezah Thomas, Peter, Carol Thomas
Rear: Roy Thomas, Peter's grandfather, Mr. Hashempour, Steven Thomas


I have a lot of fond memories of Carol. My earliest memory of our first adventure was in the Summer of 1993. It was during this time she requested my help to re-arrange some parts of Rockville High School's library. It was a tall task for her and me since it was only the two of us. I was 13 years old at the time, but Carol must have thought I was twice my age as she directed me to move tables and books around rapidly. She also had a meticulous plan she had put together to help us work efficiently. Before we knew it, we had totally re-arranged the library. She was very thankful that I helped her that day. I was also appreciative of her attention to detail and direction. This instance was a preview of more projects she would have me help her on the next 24 years. I enjoyed every one of them and was happy to help.  
L to R:  Russell, Carol, & Robert Thomas, Monte Vista CO
L to R: Russell, Carol, & Robert Thomas, Monte Vista CO


I have many, many fond memories of my Mom. The earliest were from Monte Vista, Colorado - which was a great place to be a little kid! Lots and lots of wide open spaces surrounded by breathtaking mountains. The Thomas kids would spend hours and hours outdoors - exploring the small town on bikes, playing sports in the yard, playing in the snow (lots and lots of snow!), etc. And when it was dinner time, Mom would stand on the back porch and blow a whistle, which meant we'd better stop whatever we were doing and head home. I also remember getting "the eye" from Mom in church when she would give us that "you'd better straighten up" look from the choir loft as we were fidgeting or talking in the pews - or worse yet, rolling pencils on the wooden floor under the pews during the service.

Our move from the idyllic, Mayberry-type environment of Monte Vista to the hustle and bustle of Lanham MD was a big change for the entire family. While I did not personally witness this specific event, I heard about Mom driving several times through the clover leaf-style entrance/exit ramps near our apartment onto the highway, unsure of when and/or how to proceed to her desired destination. Her directional strategy seemed to be: "When in doubt, just keep driving forward and eventually you'll figure it out". But despite moving to such a large, chaotic and at times overwhelming new city, and working full time, Mom still worked tirelessly to ensure we had a nice meal on the table every night, clean clothes and sheets, and a clean home to enjoy. That's just what you did - you show up every day, do your job(s) to the best of your ability, and you never give up. Ever.

Fast forward to our next move to Rockville MD. I was in the fifth grade, and joined the neighborhood tackle football team which practiced at the elementary school field across the street from our townhouse. After one of the early practices during which I failed to perform to the coach's high standards and he informed me of this fact in a very loud voice (ie, yell), I went home and announced to Mom that I was quitting the team. She would have none of it. I forget her exact words, but she informed me that I was showing up the next day at practice and would perform to the best of my ability, because you should never give up. Ever.

And so I did show up the next day at practice. And the day after. And the day after. And I did my best and gradually improved to the point that I progressed from last to first string. But during the process, I learned a very important life lesson - you show up every day, you do your best at whatever the task(s), and you never give up. Ever.

Mom exemplified this principle throughout her life, and I'm forever grateful for her example. Her life was not easy, and she overcame many, many challenges because of her determination. I think her strategy for driving actually works in all areas of life - "When in doubt, just keep driving forward and eventually you'll figure it out."


It was almost a year ago that I met Carol for the first time. We met at one of her favorite restaurants. During dinner, Carol showed me family pictures and told me stories about the different family members. She was very proud of her family.
A few weeks later I met Carol for the second time. Bob and I had been at a golf tournament in Maryland. After being in the hot sun all day, we needed to freshen up before we met one of Bob’s friends for dinner. Roy and Carol opened up their home to us so we could freshen up and relax before we met John. Carol was very generous and made sure that we had everything that we needed to get ready.
I am so thankful that I got to see Carol during this last year. She was always kind to me and welcomed me into the Thomas family 

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