Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering Sis. Katheryn Perry Thomas One Year Later...

Katheryn Perry Thomas

Thomas Fascinated With Learning
Classical Pianist Taught At Manassas For 42 Years

By Dakarai I. Aarons
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Saturday, January 12, 2008

Katheryn Perry Thomas, a veteran educator and part of Memphis music history, died Monday at the age of 92.

She was a classical pianist and one of three surviving members of the Manassas High School Class of 1932.

She was the last remaining student who played for the legendary Jimmie Lunceford, who started the first orchestra in Memphis City Schools.

Born in Memphis on Jan. 19, 1915, she graduated from LeMoyne College and attended Hofstra University, then spent 42 years teaching English and Spanish at Manassas. Its 1969 yearbook was dedicated to her.

Known as "The Queen" to friends and family for her classy, always well-dressed appearance, Ms. Thomas was twice the local chapter president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and was involved with Calvary Episcopal Church, said friend Novella Arnold.

For her contributions to the Bluff City, Ms. Thomas was given the key to the city of Memphis.

"She was just a wonderful person," Arnold said. "When I grow up, I want to be like her."

Retirement didn't slow Ms. Thomas down. She kept up her music, playing her Steinway piano and attending theater and opera, said niece Angela Perry.

And she also toured the world, hitting every continent except Asia, she said. But education remained at the top of her mind.

"She was fascinated with learning," Perry said. "As she told me, to stay young, you must think like the young."

A memorial service will be today at 1:45 p.m. at Calvary, 102 North Second.

Her body has been donated to the Memphis-based Medical Education & Research Institute.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials go to Calvary or to an organization of the donor's choice.

Ms. Thomas is survived by a brother, Donald Perry of California, and two caregivers, Jennifer Franklin and Michael Christian of Memphis.

-- Dakarai I. Aarons: 901-529-6515
See Also...

Influential Memphis Educator And Last Living Memphian To Have Played With Jazz Great Jimmie Lunceford Dies...

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