• Ramona Thomas
  • 90 years old
  • Lived in Philadelphia
  • She was a valued volunteer at Zion Baptist Church

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Ramona Thomas enjoyed cooking and hosting barbecue cookouts, reading, and going to the movies.

“There is not a Disney movie made that I haven’t seen,” said her son, Ronald.

His mother took him to movies at the Royal Theater on South Street, which was once a legendary showcase for African American stars such as Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, Bessie Smith, and Cab Calloway.

Mrs. Thomas, 90, died of COVID-19 on Saturday, May 2, at the Terrace at Chestnut Hill.

Known to family and friends as “Roni," she grew up near 24th and South Streets, the youngest of eight children of Jessie and Lonnie Winder. Her mother contracted tuberculosis while in the hospital giving birth to her and died shortly afterward.

An older sister dropped out of high school to help their father rear Mrs. Thomas and her siblings.

“She took me to the zoo and everywhere.”

son Ronald Thomas

But Ronald Thomas said his mother “never talked about” what it was like to grow up without knowing her own mother.

After graduating from South Philadelphia High School, she began working for several federal agencies, and finally worked at the Selective Service board, then at 401 N. Broad St.

Around this time, she met and married Richard C. Thomas, a union that endured for 40 years until his death in 1992.

During the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Ronald Thomas said he would go to the draft board after school and see young men lined up to raise their hands to be inducted into the Army.

Sometimes, his mother told him the different reasons some men gave for why they should not be drafted, including saying they were conscientious objectors.

Mrs. Thomas was a member of Zion Baptist Church, where she was a longtime volunteer for events.

She enjoyed cooking, entertaining, and having friends over to play pinochle. She was that host who invited family members to the cookout and barbecues, her son said.

She doted on her only child. “She took me to the zoo and everywhere,” he said.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Thomas is survived by three grandchildren, a sister, and other relatives and friends.

Private services were Tuesday, May 12.

— Valerie Russ, vruss@inquirer.com