A champion for the equal treatment of all. A loving mother and grandmother. A dedicated employee of more than three decades.
Christine Thomas, a one-time president of the Cal Poly Pomona chapter of the California State University Employees Union (CSUEU) and a library assistant for 30 years, meant a great deal to all who knew her, and Monday, Aug. 14, friends and family will gather on campus for a memorial service celebrating her life.
Thomas died June 28 at her home in Claremont after a battle with cancer. She was 70.
Passionate about the rights of workers, Thomas got involved with CSUEU early in her time at the university. She served as president of the Cal Poly Pomona chapter, and as the lone officer at the time, took on all of the roles, said Vicky McLeod, a budget analyst for Cal State Fullerton’s nursing school who worked at Cal Poly Pomona for 24 years.
“She basically was a one-man show,” McLeod said. “She did it all. She didn’t have any volunteers at the time.”
McLeod said Thomas recruited her to volunteer for CSUEU. Thomas continued to get more people involved and mentored them all, including McLeod, on the ins and outs of the union. McLeod got a chance to visit with her longtime friend the day before she died and they reminisced, laughed and told stories.
“When you’re involved in the union, its home,” she said. “We were more than just coworkers. We guided one another personally, not just professionally.”
Emma Gibson, the University Library’s department chair, said she enjoyed Thomas as a colleague and friend and described her as “committed to giving students quality service and assistance.”
“Even after she retired, she continued to attend library events, and a group of us met occasionally for lunch,” Gibson said. “I will miss her intelligence, her sense of humor and her commitment to social justice.”
Thomas received staff emeritus honors in 2011.
Born in Webster, Massachusetts, she earned a bachelor’s degree in archeology from the University of Michigan in 1968. She received a scholarship to Louisiana State University to pursue her master’s degree, but after she met her soon-to-be-husband Lynn Thomas, whom she married in 1972, the couple moved to Riverside.
In the late 1970s, Thomas worked briefly as a typist at Claremont City Hall before getting hired as a library assistant at Cal Poly Pomona.
Thomas, an avid reader, gardener and knitter, taught her children the importance of standing up for what is right and helping those in need, said her daughter Stephanie Thomas Mendoza. She recalled how her mother would take her and her brother to the University Library and teach them how research their projects.
“My mom endlessly supported my creativity and any artistic or crafty endeavor I chose to pursue, keeping me supplied in quality drawing pens and pencils, paints, notebooks, beads and fabric,” Thomas Mendoza said. “She never frowned upon my black nail polish, hot pink hair, or odd fashion choices, always allowing me to be myself and find my own way in life.”
Thomas is survived by her mother Stella Miller; her brother Stephen Miller; her daughter Stephanie Thomas Mendoza; her son Robert Thomas; and her granddaughter Elizabeth Mendoza.
The memorial service will be from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14 in the Bronco Student Center’s Orion Suite.