Kenneth Thomassie, Sr.
Ken was born on September 29, 1952 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Mr. and Mrs. Leon Thomassie. He graduated from high school and furthered his education at Delgado Community College and University of New Orleans. Later Ken served in the Navy as a Yeoman, working in the office in Detroit, Michigan.
Ken worked for Seco Electrical Company as a contractor where he had the opportunity to travel overseas for a job in Talara, Peru to work for Occidental Petroleum Company. Ken went out on the ocean with the men to work on the instrumentation of getting the petroleum ready for use. It is in the town of Los Organos where Ken and I met. I was already working for Occidental Petroleum Company. We began dating. It was love at first sight! Ken was shy being in a new country, different language. I was shy to date him because growing up I was not allowed to have male friends. We got to know each other a little before Ken proposed marriage. The big question was what my father would think of that? Ken was divorced and had 2 children, Sean and Damon. I told Ken he would have to speak with my father and my family before she could consider marrying him. In a two hour conversation (and ten cups of coffee for Ken) between Ken, my father, my mother, my brother and my sister, Ken’s intentions to marry me and my dad’s expectations were very clear. To this day I can remember what exactly my dad said: “I only expect you take care of my daughter and provide for her in the same way she is used to or better. If at any time you feel you cannot fulfill my request, then it is time for her to come back to her family.” A year later, on April 8, 1981 Ken and I married thru the judge and on April 11, 1981 we married thru the Catholic church. We decided to celebrate only the April 11 wedding anniversary. Our commitment to each other was out of this world; it was the best thing that happened to us. We vowed until death do us part! Two years later we began adding to the family with the birth of three sweet, loving, cute, handsome boys: Kirk Anthony, Dylan Excel, lost twins in 1989, and Kenneth Anthony Thomassie, Jr. The family continued to grow welcoming wonderful grandchildren.
While living in New Orleans, Ken worked for the Waterford Nuclear Plant, before moving to Illinois. In August of 1984 we moved to Champaign, Illinois for a job offer Ken accepted at the Nuclear Plant Station in Clinton. Ken thought Champaign was a good town to raise the family. All our three children were born here in Champaign. He worked long hours during the week and during outage time weekends and nights. Ken also volunteered to coach the little league baseball team thru the Champaign Park District. His motivation was to engage our children in such fun sport and his liking of playing baseball himself. As the children grew older Ken also was engaged in supporting Kenny Jr. with his travelling soccer team thru Little Illini. We all have fond memories of the time spent together, from Tae kwan Do, baseball, golf, soccer, and poker. Throughout our married life we have had great joy and much fun raising five boys dealing with normal occurrences teen-aged boys go thru growing up.
On September 2009, with Ken’s support we were able to open a multicultural day care center, Marujita's Small World School. We had it for ten years and sadly closed on 2009. My priorities changed. I could not be at home caring for Ken and continue with the administration of the school. I have never regretted the closing of the school. I have dedicated the rest of the time to care for my loving husband.
I began practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and received her Gohonzon on June 6, 2004. Ken was always encouraging my practice and his support meant a lot to me. Occasionally, when conflict arose Ken would say: please go chant, you will feel better. Initially Ken did not want to attend any meeting himself. Ken would say, maybe next time. That all changed on Ken’s birthday, September 29, 2011. I had prepared a birthday dinner for members and friends. Surprisingly, Ken asked if he could chant together with me and the members. Wow, was I surprised! Then on Feb. 27, 2012 Ken joined the SGI. Ken’s passion was studying Buddhism. Often Ken went to two study meetings a month and studied on his own. He asked many questions, seeking to understand Buddhism on a deeper level. Ken also introduced people to Buddhism by sharing his personal experiences and the benefits he received from practicing Buddhism. Especially during the last 3-4 months of Ken’s life while in the hospital. He tried to introduce his physical therapist only to find out the physical therapist was already an SGI member. Ken and Cris arranged for the physical therapist to attend the November District Discussion meeting in Champaign.
Ken was initially diagnosed with the cancer in August 2007. Dr. Lipps at Christie Clinic sent Ken to see Dr. Steven Sobol in Decatur. He had a cancerous tumor on the base of his tongue, stage IV. Ken needed chemotherapy and eventually surgery. Dr. Lipps thought very highly of Sr. Sobol and said he was on the number one specialist in the country for the type of cancer Ken was facing. We had to move fast. Ken had several surgeries: three-fourths of his tongue removed. Dr. Sobol used the pectoral muscle to rebuild the tongue so Ken would be able to be close to normal when recovered. Dr. Sobol was determined to see Ken back to normal whithin limits of course, and I say to you, Dr. Sobol was so right and did what he said he would do for Ken. In and out of chemotherapy for years Ken was told he would have 5 years to live. Ken worked for five years after his diagnose, until his brain could take no more and went into disability. However due to the consistent care and nutrition he received and his firm belief in practicing Buddhism, Ken was able to extend his life another two years.
Ken had strong character. He was interested in people, loved to talk about a wide range of subjects. He had a great sense of humor, was an excellent cook, and loved learning new things all the time. Ken was also very compassionate which he demonstrated by sharing Buddhism with people. Introducing people to Buddhism is part the vow we take as Buddhists to practice for ourselves and others. During the last couple of months he put a battle to continue living, he did not want to suffer and he wanted to be strong for others. He cared for all kinds of people regardless of age, religion, color, status. He loved his children; he missed the boys leaving away. Ken also worried about them, about me. One thing he felt strong about was: I want to help people but I don't want no one to take advantage of anyone.
Buddhism for us meant a profound commitment with each other and our family, compassion for others, self respect and respecting others, help where needed and most of all it allowed us to be ourselves, to bring out the best of what we already had within and to continue to grow spiritually and let that be an example to our children, friends and anyone we came in contact with.
Nichiren Daishonin the founder of this Buddhism wrote a letter one of his followers the wife of Ueno after her husband had died. Nichiren wrote “It is due to his encouragement that you became a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. Thus you should revere him as a Buddha. When he was alive, he was a Buddha in life, and now he is a Buddha in death. He is a Buddha in both life and death. This is what is meant by that most important doctrine called attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form.”
Condolences may be offered online at www.HeathandVaughn.com.
DEAR FAMILY AND FRIENDS:
I take this opportunity to give thanks to everyone who is here with us today and to those who were not able to attend. I am grateful to all of you for all the support you have given Ken and myself. I have no words to tell you how much this meant to Ken and how happy he was to see you each time you visited, called, or asked for him.
I want to thank my children for all the support and bravery to take charge and give me comfort, be there for me when I needed it the most.
To Kenny jr. and Audrey his girlfriend for taking the lead and help with all the arrangements for today.
To Kirk for taking charge of the home, cleaning, errands, grocery, and cooking for family members who are visiting. Special thanks to Kirk for trying to get the bedroom for his dad in the hope he would be home for Thanksgiving, which he continues to work to get it done.
To Aaaron and Tyler (Kirk’s friends) for helping Kirk and the family with the bedroom project. Love you guys.
To Dylan for taking all the time and flying from Las Vegas to be here with us and supporting his brothers and myself during this time of mourning.
To Consuelo Salazar, my dear sister, for taking time off work to help with my mom and support me during this time.
To Ryan Digby, my sister's boss for all his support and help with time off for my sister. I really appreciate you Ryan.
Special thanks to my father-in-law, Leon Thomassie, and my brother-in-law, Darren Thomassie, for the time to drive from New Orleans and be here with us for support and companion.
Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Vanessa Thomassie, who could not be here today but sent a beautiful Indian poem for his brothe,r Ken. Vanessa visited Ken in August when we were told Ken had only two days to live.
To Sean and family who visited his dad in August and the time spent with us.
To Damon for visiting in August and time spent with his dad.
To John, Stephanie, and Emily Voguel for taking the time off work to come and see us twice a month from Chicago. To John for the time spent with Ken and cheering him up, watching hockey, playing pool.
To Celina and James Bufford. The days Celina spent with me in Decatur away from her husband making sure I was ok and Ken, too. On the day Ken died Celina was to go home and for a strange reason, she stayed with me, shortly after Ken was gone. I feel the Mystic Law was into place and Ken wanted this way. Celina stayed. Thanks Celina.
To June Mitsuhashi for taking the time away from home to help me in emergencies during late hours of the night and for the feet massages Ken loved so much.
To all SGI members for their prayers and for making this ceremony the best ever for Ken.
To Ileana Pagola and Alicia Padron who flew from Miami, Florida to meet Ken and give me support. These angels were also with me when my sister passed in April, 2012. I was alone and did not know the area, or anything about Miami. I could not have survive if Ileana and Alicia had not been there for me until the end.
To all the members of the Cancer support group at Carle Clinic, especially to John and Sharon.
To Ken's co-workers and friends who also took the time to visit and cheer him up: Tim Lane, Terry Husted, Keith Godin, Jeff Wisher, Dick Becker, Will Garland, Debbie, Jeff Olson, Tom Steinhar. And one special one to Gary Besaw, for all his encouragement, positive thoughts, prayers and helping with facebook.
To Lorena Rodriguez for all her support.
To Karen West who helped me bring Ken back to Champaign. I truly appreciate your help.
To my friend Derek for his support and kind thoughts.
To our friend Rico (Douglas Steele) with whom we spent many good times and whom we consider part of our family.
To our neighbor Carol Carey and family who helped us taking the babies so Kirk could come and be with his dad on the day Ken died.
To my friend, Jayne Robinson, for the lovely meal.
To the family Lopez for all their support and prayers. Josefa, Tino, Guadalupe, Custodio, Elizabeth.
To Stephanie Gonzales daughter of Ramiro y Adriana for their unconditional support and personal prayers. Stephanie of 14 years, took upon herself to bring father Joe to pray with Ken, both Ken and Stephanie cried for it was an emotional reunion. Ken was not expecting the visit. Ramiro and Adriana were present when Ken died, it was a very emotional moment I will never forget. Thank you so much.
To my cousin Liz Romero who also visited from Chicago and her unconditional support.
To my cousin Lucy Romero, her husband Santos and their son Mikey for the special visit from Chicago and the delicious treat. Love you guys. Thanks so much.
I also want to extend my thanks to someone very special, my hero as I call him. The one who with his expertise and knowledge was able to give Ken back his life with some speech impediment and a decent way of life. The best, the loving and caring Dr. Steven Sobol, who from the first time we met him took interest in Ken's case and who every time we had an appointment would give us all his time and attention to talk and ask questions. Ken thought the world of him. Ken felt very special and always looking forward to see Dr. Sobol.
To all the doctors who worked closely with Dr. Sobol to get things under control while in ICU in Decatur Memorial.
To Dr. Benjamin Esperaz, Ken's oncologist for his patience and dedication to his profession. For his straight answers and for his successful treatments Ken got.
To Ann Disney and to all the nurses at the Cancer Center, who made Ken feel at home. All the love and care, one on one attention while Ken was getting his chemo treatments. Each nurse so dedicated and sincere cheering him up and a great support for me. Thank you so much ladies for helping me give Ken a good life and care.
To Dr. Daniel Deem, Internal Medicine at Christie Clinic, who during his lunch hour came to see Ken at the hospital and give him positive encouragement.
To Carmen and Nate, directors of the funeral home for all their support, understanding and time working with the family and bring Ken's life to closure today.
To all of you and the ones I might have missed.
I will always remember how much you meant to Ken and myself. There will always be a place in my heart for all of you! LOVE YOU ALL!
BLESS ALL OF YOU AND THANK YOU AGAIN.