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.”
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