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Former Prisoner Of War Dies

George A. Thomas, a WWII veteran and prisoner of war, a furniture store owner and a seventh generation Long Islander, died of heart failure on March 20 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. He was 87 and a life-long resident of Hicksville.

He was born in a small house on Route 107 in Brookville and grew up in a large family during the great depression. He got his first job at 12, caddying at the Bethpage Golf Club and letting him help support his family.

He attended schools in Hicksville. In high school, he was an athlete, playing football, basketball and track, and holding the pole vault record for 25 years, said his son Mark, of Hicksville. He graduated high school in 1944 and immediately joined the Army, getting into the 101st Airborne. He was soon dispatched to Europe and participated in the Battle of the Bulge.

While serving in the city of Bastogne, Belgium he and 12 others were surrounded by German tank troops and captured, said his son. They were forced to do labor work for the German troops, had no change of clothes and mostly slept outside.  At the end of March 1945, Thomas ended up in a prison camp called “Bad Orb” and was liberated by Patton’s army on April 1, 1945. He was then in the hospital for almost nine months recovering. He is a receipt of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service to his country.

He was discharged as a corporal in November 1945. After the war, he play semi-pro football with his former Hicksville high school team mates and, later, was recruited to Auburn University by famed scout Tex Schramm.

The elder Thomas married his wife Frances Caruso in 1947, and he and a partner, James McGeever — who married Frances’ sister, Rose — started a retail business in Babylon: the Long Island Furniture Company. They retired and closed the business in 2005 after 56 years.

Thomas was a member of the Northport POW, Hicksville Post 3211 VFW and an usher at St. Ignatius RC Church in Hicksville.

Survivors also include another son, George, of Oakdale; two daughters, Laureen Clark of Port Jefferson Station, and Patricia Budinich of Hicksville; two brothers, Charles, of Riverhead, and James, of Syosset; a sister, Marjorie Cummings of Huntington; eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. 

A funeral mass was held at the church March 25. Burial followed at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury with full military honors. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Northport Veterans Association Hospital, 79 Middleville Road, Northport, NY 11768.