Joseph R. Thomas of Verona, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and an accomplished journalist and editor in the Roman Catholic press, passed away on February, 8, 2024 at the age of 95. Having met the challenges of both prostate cancer and melanoma, he had an ongoing battle with bladder cancer for many years. Complications related to this last caused the end of his life.
Born on March 25, 1928 to first-generation German-Americans in Newark, Mr. Thomas began working in journalism in 1945 in the sports department of the Newark News; launching a 45-year career within the news industry which became a life-long passion. In 1951, he was part of the inaugural staff of The Advocate, the second weekly Catholic newspaper in New Jersey, published through the Archdiocese of Newark. Initially serving as the paper’s sports editor, by 1961 he was named The Advocate’s Managing Editor and under his leadership the weekly circulation grew to an all-time high of 80,000 copies. During his tenure at the helm of the newspaper through 1978 The Advocate received more than 30 awards from the Catholic Press Association across a range of categories, from news coverage to editorials to layout. His time at The Advocate was the source of Mr. Thomas’ greatest pride. Though funded by the Newark Archdiocese the paper’s hallmark was unbiased, independent news coverage; fearless in its willingness to be critical when warranted.
In 1978 he left The Advocate to join The Christophers as Editor-In-Chief until his retirement in 1990. The Christophers’ mission was to spread the word of each person’s unique God-given purpose whose motto reads “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” In his capacity Mr. Thomas edited the organization’s News Notes and edited and co-authored with Father John Catoir several of the Three Minutes A Day series of books. In 1991 he was the recipient of the President’s Award from Caldwell College for his lifetime of significant contributions to extending the influence of the Catholic press. He was an active parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake parish in Verona.
In his later years he remained active, especially in pursuit of his love of photography, amassing a collection of over 56,000 photos and teaching photography courses for over 25 years and receiving an award for his contributions to photography in New Jersey by the New Jersey Federation of Camera Clubs. Additionally, he had a voracious appetite for reading, especially fond of books dealing with the American Revolution. For 15 years, his book reviews of secular works were published by Catholic News Service.
Mr. Thomas prized his family and was married to Frances Higgins Thomas, who pre-deceased him, for 33 years. He is survived by his daughter Carolyn and spouse Fred Winograd; his daughter Maureen and spouse Jess Germansky; his son Robert and spouse Carol Thomas; and his son Gregg, and grandsons Ryan and Kyle Thomas and Al Germansky.
Visitation will be held at Prout Funeral Home in Verona on Monday, February 12 from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at Our Lady Of The Lake Church in Verona on Tuesday, February 13 at 10 a.m. Interment will follow afterwards at Gates Of Heaven Cemetery, located at 225 Ridgedale Ave., East Hanover. Details will all be available at www.proutfuneralhome.com. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested. Please consider donating to The Christophers or the Verona Rescue Squad.