Roany Bennette Thomas Sr., 91, of Statesville, N.C., peacefully laid down his earthly body on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, to return to his heavenly Father. Born on November 26, 1932, in Altavista, Va., Roany grew up on a farm, a sharecropper’s son. As a child, Roany worked and played hard in the rural Virginia countryside; this shaped the man he would become. With his strong work ethic, imagination, and fun-loving nature, he forged a life of his own making, on his own terms.

In high school, Roany played guitar in “The Hillbilly Band.” He later used that experience to sing his children to sleep at night. Throughout high school and college, he was a lifeguard and later became a Red Cross water safety instructor, training countless other lifeguards within the Statesville community. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in Textile Chemistry. While at N.C. State, he lettered in track and field and was a Golden Gloves boxer. After college, he served in the U.S. Army as a pilot from 1955 until 1958.

He found his lifelong calling in sales when he joined IBM for 10 years and later joined Southern Furniture in Conover and Alexvale Furniture in Taylorsville as a sales representative. When Roany moved his young family to Statesville, he chose First Baptist Church as his spiritual family; he was active as a Sunday school teacher and deacon. Throughout his life, his hobbies included playing tennis, swimming, bike riding, yoga, walking, gardening, doing yard work, and even public speaking. After retiring, he kept busy as a regular at the YMCA, playing tennis with his buddies, writing stories, poems, and working on books. Roany was a playful, creative, energetic spirit who touched the lives of everyone that knew him.

He was preceded in death by his first love, Millie Johnson Thomas; and daughter, Bonnie T. Birdsall. He and Millie were married for 37 years. From that union, he is survived by two sons, Ben Thomas (Dena) of Greensboro and Bradley True of New York; a daughter, Jill Thomas of Statesville; a grandson, Eli Alexander Birdsall of Tampa, Fla.; a granddaughter, Emma Breslin (Jason) of Madison, N.C., two great-grandsons, Uhtred and Theron, and a great-granddaughter, Ygritte.

Roany was blessed to find love again when he met and married the late Audrey Reese Thomas. They were married for 25 years before her death. Audrey and Roany resided in Statesville and were active members at First Presbyterian Church and the YMCA. They enjoyed traveling with their family all over the world on biking trips and active family vacations. He especially loved fishing and playing with his grandchildren. He is also survived by her family, including two daughters, Sara (Matt) Plyler of Charlotte and Meg (Than) Powell of Chapel Hill; and grandchildren, Hayden, Zach, Cate, and William.

The family will hold a Celebration of Life at a later date.

Condolences may be sent online to the family at Memorials are requested in lieu of flowers, to be given to the YMCA of Statesville, 828 Wesley Drive, Statesville, NC 28677, or to Fifth Street Ministries, P.O. Box 5217, Statesville, NC 28687.

Nicholson Funeral Home is entrusted with the arrangements.

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