Galveston native and former mayor, Lyda Ann Quinn Thomas, lost a courageous three-year battle on April 19, 2017 against a rare, difficult to diagnose, and consequently deadly cancer known as Uterine Papillary Serous Carcinoma. Having won an earlier struggle against colorectal cancer in 1998, with renewed purpose she had devoted her energies to serving the city and the citizens she loved. A fifth-generation Texan, Lyda Ann demonstrated an enduring commitment to family, friends, and community. Her philanthropic activities, like those of her family’s Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund, which she chaired for many years, adhered to the family tradition of service and leadership. Her parents, Arthur William and Lyda Kempner Quinn, each left an indelible imprint on their first child. They taught her the value of hard work, the importance of a sense of humor, even in the most difficult circumstances, and the need to demonstrate kindness toward all.
Lyda Ann’s sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of others, coupled with her boundless generosity, business acumen, political leadership, and steadfastness in the midst of storm and turmoil thrust her into the role of much admired civic leader.
Elected to City Council in 1998, she served her three-term limit. In 2004 she was elected Mayor of the City of Galveston, was re-elected in 2006, and was without an opponent to serve her last term, beginning in 2008. She worked tirelessly to make city government and city services more accessible to all citizens. She relished her role as spokeswoman, ambassador, visionary and advocate for Galveston and Galvestonians.
The City prospered, perhaps as never before, under her determined leadership. Her calm example and strength of character displayed during Hurricanes Rita & Ike (2005 & 2008) captured the attention and respect of people around the nation and the world. Acknowledged nationwide for her leadership during Hurricane Rita, her work helped focus city, state and national attention on how to plan, prepare, respond and recover from any future disaster, and became a model for the nation. Her policy that pets could be evacuated with their owners set precedent and garnered praise from across the globe.
In recognition of her leadership she received many awards and citations including the BRAVO Award from the League of Women Voters in 2005. In 2006 she was named Galvestonian of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce; received the Hockaday Alumnus of the Year Medal; and was named Citizen of the Year by the Galveston County Daily News. In 2010 she was awarded the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Peter H. Brink Award for Individual Achievement and, in 2013, the Galveston Historical Foundation’s Steel Oleander Award.
In all her efforts, as citizen, mother, grandmother, philanthropist, she was governed by a generosity of spirit and a deep and enduring regard for the needs of others.
The mother of four children and grandmother of two, Lyda Ann lived in New York City during the early years of her marriage from 1956 to 1972. Having graduated from The Hockaday School in Dallas, she attended the University of Texas at Austin and pledged Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, concluding her formal education at Columbia University in New York City. There she was employed as manager of Direct Mail Marketing for Lord & Taylor and then became Editorial Assistant at Harpers Bazaar Magazine before returning to Galveston.
Once home, she and her husband, J.R. Thomas, co-founded and managed Thomas & Company, an architectural restoration firm. Her appreciation for Galveston’s historic architecture inspired her to purchase and meticulously restore the Nicholas Clayton- designed residence she subsequently called home. In the process of restoring that house, she rapidly acquired the knowledge and demonstrated the attention to detail and fine craftsmanship that became her hallmarks, establishing her as one of Galveston’s earliest and most successful historic preservationists.
Her parties were similarly meticulously planned, famously inclusive, and wildly fun to attend. Her children adored her; and her friends loved her. A devoted daughter and doting parent, she possessed a rare capacity for lasting friendships based on mutual trust and respect. In her quiet, solitary moments, Lyda Ann always had a book at hand, a needlepoint project nearby, and her cell phone even closer.
Lyda Ann is preceded in death by her parents, Arthur William Quinn and Lyda Kempner Quinn, and son Zachary Cecil Kempner Thomas. She is survived by her sister, Henrietta “Penny” Quinn Guttersen and husband Michael Guttersen, of Greeley, Colorado, and son Taylor McCarthy Thomas, son Ian Quinn Redmond Thomas and wife Zuhra Mariann Haleem, daughter Eliza Kempner Thomas Quigley and husband Daniel Sarsfield Quigley, grandchildren Quinn Kempner Quigley, Kadin Redmond Quigley and Cara Elizabeth Quigley, and extended family Elise Hopkins Stephens and A.F. “Trey” Click III. She is also survived by three devoted nephews, Michael William Guttersen, Jr., Arthur Roy Guttersen, and Shawn Patrick Guttersen and wife Costanza “Connie” Guttersen.
Serving as Pall Bearers will be Trey Click, Shawn Guttersen, H.L. “Shrub” Kempner, Jr., Robert Lee Kempner Lynch, Danny Quigley, Gerald Alston Sullivan, Michael A. Thomas, Peter Kempner Thompson, MD, and Daniel Kempner Thorne. Honorary Pall Bearers will be Art Guttersen, Michael William Guttersen, I.H. “Denny” Kempner III, Dr. Don Powell, Captain Ron Mozara, James B. Stephens, Rusty Stephens, and Henry White.
The family expresses its deepest gratitude to the many people who supported Lyda Ann during her extended illness, especially Maria Rodriquez and the entire team of dedicated hospice professionals led by Celeste Marshall and including Marvena Wolf, Naomi Wolf, and Christena Cooper. Dr. Lyuba Levine & Dr. Gwyn Richardson of UTMB Galveston and Dr. Charles F. Levenback and Alycia R. Hughes, LMSW of MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in her memory to the East End Lagoon Nature Park and Preserve, The Boys & Girls Club of Galveston, the Galveston Historical Foundation or a charity of choice.
Visitation will occur on April 24, 2017 from 5-7pm at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1302 Broadway, Galveston, Texas. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on April 25, 2017 at 10:00am, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Father Frank Fabj and Deacon Doug Matthews officiating. Burial will follow at Galveston Memorial Park Cemetery in Hitchcock, Texas.