Lyle Thomas had a humorous side that was matched by a serious wish to help other people.
He could look you in the eye during summertime and say it was snowing, said his wife of 59 years, Martha. "And you'd get up and look out the window."
Lyle James "Jake" Thomas, 87, a lifelong resident of Merrillville, died March 16.
On his serious side, Thomas saw a need to increase local firefighting capability.
"He was a charter member of the Merrillville Volunteer Fire Department" in 1958, Martha Thomas said, adding that the family has had three generations serve in the department.
At various times he served as the assistant fire chief, captain, lieutenant, president and vice president, his wife said.
He also held a 50 year gold card from the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association.
In a nice touch of providence, "he was born across from the fire station," Martha Thomas said.
Thomas retired from the Railway Express Agency after 31 years, then was a foreman for 15 years in the Merrillville Public Works Department.
"He loved camping" when the kids were younger, Martha Thomas said.
When he arrived home from work, their popup trailer would already be packed and ready to roll.
"We camped just about every weekend during the summers," Martha Thomas said.
Other friends, with their own trailers, would join them for weekends at various spots around the state and enjoy potluck dinners over a campfire.
Back at home, Thomas loved having their six children, 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren with them for holiday dinners for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"He never met a stranger no matter where he was or where we traveled," his wife said.