By Christian May-Suzuki
Ollie Thomas was a longtime teacher at Culver City High School and coached both football and pole vaulting.
His world was abruptly rocked when he was diagnosed with Stage 5 pancreatic cancer just a few weeks ago. His fight was a tough one, and it ended Wednesday night, Aug. 15, 2018.
It was a blow to his family, friends, and the community, and the outpouring of support from his former students and players showed how important he was to them, and just what kind of man he was.
“A man for the students and [who] teaches life to them,” was how user m.horchin remembered Thomas on an Instagram post that announced his passing. User de3ciple recalled a time where Thomas made him sing in front of his whole class because he was ditching his other class. It’s those little things that Thomas did that exemplified his commitment to improving the kids he taught and coached.
Thomas was originally from Canton, Ohio, but came to Los Angeles to pursue his degree. He majored in Fine Arts at UCLA before coming to Culver City High School as a photography teacher. He was also an active man who loved to get out, and some of his Facebook photos even show him working out at the famous Muscle Beach.
His commitment to fitness carried over to his real job, as he served stints as both a football coach and the pole vault coach for the Track and Field team while at CCHS.
From “one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met,” to “Favorite teacher ever,” the outpouring of love for Thomas was comforting to him and his family during his tougher days. His niece shared his thanks, saying “he especially wanted me to inform his students and all of his friends through Facebook. Thank you for your beautiful words. My uncle always spoke highly of his students.”
Thomas’ death prompted Culver City High School to start the Ollie Thomas Scholarship Memorial Fund in his honor. The money raised will be presented to a graduating senior this school year, though the specifics of the selection process have not been disclosed.
Thomas’ family will have a public service for him at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Inglewood Park Cemetery Chapel, 720 E Florence Ave, Inglewood, where there will be a celebration of his life.