John and Christine Thomasson share passion for learning with Louisa community
John and Christine Thomasson first met by chance in 1954. Christine had earned her degree in home economics and was working as a home demonstration agent in Louisa County, sharing her skills with local organizations and homemakers. One day she had an appointment with a woman who would turn out to be John’s mother. When Christine arrived outside of John’s family home, she saw him out in the garden, plowing behind the mule. She remembers that John’s white shirt and khaki pants somehow stayed clean while he worked.
“He stopped working long enough to be introduced,” Christine said. “He says I fell in love with him right there, but I was thinking about my work!”
John held degrees in mortuary science and business administration, and he had opened a funeral home near Christine’s office. Christine would spend her lunch breaks chatting with him while he painted the interior of the building. After a while, she started helping him paint. Seven months later, they were married. Through the years, their hard work and generosity made them pillars of their community.
John was a strong believer in the importance of education, a good work ethic, and financial literacy, and he lived those values everywhere he went — from serving on the Board of Supervisors as the first African American elected to public office in Louisa County, to providing odd jobs and mentorship to local teens.
“He felt like education was especially important to do anything in life, and he’d encourage students to do things to help them go further in life, things that build revenue,” Christine said. “He got his strong work ethic from his mother and his father, and by working on the farm. If you know anything about farming, you have to complete what you start.”
From The Central Virginian: "Thomasson was on the board of supervisors a total of six years as the Patrick Henry District representative. After losing to Eddie Hottinger in 1981, he regained his seat in 1985 and served four more years."
Christine is a lifelong learner herself and has always found new ways to enrich the lives of the people around her. She spent years as an elementary school teacher, earned a doctorate in religion and served as a minister, became a wedding organizer and even worked as a funeral director alongside her husband. To further their joint passion for continued learning, John created a scholarship fund with the Community Foundation to help local students pursue higher education. He also started a donor-advised fund through which he gave to his alma mater, Saint Paul’s College. The school would go on to recognize his dedicated support by establishing a student center in his honor and awarding him an honorary doctorate.
“He thought there were too many children who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college,” Christine said, “so if he could offer something to help them, that’s what he wanted to do.”
The Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution in honor of John this February, recognizing his tremendous contributions and honoring his passing in July of 2020. His legacy continues through the many lives he touched, and his funds will continue to support his passions in perpetuity. His successor advisor and brother-in-law, Lewis Stephens, is interested in guiding John’s donor-advised fund to further build financial literacy in Louisa.
“One of Mr. Thomasson’s main objectives was to teach people that you can’t spend more money than you have. He was interested in sitting down with people to plan out their expenditures and explore different streams of revenue in order to build wealth,” Stephens said. “It seems that when minorities and poor people go away to college, they don’t come back to the community, which means they can’t give back to the community, so we’re interested in building wealth here and encouraging people to pass it on.”
From The Central Virginian: Rev. Dr. Christine Thomasson, second from right, received the Adult Spirit Award at the Volunteers of Louisa celebration in 2015.
Christine has plans to start her own donor-advised fund as well to support education, religious organizations, and finding remedies to various issues that she sees in Louisa, such as transportation access. “There are times when people here need to get to a doctor in Charlottesville or Richmond, and they’re not able to do that,” she said. “We used to have a bus service for routes like that, but not anymore. Transportation is a big challenge, and I’d like to help.”
The John E. Thomasson Scholarship Fund will be accepting scholarship applications through March 2. Click here to learn more about this opportunity and apply at the Community Foundation website.