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A Chat with Warren and Shirley Thomas

Hometown: We (Warren and Shirley) moved to Buffalo from Indiana. One of our two children (our son) was born in Hawaii.

Former Occupations:

Warren: Engineering prof and administrator at the University at Buffalo.

Shirley: Bereavement care coordinator, leader and innovator with the hospice movement.

Introduction to Chautauqua: We used to come down for individual events and then we were totally hooked the first time we stayed for a week. Maybe Garrison Keillor opened the season that summer?

Favorite Mayflower Dining Room Memory (Shirley)? We loved being hosts at the Mayflower. I loved to sing a tune while sweeping: “It’s the lady with the broom! She’s come to sweep the room!”

How many Work Weekends (Warren)? I must have organized and directed more than 50 work weekends for the Chautauqua UCC Society as Chairman of Buildings and Grounds and Facilities Manager.

Special RCH Memory (Warren)? The basement of RCH used to be just dirt and it was impossible to keep it dry. Bob Greenlee and I built a pit for a sump pump with a small team and we used money from the capital campaign to pour concrete. I sort of wish we'd gone down a little further so people didn't bump their heads on the ceiling, but I didn’t want to weaken the foundation. (Editor's note: good thing he’s an engineer!) It's hard to imagine now how we got along without the work and storage space in RCH. There used to be a storage space behind Randall Chapel, but we tore that down.

Favorite Amp Moment: There are too many to choose from!

1. When Jim Lehrer was speaking, water flooded the front of the amp. He stopped speaking and helped move things onto the stage.

2. When Winston Marsalis talked to the children about music.

3. When Al Gore spoke for the first time about An Inconvenient Truth.

4. A whole week with Ken Burns!

Most satisfying moment (Warren): We both realized that the elevator was badly needed. I remember sitting in the dining room and figuring out the only place where it could go. I'm really pleased with my involvement in that project. We had too many elderly people trying to drag heavy luggage up long staircases.

What do you miss most about Chautauqua (Shirley)? Absolutely the most wonderful experience was singing under Jared Jacobsen. He knew how to whip music out of people who didn’t have much music in them. He had a huge influence on my life.

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