Barton Wheeler Thomas, 69
Barton Wheeler Thomas born April 4, 1951, in Richmond, Va., died Jan. 18, 2021, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
"This is the end of an era," one of Bart's friends said. Bart Thomas was a unique individual. As someone who measured his worth by what he produced, to use one of his terms, "he doesn't owe anybody anything."
He started his life in Cleveland, Ohio, spending as much time outdoors and near the river as possible. He began his hobby of trapping at a young age, early on trapping a racoon at the request of a neighbor.
After he graduated, his family moved to Florida. He worked for a construction company doing whatever was needed from cleaning up to hod carrying. Then he moved further south to the Florida Keys where he dove for lobster and conch to sell to the tourists.
When one of his roommates said he was going to North Idaho to visit a cousin, Bart went along. This is where he ran out of money and went to work in the mines. A couple years later a coworker said his father needed someone to run a combine on their Palouse farm, so Bart did that for a season. He began his lumberjack career working for Potlatch in Headquarters, Idaho. Logging would become his main career but not the only thing he did, by a long shot. He built a log truck that could skid and load the logs and used that for the many cords of firewood he sold.
He worked on a small fishing boat, cod fishing in the Bering Sea for many seasons. He built a sawmill in the Yukon territory. One year he and a friend attended a sheep shearing school in southern Idaho. By his own admission, that wasn't his most successful venture. When he bought a house at Twin Lakes that sat below the road, he built a gondola to tram his groceries and firewood from the road down to the house. During spring breakup he often traveled to Florida and inevitably would find some interesting job. He worked at "stumping," pulling out pine stumps and loading them for hauling to be used for turpentine. He ran a processor, cypress logging in the Everglades.
In later years, he worked as a welder for a commercial construction company during the spring. When he no longer worked in the woods, probably having been one of the oldest hookers around, he worked as a welder for a company that built kilns and boilers for sawmills. He continued his hobby of trapping until his health no longer allowed him to. He always spent time encouraging and educating younger and newer trappers.
While Bart could be elusive and a loner at times, all these ventures gained him many friendships.
He is survived by his son, Carl and two grandchildren, his wife of 23 years, Lumarie; his siblings, Richard, Lindsay, Jim and Anne; and many close friends.
Memorial plans are pending for the spring.