C. Deane Thomas
Catherine Deane (Hillen) Thomas left this life early in the morning of Friday, April 21, 2023, after a valiant battle with ALS. She leaves behind a loving family and many friends, who have been touched by her remarkably gifted personality, and who grieve her loss with broken hearts.

Deane was an exceptional and exemplary human being, who moved everyone she met with her beautiful spirit. She approached life with a positive and optimistic attitude, and contributed to the well-being of everyone she encountered. She was kind, inquisitive, adventurous and engaging, possessing a wonderful sense of humor and just enough mischievousness. She was so much fun to be with, bringing light and happiness to every situation she encountered. Deane loved cooking and entertaining, and hosted many family dinners and dinner parties with friends.

Deane was born in Granite City, Illinois, on November 3, 1945, the middle daughter of Vivian (Paulette) and Kenneth Hillen. She married David E. Thomas in June of 1980, and together they embarked on an adventurous and fulfilling life together, full of love and support for each other, and achieving their mutual dreams. They designed and built their home in the woods, and worked their property into a lovely woodland garden. Deane and Dave raised two daughters, Megan and Claire, both exceptional women who have been guided by their mother’s example. Deane was endlessly proud of her daughters, supporting them through struggles and delighting in their achievements and happiness.

As a young single woman, Deane traveled extensively, with friends and with her sister Donna, seeing the British Isles, most of Europe, the Mediterranean, and India. She later introduced her love of travel to Dave and they enjoyed many destinations together in the States, Great Britain and parts of Europe. 

After attending public schools she received a degree in Communications and Advertising from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL, where she became a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. She worked as a copywriter for The May Company, in Philadelphia, PA and in Denver, CO, producing delightful and clever ads for the fashions of the day. She later returned to her hometown to teach English and Speech Communications in middle school and high school positions. She furthered her education, achieving a Master’s Degree in Speech and Interpersonal Communication from the University of Missouri, later teaching those subjects at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. She received a second Master’s Degree from SIUE in Counseling while still working, maintaining her marriage and raising her children. She had begun work on a doctorate degree in Communications, before moving her focus to her marriage and family.

The highlight of her career was the last ten years, spent as a college guidance counselor at Metro Classical and Academic High School in St. Louis, MO, a small gifted magnet school in the St. Louis public school district. She ushered many brilliant and talented students through the college selection, application, and financial aid processes, and assisted them with additional personal and life skills counseling. She was extremely proud of the successful higher education and careers she facilitated for her students, having assisted them in improving and changing their lives.

Deane retired from a fulfilling career to become a grandmother to three beautiful children, assisting with babysitting in their early childhood and nurturing their individual and exceptional gifts and talents. Willow, Lyra, and Ellis were the delight of her life, bringing her so much joy and satisfaction, and she was so grateful to her daughters for bringing them into her life.

After experiencing confusing neurological symptoms in December of 2020, Deane was extensively tested, and endured treatment for missed diagnoses. She was later found to have an extremely rare genetic disorder which contributed to her symptoms, and which, in combination with an eventual ALS diagnosis, contributed to her decline. She has been found to be one of two people in the world to have ALS in combination with the genetic disorder. Her condition was so extremely rare that her doctors have written a paper for the medical journals, which is currently in peer review. She bravely donated neurological tissue to the Washington University School of Medicine for the further study of ALS, in the hope that her generosity may help others in the future. She struggled through the gradual loss of her abilities with immense courage, determination and grace, and fought to maintain her life until the very end.

Deane is survived by her husband Dave, who is forever indebted to her for changing his life and giving him boundless support, encouragement and forgiveness during the 46 years they spent together, for helping him achieve his own career and personal dreams, and for bringing such a beautiful family into his life. She is also survived by daughter Megan Roland, son-in-law Mike and grandaughter Willow. And by daughter Claire Thomas-Morgan, son-in-law Jeremiah, grandaughter Lyra and grandson Ellis. Deane is further survived by sisters Diana (Tony Martin) Kinder and Donna Rowland. She was
preceded in death by her parents Vivian and Kenneth Hillen.

Rest well, Deane. Know that you are immensely loved, that you have left an immeasurable legacy of love, acceptance, encouragement and grace, and that you will never be forgotten.

 A memorial service followed by a catered luncheon will be held on 
Saturday, May 13th, 2023
10:00 am
Leclaire Room
Lewis & Clark Community College N.O. Nelson campus 
600 Troy Rd #109, Edwardsville, IL 62025
Please RSVP by Monday, May 8th below so we can plan accordingly.
In lieu of flowers, we are asking for donations to be made to two causes dear to Deane's heart.
Madison County Humane Society​​​​​​​