Disney 30 Sep 2012 10:48 pm
John Canemaker sent me some information, worth getting out there
- Jeanette Thomas, the wife of Frank Thomas, passed away in California on Saturday evening, September 29. The couple were married for 58 years and the parents of four children. Mrs. Thomas, the former Jeanette Armentrout of Greeley, Colorado, appears in two films directed by her son Theodore Thomas, Frank and Ollie (1995) and Walt & El Grupo (2008).
Excerpted from Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation (Disney Editions, 2001):
- Just before the war, at a party thrown by his brother Larry on the Stanford campus, [Frank] Thomas met a young woman named Jeanette Armentrout. Tall and elegant, with beautiful, intelligent blue eyes, Ms. Armentrout was visiting from Greeley, Colorado, taking summer classes at Stanford. She and Frank later went on a picnic, but, said Jeanette recently, “before I could get very interested, school was out for the summer and I returned to Colorado.” She held a teaching certificate and began teaching at Colorado State. Strong and independent, Jeanette was always grateful for the “experience in earning my own living.”
In 1945, after the war, she took a job teaching in a high school in Redwood City, California, near Palo Alto. “She started writing to me at that point,” said Thomas, who was smitten after their initial meeting and had “written letters to her all along.” Now that Ms. Armentrout was suddenly “in the back yard” (that is, in California) their letters became mutually more specific. “It took me three and a half years, and a war, and teaching, to realize that he was pretty special,” said Jeanette.
She invited him to visit her in Redwood City; he sent her a musical piece he wrote titled “Concerto by Me.” When he played it for friends, they said it sounded like a proposal. “I said it’s okay with me if she takes it like that,” said Thomas. “Oooooh!’” said the friends. “Good things happened pretty fast after that,” he recalled. On a three-day pass, master sergeant Thomas stretched the fifty-mile limit allowed soldiers to 200 miles to see Jeanette. “So we proposed to each other and decided what we were going to do.” Thomas was discharged from the service on January 23, 1946 and the couple were married in Colorado on February 16.
. . . Jeanette Thomas recognized how “terrifically stimulating and restoring” the [Firehouse Five Plus Two] band was for her husband. “He loves an audience,” she said. “He’s a ham, that’s why he’s a good animator.” She saw his professional piano playing as “an ego booster” that gave him a release from “the frustration that he had to keep bottled up during the week.” He did not bring home the stresses of the studio; at dinner each evening with his family, his constant sense of humor came to the fore putting a funny spin on the day’s events. In general, according to his wife, Thomas is “one of the least mercurial artists that I’ve ever known.”