Three generations of the Thomas family (from left) Lloyd Thomas, his nephew Brian Thomas, and Brian’s nephew Hayden Zahrawi get together on the Thomas Ranch in Okanagan Falls. Lloyd has made a major donation to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation to honour his family’s pioneer roots. (Contributed)

Ranchers help grow PRH

Ranching family’s roots recognized through PRH donation

  • Oct. 20, 2019 6:00 p.m.

Talk ranching history in the South Okanagan over the past century and the Thomas family is almost certain to crop up in the conversation.

Now Lloyd Thomas has made a major donation to Penticton Regional Hospital in honour of his entire family, dating back to the late 1800s.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation is raising funds to provide medical equipment for Phase 2 of the PRH expansion, including a major upgrade to the hospital’s Emergency Department due to be completed by the fall of 2021.

Lloyd’s father, John M. Thomas moved to the Okanagan in 1898 to work on the ranch of Penticton pioneer Tom Ellis.

“His first job was to look after the horses in winter-time up on the Naramata Bench,” Lloyd said. “There was hardly anything there at the time. It was all bunchgrass.”

A few years later, John Thomas bought a ranch off McLean Creek Road in Okanagan Falls. He sold it after the First World War to buy a ranch south of OK Falls so his children would be closer to the school.

“We had a big house there. It was like a hotel,” Lloyd recalled. “It was the only house that had running water and indoor plumbing.”

Lloyd’s mother was Ethel Hawthorne, daughter of George Hawthorne after whom Hawthorne Mountain near OK Falls was named.

In 1958, Lloyd and his three brothers (Morrie, George and Ray) incorporated their own company and bought back the original homestead. “My uncle’s ranch was next door and we later added that onto it,” he said.

Other nearby ranches were also acquired over the ensuing years. At its peak, the Thomas ranch covered almost 2,000 acres.

Lloyd was a welder and worked for years at major construction projects around the province, including the Kelowna floating bridge, Seymour River dam near Vancouver, pulp mills in Prince George and highway avalanche sheds through the Rogers Pass.

Lloyd moved back to OK Falls in the early 1970s, when he helped install the boiler system for Penticton Regional Hospital’s new South Pavilion.

Eventually, Lloyd returned to his family roots, helping brother Morrie run the ranch. The family sold most of their ranch to The Nature Trust in 2000, however, Morrie’s son Brian now operates it under a lease agreement.

Lloyd, who was born in the former Penticton hospital on Haven Hill, said donating to PRH seemed like the right thing to do. His three brothers and three sisters have all passed away.

“Everybody in our family has used it over the years,” he said. “It’s time we contributed something back.”

Lloyd and his wife Gloria have no children of their own, although Gloria has children from a previous marriage.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
Email me or message me on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion

WATCH: Van, tools stolen from Penticton company facing third theft in one month

An Eckert Electric Ltd. van was stolen this morning at gas station with employees close by

Regional district gives approval for farm worker housing near Summerland

Application is for 41-bedroom facility to be constructed in Meadow Valley area

Massoudi’s memoir on the table at Brown Bag Lecture Series

Mehrnaz Massoudi will be the presenter at the Feb. 25 Penticton Museum Brown Bag Lecture Series

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase from Kelowna to New Westminster

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Gas drops below a dollar per litre in Penticton

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Pawsative Pups: You have a new puppy, now what?

Lisa Davies is a new columnist for Black Press who writes about dog training

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

Most Read