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

Just Posted

Penticton Fire Department urging caution with decorations

The Penticton Fire Department wants people to be careful with indoor and outdoor decorations

Christmas comes to Penticton through Children’s Showcase

The Christmas production of the Children’s Showcase takes place Dec. 15 at the Cleland Theatre.

PET OF THE WEEK: Tweety just wants some love

Cat now lives at Critteraid in Summerland and seeks a new home

Historical Society branch works to preserve Summerland history

Names proposed for roundabouts to honour local heritage

NeighbourLink Summerland coordinates Christmas dinner matchup

This Christmas will be sixth annual community event

VIDEO: ‘Climate emergency’ is Oxford’s 2019 Word of the Year

Other words on the shortlist included ‘extinction,’ ‘climate denial’ and ‘eco-anxiety’

A pawsitive ending: Missing puppy found after nine-day search in Chilliwack

Pit bull Frankie ran from dog sitter booked through app

Man gets 18 months jail for dealing heroin, fentanyl in Vernon

Sung Hwan Choi, 23, found guilty of trafficking drugs from Lower Mainland in May 2019

Letter: Spouse of Shuswap first responder shares challenges, gratitude

One in three first responders suffer in silence, resources available to help them and their families

Kelowna to host 2021 Tim Hortons Brier

The last time Kelowna hosted the tournament was in 1968

Federal laws at heart of West’s anger up for debate, as Liberals begin outreach

Vancouver mayor to Trudeau’s western critics: ‘Get over yourselves’

Snowboard pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011

Pawsative Pups: To crate or not to crate

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

Teen developed ‘popcorn lung’ due to vaping: Ontario doctors

Boy went from being in perfect health to being on life support after just five months

Most Read