Born Saturday, July 7, 1928
Died Tuesday, September 7, 2021
To know Erma Lee Lyons Thomas or Mother Erma Thomas as she was affectionately known, was to love her maternal spirit, playful humor, creative energy, and passion for recognizing the accomplishments of others, especially those in her own community.
Mother Thomas was born Erma Lee Lyons on July 7, 1928, in Colbert, Oklahoma. She was the second child and only daughter of Joe “Jack” and Lillie (Wauford) Lyons. Erma enjoyed telling of her childhood as the only girl growing up with 4 brothers (Alphonso, Joe, Decatur and Larry) in Colbert and Summit, Oklahoma. Though Erma had no sisters, she often referred to her first cousin Ruby (Wauford) Brooks as her “sister”.
In 1951, Erma married Joe E. Thomas. They enjoyed 44 years of marriage before his early departure in 1995. To this union five children were born: Lee Wilbur, Dianna Kaye, Cheryl Lynn, Bonnie Sue and John Robert. Their legacy lives on through their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Mother Thomas confessed her faith in Christ at an early age and was a longtime member of the historic St. Thomas Primitive Baptist Church in Summit, Oklahoma. She faithfully attended services until her health and eyesight began to present numerous challenges. Mother Thomas was a praying woman and dedicated Christian and could regularly be heard whispering prayers to herself and asking who was going to take her to church on Sunday. She was a lover of music and could be heard all throughout the day singing and humming her own original gospel hymns “If I Could Tell the World” and “I Need Thee”. Her favorite hymn to sing was without a doubt “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand''.
Erma, a 1947 graduate of DuBois High School, was a proud “DuBois Demon'' and was a leading force in organizing the 1980 DuBois all school reunion in Summit, OK. Erma received her bachelor’s degree from Langston University and master’s degree from Northeastern State University, both in English. It was at Langston University where she joined the sisterhood of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated through the Alpha Zeta chapter in 1950. Locally, she served as President of the Alpha Epsilon Omega chapter on numerous occasions and for many years. She enjoyed 71 years of membership and left 2 generations to continue her legacy.
Erma lived a dedicated life of SERVICE. She gladly served her community through the Muskogee Area Chapter of Langston University Alumni Association and several local, state, national, educational and governmental organizations. She was a major advocate for education and never missed an opportunity to educate both formally and informally, whether that was as a longtime educator, Sunday school teacher, mother, aunt, cousin, homemaker, historian, gardener, or public servant.
Erma spearheaded the initiative to officially incorporate the historic Black town of Summit, Oklahoma and was elected its FIRST Mayor beginning in 1980. She served as mayor for some combined 20-plus years. During her time as mayor, Erma dually taught English for many years throughout Oklahoma including Alice Robertson and West Junior High (Muskogee, OK), Booker T. Washington (Haskell, OK) and Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, OK).
She was a talented, resourceful, and creative woman who sewed the majority of her children’s clothes as well as items for other immediate family and close friends. If you were fortunate enough, you tasted some of Mother Thomas’ renowned homemade jams, jellies, wines and other pickled delicacies that she took so much pride in making and sharing with others.
She loved the many endeared names she was called: Mama, Maw-Maw, Mother Erma, Granny, Grandma, Grandma Erma… but most of all she never missed a chance to remind you that her name was Erma Lee Lyons Thomas.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Joe E. Thomas, parents (Jack and Lillie) and brothers (Alphonso, Decatur and Larry). She is survived by her one remaining brother, Joe T. Lyons of Detroit, MI and one sister-in-law, Patricia Lyons of Muskogee, OK. Her legacy lives on through her children Lee (Rowana) of Plano, TX, Dianna Wesbrook (Charlie), Cheryl Thomas, Bonnie Carter (Richard) of Muskogee, OK and John Thomas of Grand Prairie, TX. Twelve grandchildren, James Christopher Thomas (Demetris), Ericka Alvarez (Chris), Kenya Walters (DC), Charlie Westbrook II, Alexandrea Westbrook, Leigh Westbrook, Staci Carter, Schuyler Carter, Sydni Carter, Terrance Thomas, Thalia Thomas, TreVant Thomas, 15 great-grandchildren, 3 great great grandchildren and a host of beloved nieces and nephews.
A Home Going Celebratory Service will be conducted, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at 1:00 P.M. in the Precious Memories Chapel/House of Winn Funeral Home-Muskogee, Rev. Ricky Brooks will be eulogizing. The Final Resting place will be Plainview cemetery, Summit,OK. Visitation, Friday, Sept. 17th in the Precious Memories Chapel/House of Winn Funeral Home-Muskogee during the hours of 1:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M.
MASKS are Mandatory at all services.
The family has been cared for by, House of Winn Funeral Home-Muskogee.