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Published: Monday, 4/24/2006

Crop farmer also bred Belgian horses

HUDSON, Mich.- Cleave Thomas, 93, a crop farmer who bred Belgian horses and was known for giving cart-and-pony rides at area parades and festivities, died Saturday in his home from complications of prostate cancer.

Mr. Thomas, who owned and operated a corn and bean farm in rural southern Michigan for more than 50 years, was an outdoorsman who enjoyed the rural lifestyle he was born into, his granddaughter Kim Quist said.

"He grew up farming in southern Michigan and northern Ohio and enjoyed the work he did. When he was a boy, he plowed fields with a one-horse rig, and that is where his love of horses started," his granddaughter recalled.

Born in Pettisville, Ohio, Mr. Thomas grew up in Michigan, where he attended a one-room school until the eighth grade. "After that, he had to work full-time on his father's farm," his granddaughter said. "He had a smile and a handshake for everybody he met. He thought that your word was your bond, and he lived by it."

He served in the Michigan Army National Guard and was stationed at Camp Grayling from 1932 to 1935. He married the former Florence Kutzley on April 16, 1937, and the couple lived on a number of farms before they settled on the farm they owned in rural Hudson for more than 50 years.

For more than 20 years Mr. Thomas also worked for the Parker Chemical Co., from which he retired in 1978. But he continued working on his farm and breeding horses, the true love of his life, his granddaughter said.

"He spent most of his retirement working on the farm and especially enjoyed spending time with his family at picnics, reunions, and the family's annual Halloween party," Ms. Quist said. He dug a lake on the back of his farm where he enjoyed fishing and swimming with his grandchildren.

Surviving are his wife of 69 years, Florence; daughter, Sharon Ebersole; sons, Larry and Rocky; a brother, Roy; 10 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. today in the Eagle Funeral Home, Charles Fink Chapel, Morenci, Mich.



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