Fate Thomas, a longtime Chattanooga-area minister and ministry leader, was remembered Thursday as a servant "with a heart for people."
The Sweetwater, Tenn., native, who pastored Ridgeview Baptist and Memorial Baptist churches locally and headed the Contact of Chattanooga telephone ministry for nearly 25 years, died Thursday at the age of 88.
Barbara Jones, who worked with Thomas throughout his tenure at Contact, called him an "exemplary" and "intuitive" servant who "looked for ways to help people. He was a wonderful, wonderful person."
More personally, she said, he "was like our family." Their children grew up together, she said, and, after her husband had a stroke, he was helpful to her in offering information and opinions, when asked, on important matters.
Initially recruited to Contact as an emergency counselor by local founder Dr. Curt Schofield, Thomas became the agency's executive director in 1981 and served until 1999. He later returned to the 24-hour crisis intervention and counseling ministry for six additional years as interim director.
Dr. Thomas Quisenberry, who was Thomas's pastor at First Baptist of Chattanooga in his later years, said he was "beloved by the congregation, appreciated and looked to for guidance. He was both friend and minister, which is wonderful to say.
"His was a life dedicated to the ministry," he said. "He clearly received the call and knew clearly what that call was."
Quisenberry said Thomas personally was "so very encouraging of me, [someone] I could turn to." Although their experiences together weren't extensive, he would "come by and give me a thumb's up. That's a nice gauge."
In addition to his work as pastor and at Contact, he served interim pastorates for a number of area churches such as Concord Baptist, Lookout Valley Baptist and Ashland Terrace Christian Church.
Thomas is survived by a wife, three children and three grandchildren.