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Jack Thomas, longtime Boston Globe journalist who wrote about his terminal cancer, dies at 83

<i>Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty Images</i><br/>Jack Thomas worked for several desks at the Boston Globe
Boston Globe via Getty Images
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Jack Thomas worked for several desks at the Boston Globe

By Scottie Andrew, CNN

Jack Thomas’ byline appeared in the Boston Globe for an impressive 60 years.

He was a copy boy to start, working for the sports desk as a teenager after a childhood spent delivering papers. From a police writer to a national correspondent to the paper’s ombudsman, Thomas wore more hats in his time at the Boston Globe than just about any other journalist who appeared in its pages.

Who better, then, to eulogize Thomas than himself?

When Thomas learned he was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, he reflected on the end of his life in a moving piece for the Globe’s magazine. He wrote about his lifelong love of local newspapers — “every daily newspaper was a wonder” — and the many people and experiences he’d miss.

“Editing the final details of one’s life is like editing a story for the final time,” he wrote last year. “It’s the last shot an editor has at making corrections, the last rewrite before the roll of the presses.”

Thomas, a journalist until the very end, died Saturday at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his family told the Globe. He was 83.

From paperboy to the ombudsman of the Boston Globe

A lifelong Bostonian, Thomas got his start in the newspaper business at age 14, tossing copies of the now-defunct Dorchester Argus on neighbors’ doorsteps. He grew up reading all four Boston-area papers at the time, including the Globe.

Over his several decades at the Globe, during which he was also a Washington correspondent, TV critic and features writer, he rarely shied from an assignment, whether it entailed spending a week living among homeless Bostonians to profiling his beloved Julia Child, to whom he once proposed running away together. (He also wrote fondly of tending to his Julia Child roses, a variety of golden-yellow blooms.)

Though he had a definite knack for narrative storytelling, he also published stories that helped resolidify the Globe’s reputation, including a 2002 piece on a disgraced Catholic priest, published around the same time as the famed Spotlight team’s Pulitzer-winning series on sexual abuse in Boston-area churches.

He wasn’t afraid to hold his colleagues to account, either: In the late 1990s, Thomas vocally criticized a Globe opinion writer whose work he found homophobic and offensive. (In his 2021 piece, Thomas called himself a “boring liberal.”)

Thomas retired in 2005, per the Globe, but occasionally contributed to the paper where he spent nearly his entire career. He kept his mind occupied, though, by pursuing a degree at Harvard University as a septuagenarian — as a young man, he’d left Northeastern College before graduating to join the Marine Corps Reserve, the Globe reported. He also adored jazz, particularly the late pianist Dave McKenna, and spending afternoons on his sailboat, The Butterfly, on Boston Harbor.

Reflecting on the end of his life, Thomas wrote that he’d miss waking up to his wife, Geraldine, every morning and hearing the laughter of his three adult children.

“I’m not sure what awaits me when I get home, but this has certainly been an exciting experience,” he wrote. “I just wish I could stay a little longer.”

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