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


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

He was a copy boy to begin with, working for the sports office as a teenager after a childhood spent delivering papers. From crime writer to national correspondent to newspaper ombudsman, Thomas wore more hats in his time at the Boston Globe than any other journalist who graced its pages.

So who better to praise Thomas than himself?

When Thomas learned he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, he reflected on the end of his life in an emotional article for the Globe’s magazine. He wrote of his lifelong love of local newspapers – “every daily paper was a miracle” – and of the many people and experiences he would miss.

“Editing the last details of your life is like editing a story for the last time,” he wrote last year. “It’s the last chance an editor has to make corrections, the last rewrite before the presses go down.”

Thomas, a journalist to the end, died Saturday at his home in Cambridge, Mass., his family told the Globe. It was 83.

A lifelong Bostonian, Thomas started in the newspaper business at age 14, dropping off copies of the now-defunct Dorchester Argus on neighbors’ doorsteps. He grew up reading all four newspapers in the Boston area at the time, including the Globe.

During his many decades at the Globe, during which he was also a Washington correspondent, television critic and writer, he rarely shied away from an assignment, whether it involved living for a week among homeless Bostonians to profile his beloved Julia Child, in who once suggested they run together. (He also wrote lovingly about the care of Julia Child roses, a variety of golden-yellow flowers.)

While he had a definite knack for storytelling, he also published stories that helped re-establish the Globe’s reputation, including a 2002 piece about a disgraced Catholic priest, published around the same time as the famed Spotlight team’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on sexual assault in boston. – local churches.

Nor was he afraid to hold his colleagues accountable: In the late 1990s, Thomas vocally criticized a Globe opinion writer whose work he found homophobic and offensive. (In the 2021 piece, Thomas called himself a “boring liberal.”)

Thomas retired in 2005, according to the Globe, but contributed occasionally to the paper where he spent nearly his entire career. He kept his mind busy, however, pursuing a degree at Harvard University as a septuagenarian – as a young man, he had left Northeastern College before graduating to join the Marine Corps Reserve, the Globe reported. He also loved jazz, especially the late pianist Dave McKenna, and spent his afternoons on his sailboat, The Butterfly, in Boston Harbor.

Reflecting on the end of his life, Thomas wrote that he would miss waking up with his wife, Geraldine, every morning and hearing the laughter of his three grown children.

“I’m not sure what awaits me when I get home, but this was definitely an exciting experience,” she wrote. “I wish I could stay a little longer.”

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