Thomas Richard Stanley, 33, died tragically on September 28, 2019. He was completing the FlatRock 50K race on the Elk River Hiking Trail near Independence when he was struck by lightning. He had lived in Wichita for more than a decade, most recently residing in Andover. Understanding Thomas’ life requires knowing his many stories.
Thomas’ life is a story of including others. He was born May 9, 1986, in Wichita, Kansas. Thomas graduated from Hoisington High School in 2004, but also grew up in Wichita, Hays and Hoisington. Moving around usually made Thomas an outsider but it nurtured his desire to always include others. He faced family adversity, overcoming it with an amazing work ethic and a deep commitment to his faith. He excelled in forensics, an early display of his creative genius.
Thomas’ life is a story of wisdom and learning. He graduated in 2008 from Wichita State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He read constantly. He devoted himself to learning, not for the status or the degree, but to become a better servant to others. He knew if he became a better version of himself, he could use his gifts to do even more good for others. In any conflict, he first saw his part of the mess. Then he pushed himself to be better for those around him.
Thomas’ life is a story of true love. He married Ashley Mitchell on June 14, 2008 at Dozier Winery outside Ellinwood, Kansas. His devotion to her began back in high school. Within days of meeting Ashley, Thomas said, “I think I’m going to marry you.” That spark turned to passion and 15 years of overflowing devotion. Ashley and Thomas shared a marriage most can only dream about – passionate, full of service for one another and joy, so much joy together.
Thomas’s life is a story of vocation. To call it work would be wrong. The story of the Kansas Leadership Center, which he joined after graduating college in 2008, about a year after it opened its doors, and where he worked his entire professional life, is deeply intertwined with the story of Thomas. His roles included serving as a program manager, director of faith initiatives and, most recently, director of business initiatives. At KLC, Thomas built his skill and leaned into his passion, growing up with his organization and advancing the greater good around him. His countless contributions to KLC will echo for years into the future. Thousands of individuals, across Kansas and around the world, are living a more fulfilled life and improving the common good because of Thomas.
Thomas’ life is a story of model fatherhood. Charlotte (6), Peter (4) and Claire (2), all born in Wichita, felt their father’s love and devotion. He spoke often with such joy about his children, and also with realism about the blend of pandemonium and love in an active young family. To see Thomas the father was to see a man who understood the gift of children.
Thomas’ life is a story of countless friendships. Thomas had them by the hundreds and each friend felt Thomas really knew them. Here was Thomas’ secret: by first letting others see him, by being open and raw. His friends – and even mere acquaintances – could reciprocate by being vulnerable too.
Thomas’ story could be a comedy. He had an infectious laugh. His practical jokes are legend. He often toed the line, hovering just long enough for awkwardness to set in, but leaving you feeling even more love for him.
Thomas’ life is a story of adventure. He traveled the world – Italy, France, Bolivia and New Zealand. He encouraged others to do so as well. Thomas was a runner, but no ordinary one. He ran ultra-marathons, including two 100-mile races. Looking back now, we realize these races encapsulate Thomas’s life. To finish an ultra-marathon requires a level of passion, dedication, drive and purpose that is rare. To live like Thomas requires those same ingredients. That his family, friends and co-workers lost Thomas during the midst of one of these adventures is a mystery that cannot be explained.
Sorting and sifting all these stories, it becomes clear all these stories really combine into one. It’s a story of a man who lived his deep faith fully. All his stories are simply expressions of the story of Thomas the Christian, doing his duty here on Earth as a humble servant to those around him.
Thomas’ life is a story of legacy. In addition to his wife Ashley, children Charlotte, Peter and Claire of Andover, Thomas is survived by his sisters Julie Fuller of Cape Coral, Florida, Timbal Stanley of Peru, New York, Jessica Yost of Fort Pierce, Florida, and Sarah Stanley of Wichita, Kansas, and literally thousands of people who were touched by Thomas’ gentle heart and loving care. He was preceded in death by his father Richard (Dick) Stanley and his mother Georgann Stanley.
Celebrate this story with us. Join family and friends to pay tribute to and be inspired by the story of Thomas Stanley. A celebration of life service is planned for 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at Christ Church, 14242 E. 21st Street, Wichita, Kansas.
In lieu of flowers, be a part of the story by contributing to the Stanley Children’s Fund, long-term effort organized by friends and colleagues. Send contribution to the Stanley Children’s Fund c/o Kansas Leadership Center, 325 E. Douglas, Wichita, Kansas 67202.
Add your story about Thomas at www.kansasleadershipcenter.org/thomas. All these stories will be captured into a book for his children. Help them know the story of Thomas Stanley.
Services by Broadway Mortuary, Wichita.
Funeral arrangements provided by
1147 South Broadway Street
Wichita, KS 67211
Great Bend (Kan.) Tribune, Oct. 3, 2019