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Obituary: Mark J. Thomas Sr. N.Y.S. Racing Steward (Ret.)

Mark J. Thomas Sr. of Carle Place, originally from New Haven, CT, passed away on June 13, 2010. He was the son of Mary Carroll (Tipperary, IRL) and Mark Thomas Gagliardi; brother of Joseph and Thomas; equestrian polo pony trainer (Yale, New Haven, CT – circa 1930s), polo player, highly decorated WWII veteran (75th and 83rd Div) E.T.O. – England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge; horse transportation pioneer, N.Y.S. Racing Inspector - New York State Racing Association (NYRA); and N.Y.S. Racing Steward - NYRA (Ret.). He was the most loved and respected father and friend of Mary Anne, Mark Jr., Regina, Frances, James, and Margaret. He was the beloved father-in-law and friend of Jimmy, Ed, and Tina. He was the gratefully blessed grandfather (pop-pop) of 36, with 14 great-grandchildren.

Mark J. Thomas Sr. was a man who lived an incredibly full life, never boasting of achievements, but always humbly accepting all that God planned and expected from him. He was a devoted father to his children, and his unmatched sensibility and sense of humor kept everyone strong. If any of his children or grandchildren were down, he could say one simple phrase and make them instantly forget the issue. He would make sense of everything and firmly believed and passed on the belief that “everything happens for a reason.” His life was steeped in the horse racing industry, and he made contributions to the sport both big and small. Before becoming a racing steward for NYRA, he was a gifted horse trainer and caretaker, and all who knew Mark Thomas knew how much he loved horses. He often fondly recalled his participation as a teenager in Equestrian Polo at the Meadowbrook Polo Club on Long Island.

Of his more than 50 years affiliation to the racing industry, one of his greatest thrills was being in the Steward Stand with Francis P. Dunne during the 1973 Belmont Stakes and witnessing arguably the greatest horse of all time, Secretariat, win the Triple Crown by 31 lengths. Earlier in his career, in March of 1938, he trained the polo ponies from Yale University who went on to defeat Princeton University 15-6 in the Intercollegiate Championship (New York Times, March 27, 1938.).

In addition to his contributions to horse racing and his love and devotion for his family, Mark Thomas is remembered for his selfless service in WWII. Fifty-five years after the end of WWII, a retired USAF colonel who served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, wrote a story about his lifelong mentor and friend, Mark Thomas. He said, “Without a doubt, he was the bravest, kindest man I ever met. He taught me everything I knew.”

Mr. Thomas passed away of natural causes. He went to his eternal life while surrounded by his family at home, as peaceful as one could ask.

Contributions to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, P.O. Box 3387 Saratoga Springs, NY, 12866 would be greatly appreciated.