Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home: Obituaries

Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home

Jean Marie Thomas Jean Marie Thomas
(July 20, 1945 - March 9, 2010)

Dr. Jean Marie D’Amato Thomas, 64, Professor of Classics in the Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State University since 1988, died on March 9, 2010 at Grace Home in Shreveport following a brief illness.

Jean was born on July 20, 1945 in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Frances (Trotta) and Hector D’Amato. She received degrees from Tufts University (1967) and Middlebury College (1969) and was awarded a PhD in classics from The Johns Hopkins University in 1976.

During a long and highly productive career, she taught at many institutions, including The University of Pittsburgh, Williams College, The University of Southern California, Brandeis University, Tufts University, and The University of Maryland. Before coming to NSU, she was a Program Officer at The National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, DC. She offered a number of summer study programs and tours in Italy under the auspices of Northwestern State University, Stanford University, the Virgilian Society of America, and the University of Southern California.

Jean was known locally, nationally, and internationally. At the time of her death, she was putting the finishing touches on a book that is the culmination of decades of research. Entitled The Phlegraean Fields: Formation of an Antiquarian Tradition, the book incorporates archeological, historical, political, and literary elements, focusing on a geographical region northwest of Naples characterized by extensive volcanic upheaval over the centuries. Lake Avernus, which fills a crater in this region, was believed to be the entrance to Hades as portrayed by Virgil in his epic poem, The Aeneid.

In 1993, following the publication of a major article in Viator entitled, “Cicero’s Property in the Phlegraean Fields and Antiquarian Investigation in the Naples Area,” Jean went to Italy to receive the highly esteemed Theodor Mommsen Award for her work. In 1992, she received the Mildred Hart Bailey Research Award presented annually by NSU.

Jean created two Internet sites presenting her research, one on the US Supreme Court Building and the other on the Phlegraean Fields, and she gave innumerable lectures and presentations on her work both here and abroad.

She served as an officer in a number of organizations, including The Louisiana Foreign Languages Association, The Virgilian Society of America, and The Louisiana Classical Association. She received numerous grants for both research and curricular development from the American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Commission.

She was selected for inclusion in The International Biography of Women, Who’s Who of American Women, and Who’s Who in the South and Southwest.

Driven by the desire to make the classical tradition familiar to young people and average citizens, she served as faculty sponsor for the NSU Tutors program, conducted workshops for elementary and secondary school teachers on Art and Science, presented guest lectures at Natchitoches Central High School and St. Mary’s School, wrote a series of columns for The Natchitoches Times on English etymology based upon Greco-Roman heritage, and was a guest columnist for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, writing on topics such as censorship, cultural issues, and funding for the arts and humanities.

Visitors are welcomed on Friday, March 12, from 9-10:00 am at Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home, 848 Keyser Avenue, Natchitoches, LA 71457; phone 318-357-8271. Private graveside service will be followed by a Memorial Remembrance at 3:00 pm at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 533 2nd St, Natchitoches, LA 71457; phone 318-352-3113. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The NSU Foundation in Memory of Jean D’Amato Thomas, 535 University Parkway, Natchitoches, LA 71497.

Jean is survived by her mother, Frances D’Amato; her brother, Hector “Bud” D’Amato and his wife, Susan Lubars and her children, Paul and Elissa Dunn; stepchildren Alicia and Robert Glenn, Jennifer Kee, and Matthew Thomas; step-grandchildren Collin, Stuart and Neil Kee; cousins Madeline Brown, Alex and Jennifer Brown, Max and Holly Brown, and Colton, Sidney, William and Whitney; and countless dear friends, colleagues, and especially her “kids,” the many students whose lives Jean touched.

The family wishes to extend special thanks to Jean’s dear friends Leslie Reinhardt, Rondo and Lisa Keele, and Fraser and Dian Snowden.