by Katie Teems, NHT AmeriCorps Member
When I asked Joe Dumire if I could interview him, he agreed right away and forwarded me some already-written documents about his family history and memories of Thomas. Joe is Thomas' resident historian, and he has his heritage as a descendant of one of Tucker County's large (nine children) pioneering families, as well as his upbringing in Thomas, to thank for his interest in history. "Every Dumire in this country is descended from one of those nine children," he said with a smile. Over the years, Joe has filled thirteen four-inch three-ring binders of Dumire and related family genealogy.
Growing up in Thomas in a "pretty formal house" at the top of Brown Street, Joe had the chance to meet people from all over Europe who moved to Brown Street. "You knew your neighbors" back then, he said with nostalgia. He talked about learning songs in Lithuanian in elementary school, and he talked about going over to see his Italian great-aunt who would hold a "feast of the seven fishes" on Christmas—he never had fish that good since that time, he said.
Joe reminisced about growing up in Thomas when kids, and even teachers, would go to The Varsity, a soda fountain and fun eatery and gathering place in Thomas. Joe misses seeing the live Polka shows, and he even laughed about how the boys in Thomas would go down to the dam to skinny dip.
However, there were times in Thomas, he said, that were very sad. During the Vietnam War, for example, Joe remembers at least one boy who was killed. He then said that the job market dried up and people moved on, including him. Joe left Thomas for for forty years. He studied Journalism at WVU, but he said " by the time I graduated, journalists were a dime a dozen," so he moved for work to Canaan Valley, Morgantown, Oakland, Elkins, and then to Fairmont, until he came back to Thomas.
He said that after coming back to Thomas, it has been "nice to see a lot of these store fronts occupied again." Joe likes to "stroll up and down the streets and check out the shops."
Since returning, Joe has been an active member of the community. He is Chairperson of the Tucker County Historic Landmarks Committee, Chairperson of the Rose Hill Cemetery Committee, advisory member of the Tucker County Cultural District Authority, advisory member of the Thomas Planning Commission, and member of the Tucker County Historical Society. "If I'm gonna complain," said Joe, "then I want to be involved." Joe says that we're so fortunate to have this quiet community surrounded by forest, nature, and cooler temperatures. Joe's concerned about deforestation and water pollution. "We just don't realize how fortunate we are here," he said, and he encourages people to be involved in Thomas and County groups. "If you're not happy and want to complain," he said, "get involved and get things done."