Bruce Leslie Thomas, 77, of Polson passed away on November 8, 2023, at Logan Hospital in Kalispell. He was born on September 25, 1946, in Kalispell to Leslie and Una Thomas. As a young boy he lived in his mother’s old family home in Rollins before his family moved to Polson in 1954. He attended school in Polson and was a star athlete in football, basketball, and track. He went on to play college football first for the University of Montana Grizzlies and then for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds where he graduated with a degree in physical education in 1970. Bruce served in the Army after graduation and spent a year in Korea before coming back to the states in 1972.
On December 22, 1970, Bruce married his first wife, Pennie Hansen, in Orem, Utah. They had sons Jason and Ryan. Bruce moved back to Polson and worked with his father at Thomas Logging, Inc. When the logging industry began to slow, he went to work for the Polson School District’s high school English department and coaching staff where he went on to impact the lives of Polson youth for 30 years.
Bruce began his coaching career as an assistant for the football and boys’ basketball teams. He eventually added head girls (and assistant boys) track coach to his list of annual activities. In 1991, he decided to take the opportunity to be head coach of the girls’ basketball program and left his longtime post in the football program. He was an accomplished coach and success followed him wherever he was involved. As the PHS girls’ basketball coach for 15 years, he compiled a record of 207 wins and 136 losses, had 3 Western A championships and finished 2nd and 4th at state during his tenure. As track and field coach, the girls team won state titles in 2003 and 2004, and he assisted the boys’ team to a championship in 1996. The boys’ basketball program won their first state championship during his tenure in 1993. Bruce often drove the team bus and athletes reported he saved their lives on more than one treacherous winter road.
On April 12, 1986, Bruce married Mary Alice Currie Wegner in Polson, who had two sons Shawn and Shane. Together Bruce and Mary Alice had sons Isaiah and Kaden. In 2007, Bruce and Mary Alice moved to Atmautluak, Alaska and were educators in the remote tundra village for 10 years before retiring in 2017. One year Bruce coached girls’ basketball in Alaska which required him to drive a snow machine and pull the team behind in a sled to get to games in other villages.
Bruce is preceded in death by his parents, brother Jay Thomas, and stepson Shane Wegner. He is survived by wife Mary Alice, sister Judi (Jim) Brown, sons Jason (Eliza), Ryan (Maribeth), Isaiah, Kaden (Kayla), stepson Shawn (Tina) Wegner, and 25 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We imagine that Bruce will be remembered most for his kindness, quick wit and hilarious sense of humor. He really gave his best to coaching and teaching. We love you and miss you, Buckshot!
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”