A. Thomen Reece, MD
Dr. Adelbert Thomen Reece, 80, of Olathe, passed away on March 13, 2018 at Garden Terrace in Overland Park. He was born on July 16, 1937 to Dr. Adelbert Samuel and Ella (Thomen) Reece in Kansas City, MO. Thomen is survived by his loving wife, Cheryl, his daughters Stephanie Reece and Andrea Reece (Becky Nidiffer), step-daughters Kristin (Don) Lennard, Kari (Steve) Kovzan, and Dr. Kami Ross, grandchildren Sam, Abby, Mary Kate, Jamie, Drake, Claire, Giselle, Cooper, Will, Karli, Lucia, Quin, and Carter, and a great-granddaughter, Meadow (due to arrive in May). He is also survived by his sisters Dr. Katharine Curry and Marilyn Wolf, his sister-in-law Dorothy Reece, and a host of nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, and his brother, Robert "Bob" Reece.
Thomen was the youngest of four children in his family and grew up in Gardner, KS. He recognized early on the perks that came with being the baby of the family. Mischief-making frequently ensued in the Reece household, as Thomen and his siblings shared the same penchant for amusement and laughter. Knowing he alone could save them all from an impending spanking, Thomen was always prepared to confess to the scheme they had all devised. This ability to charm and delight people with his endearing personality and keen sense of humor followed him to his final days at Garden Terrace.
Thomen knew at the age of five that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor. He was a member of Boy Scout Troop 88, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. He remained involved with the Boy Scouts of America, working as a Scout leader at Camp Naish and serving as the Scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop on the island of Crete, Greece during his time in the Air Force. He graduated from Gardner High School in 1955. During his high school years, he played football, ran track, and acted as a trainer for the basketball team. He also sang with the glee club and performed in school plays. He was loved by his classmates and was known for his witty jokes and good-hearted pranks. As one of his classmates wrote in his senior high yearbook, he was “one of the seniors who got away with everything”.
After graduating from high school, Thomen attended the University of Kansas. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Zoology. He graduated from KU in 1959 and immediately entered the KU School of Medicine. During this time, he met and married his first wife, Carol Ann. He graduated from medical school in 1963 and completed his residency in family practice in 1965. He was a Captain in the US Air Force from 1965-1967 and served as Dispensary Commander on the Island of Crete, Greece.
In 1967, upon discharge from the Air Force, Thomen returned to Gardner and joined his father’s family practice, where he remained until 1994. As a family doctor, he delivered hundreds of babies, made house calls, and cared for multiple generations of families. He was beloved by patients and colleagues alike because he infused his patient care with integrity, love, and humor. He had a strong work ethic and a deep knowledge of medicine that was admired and imitated by fellow doctors. He took time to really listen to his patients and often talked about the “Say, Doc” moment of a patient visit--that moment at the very end when a patient reveals what ailment is really bothering them. He prided himself on catching that moment in order to meet his patients’ needs.
Like his father before him, Thomen dedicated himself not only to his own private practice but to the larger medical community as well. Between 1969-1994, he served as Medical Director, President of Medical Staff, and President of the Board of Directors for the Gardner Community Medical Center. Throughout his career, he continued to serve in leadership roles, such as Medical Director of Meadowbrook Neurological Hospital, President of Olathe Medical Center Medical Staff, Member of the Board of Directors for Health Midwest, Medical Director of The Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs, and Rehabilitation Medical Director of Pike’s Peak Pain Program.
In the latter half of Thomen’s medical career, the focus of his practice shifted to rehabilitation medicine and pain management. In 1994, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of living near the mountains when he and his wife, Cheryl, moved to Colorado Springs. During this time, he worked at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs and the Pike’s Peak Pain Management Program and limited his private practice to chronic pain and rehab. He and Cheryl enjoyed living in Colorado for eight years before returning home to Kansas. He continued to practice medicine at the Pain Management Institute of Mid-America Physiatrists until he retired in 2012.
Thomen’s love of being a doctor carried over into his personal life as well. He was a devoted family man, who was always there to support anyone who needed him. He was usually the first person called when a family member was ill because he could be counted on to give sound medical advice while calming any fears with humor and affection. He often soothed an unrealistic concern by joking, “Well, the good news is that it isn’t a brain tumor.” His family knew they could call anytime night or day without upsetting him. If it was the middle of the night, he would respond to the worry of waking him by telling the caller it wasn’t a problem because he had to get up to answer the phone anyway, a joke he got from his dad.
Thomen was blessed with two daughters, Stephanie and Andrea, from his first marriage. On March 5th, 1983, Thomen married the love of his life, Cheryl, and gained three more daughters, Kristin, Kari, and Kami. He and Cheryl worked hard to blend two families into one, and Thomen showed the same passion and determination for creating his family as he did for practicing medicine. He was a loving and patient husband and father, who defined what it means to “show up” as a parent. He was there cheering his girls on, telling jokes, listening to heartache, celebrating joys, and taking pictures. He knew when to challenge misguided thoughts or ideas and when let experience do the teaching. He understood that each of his daughters was a unique individual, with sometimes very different opinions, yet he nurtured their strengths and believed in their dreams.
As the grandfather of thirteen, Thomen cherished the time he spent with his grandchildren. Nothing seemed to delight him more than to hear his grandchildren’s laughter and know what he said or did was the cause. He enjoyed watching them play sports, discover new things, and learn about the world. He imparted wit and wisdom through telling his jokes and sharing his stories.
Outside of his dedication to his family and his medical career, Thomen had many hobbies. He was an avid reader and enjoyed history, biographies, and Western novels. He loved all kinds of music, particularly Glen Miller and John Denver. He enjoyed watching sports, especially if one of his grandchildren was playing. His biggest passion, though, was photography. His love of photography started early in life, and he was rarely without his camera. The subjects of his photographs varied. He took many landscape and nature photographs of the places he traveled, from Greece and Turkey to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He also documented everyday life, capturing the family memories through photographs. After he retired, Thomen’s photography evolved into a form of artistic expression for him. He began making photo collages, experimenting with color and light, and crafting inspirational images to display as art work. He showed his photography in several visual arts shows in the Kansas City area and published a book of art called Wonders, Wisdom, and Wisecracks. He was very proud of his success as a photographer and an artist.
Thomen was a spiritual man and a reverent Christian. He considered himself a lifelong student of the Christian faith and explored several denominations before becoming a Methodist. He strove to deepen his understanding of Christianity through Bible study and meaningful involvement in his church. He attended both United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood and Heritage United Methodist Church in Overland Park over the years. He served his church communities as an usher at Sunday services and a member of the Silver Link Ministries. He also volunteered his time as a photographer for many church events.
Thomen lived a life of kindness and integrity. He had the gift of bringing people together. He will always be the guy with the ready wit and the big laugh, and his memory will forever be a handprint on the hearts of those who loved him.
The family would like to thank Dr. Bruce Hodges, friend and medical school classmate, and the staff at Garden Terrace for providing support and loving care to Thomen and his family. In addition, the family is grateful for Thomen’s hospice team from Great Lakes Caring for the comfort and compassion they offered in Thomen’s final moments.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, March 22 from 6-8pm at Penwell-Gabel Funeral home, Olathe, KS, with a Celebration of Life to follow on Friday, March 23 at 10:30am at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Alzheimer's Association, Garden Terrace Activities Fund, the Boy Scouts of America, or Wayside Waifs.