Huber Heights man kayaks 83 miles to honor his late wife


HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WDTN) — A Huber Heights man will hit the water this weekend, kayaking more than 80 miles.

“When you’re on the water, you don’t think about anything else,” said Bill Thomas. “Throughout the time I trained and worked towards this goal, I often remembered something special that she always said – you can’t stop love.”

Bill Thomas is making the trip in honor of his late wife, Jenny. He calls his trip “Paddle the Ducts”.

Jenny Thomas was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in August 2019. Two years later, in August 2021, she died.

“I had a chance to reflect on one of our last conversations together,” Bill Thomas said. “She was worried about what I was going to do with myself, and I said that eventually I would go back to kayaking. And it came to mind – Paddle the Ducts.

In memory of Jenny Thomas, Bill Thomas will paddle 83 miles starting Saturday from the Mad River to the Ohio River. It’s a two day trip and it will stop in Hamilton, which is half way.

“Marriott made me nice rooms. Then I’ll come back tomorrow morning and finish this,” Bill Thomas said.

The trip not only aims to raise awareness of bile duct cancer, but also to raise funds for the Dayton Art Institute, a place close to their hearts.

“I met Bill and Jenny Thomas in 2014 when they applied to serve on the board,” said Elaine Gounaris, director of development for the Dayton Art Institute. “When Jenny was around, you wanted to hug her. You wanted to be in her company. And it was kind of one of those feelings, pleasure follows her.

“They would come here and have a family experience or a date night and then network and meet so many people across the community and the board. It was a labor of love,” said Michael Roediger, director and CEO of the Dayton Art Institute.

Over the past 20 years, the Thomases have created special memories at the Dayton Art Institute. They have served on the board, volunteered for Oktoberfest and attended Art Ball.

“When we have couples like that, they create memories for themselves and opportunities for us to grow as an organization,” Roediger said. “I think Bill is doing this kayaking trip, it’s a job but it’s a labor of love to honor the memory of this person, his wife, his soul mate whose smile lit up the room.”

As Bill Thomas holds tight to all memories, he will take the love of Jenny Thomas with him on the water as he paddles 83 miles.

“These 20 years have been the best. She was the best,” says Bill Thomas.

Bill Thomas accepts donations and pledges for the Art Institute. If you would like to donate to her cause, you can do so online or by writing a check to the Art Institute in the name of Jenny Thomas.


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