Each year, South Boston’s Allied War Veterans Council, as an integral part of the St. Patrick’s/Evacuation Day Parade, selects a worthy person to become its parade chief marshal. You might well ask what goes into the selection of the chief marshal each year. South Boston Online would like to answer that question by describing the 2016 Parade Chief Marshal – William J. “Bill” Thomas, who was born in South Boston and now lives on the edge of the Savin Hill neighborhood in Dorchester.

One significant characteristic of the parade chief marshal is his or her concern for veterans. Well, Bill is an excellent example of such concern.

In 1975, he joined the American Legion’s Kane Post No. 60 on Meetinghouse Hill after completing his military duties as a Communications Technician in Flight 1351, U.S. Air Force. Over the next 26 years (1975 to 2001), he worked his way up through the Kane Post’s ranks, beginning as its historian and steadily rising to post commander, a position he held for two years.

Bill then moved back to Southie and joined the McDonough Post. This post had to make way for one of South Boston’s development efforts, so Bill transferred his membership to the Old Dorchester Post No. 65. When the new McDonough Post reopened on West Broadway, he rejoined it. Along the way, his service included Junior and Senior Vice Commanderships at both the McDonough and Old Dorchester Posts.

In case you’re not counting, that’s a total of 41 years of active membership in veterans’ organizations. Bill’s appointment as the 2016 parade chief marshal is a well-deserved recognition of his record in these organizations.

Bill Thomas is one of those quiet, patriotic veterans whom we call “citizen soldiers.” He’s a family man, married to Paula Marie (Lawless). They have three grown children: Joey (34), Jennifer (43) and Bobby (44). His mother, Anne Clare LaMontaigne, came from South Boston. His father, Delbert Thomas from Pennsylvania, retired as a Sergeant Major (USMC) from Weymouth Naval Air Base, after 32 years in the Corps. The Thomas family included three sisters – Clare, Anne and Rose. Bill himself attended Dorchester’s Cushing School and South Boston High School.

Bill worked in the U.S. Post Office, first as a letter carrier, and then retiring as a mail handler after 20 years total USPS Service. He subsequently fought and won a battle with cancer. He now has worked for the Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Bus Company since 2000 as its customer service representative, responsible for both Logan Airport and South Station. Business is good, Bill says, in part because commuting to Boston by bus with free parking available is less expensive.

This year’s St. Patrick’s/Evacuation Day Parade will be spectacular. More on this in future articles, but 2016 may set a record for the number of participants in the Parade. Don’t miss it. South Boston’s Allied War Veterans Council, enthusiastically supported by the City of Boston, is doing a superb job of organizing the 2016 Parade.

And once again, congratulations to Bill Thomas, the 2016 Parade Chief Marshal. We are glad to have you aboard.