Michael N. Thome, a former chief executive officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and an Army veteran who was captured in World War II, died Sept. 23 at age 96, his family said.
Mr. Thome was a Sacramento resident since 1968, when he was chosen to lead CalSTRS. He oversaw the purchase of the agency’s first headquarters building, on Folsom Boulevard, and retired in 1983.
He previously served since 1955 as chief executive officer of the Minnesota state employees retirement system, where he began his career as a purchasing agent.
“He came out to California and was interviewed by Gov. Reagan,” friend Jerald Saladana said. “Basically, he was hired on the spot.”
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Mr. Thome spent much of his life in public service since he was inducted into the Army in 1942. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he trained in military intelligence and military government and was assigned to the 106th Infantry Division in Europe.
He became a prisoner of war in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest German offensives of World War II.
“They didn’t have any ammunition or food, and they were captured by the Germans,” his daughter Andre said. “They were put on stock cars and taken away. Our guys were coming over and shooting at them, because they didn’t know that they were on our side.”
After he was freed, Mr. Thome recovered at home and was assigned to the Eighth Army in Japan. He was promoted to captain, and worked as a civilian Army employee in Japan from 1946 to 1950, his family said.
The son of a blacksmith, Michael Nicholas Thome was born in 1917 in Dobie, Wis. He was the eldest of 10 children, including five who served in the armed forces in World War II: He and a brother and sister were in the Army, a sister was in the Marines and another sister was in the Navy.
He lived for many years in East Sacramento and enjoyed gardening, attending cultural events and traveling. He belonged to many veterans groups, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, American Ex-Prisoners of War and the Military Officers Association of America. He attended 106th Infantry Division reunions and helped organize the group’s gathering in Sacramento in 1990.
“He was one of the most patriotic people you would ever meet,” his daughter said.
Mr. Thome’s marriage to his wife, Georgia, ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter Andre, he is survived by another daughter, Terese Stein; four sisters, Margaret, Alice, Dorothy Zoch and Katherine Cunningham; a brother, Joseph; and two grandsons.
A service of remembrance is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at W.F. Gormley & Sons, 2015 Capitol Ave., Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to California Retired Teachers Association State Capitol Division Scholarship Fund, 800 Howe Ave., Suite 370, Sacramento, CA 95825.