Thomas Crowder’s wonderful life on earth has ended. He died as he designed: at home, surrounded by family.
Thomas was diagnosed with testicular cancer in March 2013 and faced every challenge his illness threw him with bravery and grace. In his last days he enjoyed uplifting visits with his family and closest friends.
Thomas left his wife, Kay, and children, Rachel and Garrett, a legacy of living every day to the fullest; tenacity against all odds; passion for great art, architecture, fine food, and champagne; and a wicked sense of humor.
As an architect, Thomas’s love for great design left us his gift of elegant, yet simple buildings and inspiring interior and exterior spaces. Thomas’s interest in architecture evolved from his lifelong love of art. “Paintings are two dimensional, sculpture is three dimensional, and architecture has a fourth dimension of space and how it impacts people emotionally, even physically,” he explained.
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Thomas started part-time work at a Raleigh architectural firm when he was in high school. While he was still a teenager, Thomas’s father, Roy Hester Crowder, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thomas dropped out of school to work full time at the firm and took evening classes at Broughton High School to earn his diploma. Although he planned to attend NC State University, that was not feasible. But, at the time, an alternate route still existed: a 13-year apprenticeship. Thomas became one of the last architects in North Carolina to become licensed without first obtaining a professional degree in architecture.
In 1993, Thomas formed ARCHITEKTUR, PA, a design firm focusing on architecture, planning, interiors, branding, graphics, and wayfinding. Over the next 20 years many of his projects, including the home he designed for his family, were featured in local and national publications, and recognized for “Design Excellence” by the American Institute of Architects and other organizations.
But architecture was never about the awards for Thomas. His focus was on creating comfortable spaces in which people can work, live, and play. Spaces in which everything has its place. He pushed his colleagues to continuously evolve, refine, and hone their limits. As a result, he mentored young architects who learned to see the world differently; not just in how they approached design, but in how they solved problems and cared for their clients.
Thomas’s relentless dedication and belief in great design transcended individual projects to encompass comprehensive planning for the City of Raleigh. He served two terms on the City of Raleigh Planning Commission before he ran for the City Council.
Thomas was elected to six consecutive terms on the Council representing District D, the "Capital City’s Creative District,” Southwest Raleigh. He authored the City Council’s first mission statement and championed a sustainable path for Raleigh’s future.
Thomas served as a dedicated member of the Triangle J Council of Governments Board of Delegates for more than 10 years. He was recently recognized by the Executive Committee for “standing for workforce housing, proactive environmental stewardship, inclusive government policies, smart growth, and regional solutions, all advanced with a mix of toughness, straight talk, insight and humor.”
Thomas’s commitment to service began in childhood. He was involved in Boy Scouting most of his life and considered attaining the rank of Eagle Scout his most important and defining achievement. He served on the Executive Board of the Occoneechee Council of the Boy Scouts of America since 2003.
When Thomas learned he was terminally ill, he thought deeply about the future and formed a plan to ensure his work for the city and citizens he loved would continue during his last term without him. Early last month his fellow Councilors unanimously voted to fulfill Thomas’s wish for Kay Crowder to serve the remainder of his term, which ends in December 2015. Following a sudden downturn in his health, Thomas resigned on September 24 and watched with pride while his beautiful soulmate was sworn in to office to assume his duties.
Thomas and Kay are both Raleigh natives with deep roots in the area. Thomas is a descendant of Jane Lane, the sister of Joel Lane, the “Father of Raleigh.” Thomas grew up in Southwest Raleigh, in a home where his mother, Mary Wilkinson Crowder, still resides. He and Kay raised their family a mile away from his childhood home.
Their children, Rachel Vann Crowder Spencer and Garrett Carlyle Crowder, are now young adults. Although Thomas regretted that he would not grow old with Kay nor meet their future grandchildren, he was at peace knowing that Rachel and Garrett are smart, interesting, caring individuals. Nothing made him more proud than his family.
In addition to his mother, wife, and children, Thomas is survived by his brothers, Christopher Lee Crowder and David Wilkinson Crowder; his sister, Venia Moye Conte; and several nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends from 4:00-7:00 p.m. Friday, October 16, 2014 at Meymandi Concert Hall, 2 East South Street, Raleigh, NC.
A celebration of life service will be held 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Western Blvd. Presbyterian Church.
Flowers are welcome or memorials may be made to Boy Scouts of America, Occoneechee Council, 3231 Atlantic Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27604.
Arrangements by Montlawn Funeral Home, 2911 S. Wilmington Street, Raleigh, NC.
On-line condolences may be made to the family at www.montlawn.com