McHarrel Zachuel Thomas, 73, a former supervising microbiologist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, died from pulmonary hypertension at his home in Lakewood, Colo., on May 10.
Thomas, who grew up in Harlem, graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., with a bachelor's degree in 1962. Although he was not one of the original four African-American students who took part in the famous Woolworth lunch counter sit-in on Feb. 1, 1960, he joined them in the days that followed.
"He was a committed campaigner for equality all of his life," said his daughter, Garen Thomas of Manhattan.
He received his master's in microbiology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1972.
Over his lifetime, he worked as a researching, clinical and supervising microbiologist.
He worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory from 1972 to 1985, with the New York Blood Center from 1987 to 1993 and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1993 until 2012 -- first in Manhattan then in Denver.
He married Julia Middleton in 1967, and they moved to Shoreham in 1975, where they raised their four daughters. He was an active participant in the community, serving on the Shoreham-Wading River school board as a member and then as president.
A sports enthusiast, he served in various official capacities, including as a referee, in school districts across Long Island in the 1980s, Garen Thomas said. She added that he continued being a referee in Denver starting around 1998.
Thomas loved Colorado, she said.
"He might have come to Denver for a job, but he stayed for love of the Midwest," Garen Thomas said. "His home was open to friends and relatives who wanted to visit."
Thomas is survived by Julia, his wife of 45 years; his four daughters, Garen Thomas, Sharah Thomas of Manhattan, and Niku Mitchell and Kina Thomas of Philadelphia; three brothers, William Thomas of Atlanta, Jamal Toshumba of Thomasville, N.C. and David Thomas, of South Orange, N.J.; two sisters, Ann Thomas-Gay and Marie Thomas of Manhattan; and two grandsons.
The family is holding a memorial service from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Terrace on the Park in Flushing, Queens.
Thomas has been cremated and his remains will be buried tomorrow at Flushing Cemetery.