Thomas William Skinner, 90, died Friday July 7, 2023, at Meadowlark Hills in Manhattan, Kansas where he has been residing since 2021.
He was born January 14, 1933, in Manhattan, Kansas, the son of Joseph William Skinner and Marjorie (Fisher) Skinner. He graduated from Manhattan High School (1951), Kansas State University (1955) and Chevrolet Dealer-Son School (1959).
He married Susan Rose Skinner July 27, 1954. They met the first day of freshman orientation at KSU and went on to celebrate 50 years of marriage prior to her death (2005). While she remained the love of his life, he was blessed to again find love with Neva Anderson with whom he enjoyed 12 years of companionship.
Following graduation from K-State he served as a Lieutenant in the United States Air Force (1955-1957) in Little Rock, Arkansas and in the United States Air Force Reserves at Forbes Airforce Base in Topeka, Kansas until 1965.
He was a long-time prominent Clay Center businessman and community leader. He began learning the automotive business as a teenager when he pumped gas and cleaned cars for Brewer Motor Company in Manhattan Kansas (1949-1951). He joined his father in Skinner Motor Company, following the purchase of the Chevrolet franchise in Clay Center (1952). Upon fulfilling his military obligation, he returned to Clay Center to rejoin his father as a full-time salesman and later became President (1969). Skinner Motors served the community for 66 years. He founded the Clay Center New Car Dealers Association, represented the Kansas Dealers Action Council on Chevrolet’s Dealer Council (1970-1979). He was appointed by Governor Robert Bennett to the Dealer Licensing Board serving as Chairman (1977-1980). He was president of the Rocky Mountain Midwest Chevrolet Dealers Group and the Kansas Motor Car Dealers Association (1981-1982), and a National Automobile Dealers Association member. He received the Chevrolet Quality Salesman Award (1963). In 1983 he was recognized as the Kansas Quality Dealer of the Year and went on to be one of 62 dealers nationwide to receive Time Magazine’s Quality Dealer Award recognizing outstanding new car dealers in America. He was appointed by Attorney General Robert Stephen to the AutoCap Board to review dealer complaints (1983-85). Governor Mike Hayden appointed him Director of Motor Vehicles in the Kansas Department of Revenue (1987-1991).
He was president of the of the Clay Center Chamber of Commerce (1966) and Clay Center Rotary International Club (1968) where he was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. He was appointed by Governor Bennet to the Judicial Salary Committee (1975-78). He was a charter member of the Clay Center Loyal Order of Elks and 32nd degree member of the Masonic Lodge. He was a trustee of the Clay Center Carnegie Library. He served as director of the Colombia Savings and Loan, Home Federal Savings and Loan, and Northwest Financial Savings and Loan Boards. He was an avid golfer, serving as President of the Clay Center Country Club Holding Board (1975-1979), president of men’s golf and past chairman of the Little Saint Andrews Golf Tournament. Along with his wife Susan, they helped to organize the Clay Center Alcohol Rehabilitation and Treatment Program for referral and assistance for those in need. At the time, Clay Center had no public program of assistance for persons living with the disease. He later described this work in providing people a path to follow and witnessing their recovery as one of his proudest accomplishments.
His roots in KSU remained important throughout life. As an avid Wildcat fan, he was a patron and donor to many university programs. He served as a KSU Foundation trustee, Ahearn Scholarship Fund member, KSU Alumni Association life member and as president of the Clay County Wildcat Club (1972-78). He was President of the KSU Sigma Alpha Epsilon Alumni Association where he was awarded the Phoenix Award (1981)
He received the Future Farmers of America Outstanding Service Award (1966) and recognition from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (1980). He sponsored Junior Golf, girls’ softball, Boy Scouts of America and American Legion Baseball. For many years he chaired the local Red Cross Drive and co-chaired the United Way Campaign. He was a member of the US Highway 24 Improvement Committee organized to keep business in local communities. He organized the Milford Lake Association and spearheaded the “Play-A-Day” Midway USA campaign for which his work was recognized by Governor William Avery.
As the grandson of two ministers, his faith was always important to him. He was a member and trustee of the Clay Center United Methodist Church where he served on the administrative board and as Methodist Men’s Club president.
Throughout life he was active in Republican politics serving as county chairman for U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum, Governor Robert Bennet, Lt. Governor Dave Owen, and Senator Ross Doyen. He was chairman of Motor Car Dealers for Owen (1982) and Hayden (1986) and active with Car and Truck Dealers for Dole (1980). He was a delegate to multiple district and state Republican conventions. He and his wife Susan founded the Clay County Federation of Teenage Republicans (1971-1977).
He took great pride and joy in his family. Survivors include his two sons Michael Skinner, Junction City and Mark Skinner and husband James Matheson, Washington DC; three grandchildren Emily Schmidt and husband Mark, North Newton, Kansas, Alan Skinner and wife Sierra Hostetler, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Brian Skinner, North Newton, Kansas; four great grandchildren Zachary and Kaitlin Schmidt, and Gabe and Luka Skinner; Niece and nephews Amy Button Renz and husband Allen, Manhattan, Kansas, Dan Button and wife Cheryl Lippert, Cape Canaveral Florida, and John Button and wife Heather, Jackson, Tennessee and numerous great nieces and nephews. Neva Anderson, Manhattan, and her three daughters DeeJo Miller and husband Bob, Gardner, Julie Shaffer and husband Jeff, Decatur, Illinois, and Tamala Anderson and husband Armstrong Yakubu, London, England were an important part of his family.
Supporting his two sons living with severe hemophilia, along with care and advocacy to support others was a lifelong passion. Memorials may be made to the Susan Skinner Memorial Fund World Federation of Hemophilia U.S.A. (WFH USA) dedicated to providing scholarships to young women with bleeding disorders in care of Neill-Schwensen-Rook Funeral home 918 7th Street, Clay Center, Kanas 67432 or on-line at www.wfhusa.org. A celebration of life will be held at 10:30AM on Saturday, August 5, 2023 at the Clay Center United Methodist Church.