Fitz Thomas was a thoughtful, joyous and optimistic teenager even to his last breath, his friends and family recalled Sunday night.

His grieving mother’s response to it all: He fulfilled his purpose.

“This was a purposeful man," Pastor Michelle Thomas, Fitz's mother and the president of the Loudoun Branch of the NAACP, said to a large gathering during a flashlight vigil for her son Sunday.

Pastor Thomas and her family suffered through an agonizing Thursday evening after Fitz could not be found during a swim with friends in Goose Creek. Prayers eventually turned into tears after authorities arrived and Fitz was taken to Inova Loudoun Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

At Sunday's event, friends and supporters followed the trail of red and blue balloons inspired by Fitz's high school to the driving range behind River Creek Club. The crowd slowly walked down a green hill to congregate. People wore Riverside High School apparel and masks as they consoled one another and paid their respects to the family. As the sun dropped, people flashed lights on their cellphones while holding vigil.

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) sat next to Michelle Thomas, hugging her and holding her hand.

Randall said this is not the time when strength is required. She said the goal should be to try to be a better person.

“We've heard already today people say he loved everyone. Well, if you don't love everyone, be better. Be like Fitz, love everyone,” Randall said. “Whatever you need to do, be better because that's how you honor him.”

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) was also on hand. He said to the family, “Thank you all for always being there for every single person, and right now, in your time of need, God is there with you and so are we.”

“If you look around and you think about what Fitz’s life has meant not just to this community, not just to all 8.5 million people in the commonwealth of Virginia ... but I think ultimately he is going to touch the world because of the impact of the man that you all have raised," Fairfax said to the family.

The Loudoun NAACP said in a statement that Fitz was “a shining beacon of positive energy to all those around him.”

“The NAACP Loudoun lifts up our beloved president, Pastor Michelle Thomas, her husband Delroy and their children, Adrian and Anna, in this time of their bereavement,” the statement reads. “His vigil tonight was an amazing moment for the community to come together to grieve, share stories and a few relieving moments of laughter and remind ourselves that each of us is precious to so many people. Our hearts are with the Thomas family.”

Delroy Thomas and Fitz’s siblings thanked everyone for their support.

The parents recalled the joy Fitz brought them, even with his messy bedroom. 

“Fitz weighed 1.5 pounds when he was born,” Delroy said. “I took the night shift to feed him. I took the day shift, and I ended up with high blood pressure. Since Fitz was born, I’ve been taking high blood pressure pills.”

Michelle Thomas shared a story about Fitz’s impression of Loudoun County. He called Loudoun “the greatest place on earth.”

His mother countered his opinion with the opportunities across the world.

“Well, mama, you don’t know ‘em like I know ‘em,” Michelle quoted Fitz. “My friends are great. The people are great.”

Pastor Thomas said after seeing the outpouring of support in recent days, she realizes her son was right.

“We live in the greatest county in the world, but nothing has ever challenged me to see it like that,” the mother, a frequent critic of Loudoun County Public Schools and various inequities within the county, said. “I’ve fought many fights — very few if any for myself. I didn't have the same vantage point. I didn't always feel the love coming back, but this time I was wrong. Fitz, though, you were right."

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the drowning.

Authorities say the LCSO responded to the River Creek community in Leesburg to assist Loudoun County Fire and Rescue personnel for an unresponsive person in the water around 6:15 p.m. June 4.

Thomas and his friends were reportedly swimming across the confluence of Goose Creek and the Potomac River. As they crossed the water, Thomas's friends observed him go underwater, according to the LCSO. One of Fitz's friends eventually found him and pulled him from the river.

Thomas was taken by rescue personnel to Inova Loudoun Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

________

A GoFundMe campaign has been established as a memorial fund for Fitz Thomas. Click here to visit the page.

(33) comments

Comment deleted.
amerigirl

You are disgusting and vile. If you can't say something reasonable about this child's death don't say anything. I hope your parents didn't raise you this way.

Zamboni

This is a very sad and tragic accident.

I've seen kids swimming off the dock in Goose Creek and in the Potomac for years and it just reminds me of my youth. It has nothing to do with pools not being open. It has everything to do with youth pushing the limits, thinking they will live forever and terribly bad luck. Had he been in the Potomac and lots of places in the Creek he could have walked to shore.

God rest his soul and God bless his family.

Guest

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to go hiking on the Elizabeth Mills River Creek Park path along the river which was Goose Creek. I remember two kids, one with reddish orange hair and who I now realize was Fitz Thomas. We passed them on the trail and noticed they had towels. I asked them where they went swimming and they said right off the bank further down the river. They also said it was warm. The following weekend I decided to go with my sister, niece, and husband for a swim and we have gone every weekend since. Ever since I found out that kid (Fitz) drowned there I have been sad, because I met him and now he is gone, but I know he is with God and watching over everyone as an angel. I am glad to have met him knowing he was such a good person. Does anyone know how he drowned? Did he not know how to swim? It seems strange because they must have been going there a lot so I think he would know how to swim.

RIP Fitz

WesternSky

This is so sad. Impressive that the GoFundMe has raised over $62,000 with little explanation what the money if for. While it seems the family can pick any cause -- helping and encouraging young boys of color learn to swim would be a great option.

Guest

What a cruel comment Westernsky - Shame on you!

WesternSky

Not sure how that is cruel. Similar to looking both ways before crossing the street, teaching

WesternSky

Not sure how my comment was cruel. Similar to looking both ways before crossing the street, teaching your children to swim is a parental responsibility. Helping with this effort seems like a good way to remember this young man.

amerigirl

So you are assuming that since he was of color he couldn't swim? His foot got caught while he was swimming.

CindyLou

I am so sorry for the tremendous loss to your family. I pray you can find peace with your faith and family. I also want to apologize those without manners that felt the need to say anything but, "I am so sorry"

LoCoNative

My condolences to the Thomas family as they face life without their beloved son. Fitz sounds like he was truly a wonderful young man. He will be missed.

On a different note, this is the first time I've ever seen people wear a nametag (Phyllis Randall and Ron Campbell) at a funeral, memorial, or candlelight vigil. Very disrespectful to Fitz and his family, in my opinion. It's not about you... You don't need a nametag.

CindyLou

Wow, you just had to. I don't know either of those two people and they probably wore name tags so others would know and see, as a respect to the community and show their support. This was not the time and place for your DIFFERENT NOTE. Have some manners.

amerigirl

Thoughts for the family.

Guest

Loudon County Community is a great place we have been here for almost 16 years. I send our prayers and kind thoughts to the grieving mom and the extended family members. He was a gift from God, our Creator and great joyful member for his family & community at large. We are all temporary guests on earth Do not waste your tears as his soul will be restless for the loved ones he left behind. Prayers and immolating his vision, his desires would give solace to the grieving family. Prayers & Kind Regards

Guest

It is up to each HOA in the county whether or not to open their pool (if they have one). It is not a county responsibility.

Fiscalconservative

clearly you do not know the process. All public pools must get a permit from the county. But do not listen to me, please contact the county and you will better understand the process.

amerigirl

No big deal, you file the permit.

Guest

We lost our 18 year old Son 5 years ago from his car overturning in the in Shandoah River where he drowned. I understand your pain

Voltaire

Guest--I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your son.

amerigirl

I don't think that would matter, that is a spot that they like hang out and swim.

Fiscalconservative

You have to wonder...if the county had allowed HOA's to open pools this tragedy could have been avoided. We should learn from this tragic death and open the county.

Guest

Shame on you

Guest

The heck is wrong with you?

Guest

Are you serious? Covid is a real thing and pools cause accidents too- this was an unfortunate outcome

LoudounBornandRaised92

I swam in the river many a time when I was in high school even when the pools were open. That has nothing to do with it. This was an accident. Please stop trying to turn this into something the county did wrong.

Guest

For years kids have swum their. It is just a tragic accident. Don’t turn their loss into a political debate be respectful, please.

amerigirl

You have to wonder why you are trying to place blame in the time of loss. From what I heard, that spot is a common hangout for teenagers so I doubt a pool would have changed a thing. Please stop with the blame game, this was a tragic accident.

CindyLou

fiscalconservative nut ball, since LTM can't control the trash on their posts, I will be the trash patrol. Your a POS and a low life. How dare you. Your disgusting. Kids drowned every summer all over and this place where he was is a popular place for 30 years. You need to check yourself into somewhere besides here.

Guest

My sentiments exactly. How dare you. HOW DARE YOU use this horrible accident to try to put forth your warped opinion that it is nothing short of a tragedy! HAVE SOME TACT. Not the place or time.

Guest

That is your takeaway???

springerdad

Continued prayers for the family and friends that were with him when he died. May some good come out of his senseless death.

Voltaire

SD--I agree.

Jeanne T

Yes!

ChocolateDinosaur

Prayers for the family. I can't imagine losing a child. Grief is an ocean, I hope that family and friends are able to find their way.

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