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Ypsilanti remembers 'giant among giants'

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Ypsilanti remembers 'giant among giants'

■ Memorial service set 
Nov. 28 for Thomas Bass.



As friends continued to remember former Ypsilanti physician Thomas J. Bass, who died Saturday in California, his family planned a memorial service for him in Ypsilanti.

The memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Nov. 28 at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, 401 S. Adams St, where Bass was a member. The body was cremated in California.

Bass is survived by a son, Michael Thomas, who lives in the Bahamas; daughters Ann Elizabeth and Leah Louise, both living in California; a sister in Paterson, N.J., and six grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Louise Lane Bass, in 1992.

Bass was well known for his leadership, particularly in the African-American community, as well as for being the family doctor of many Ypsilanti residents.

“He was just awesome. He was a giant among giants of local folks,” said Raymond Mullins, president of the Ypsilanti-Willow Run Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which Bass once headed.

Mullins said Bass was a father figure for many, including Mullins, whose mother died when he was 10.

“He’s always been an influence since I was a child,” Mullins said. “My earliest memories of him are when I was a child and he was telling my mother about some things I should be doing and not doing in terms of my social growth.”

Local historian A.P. Marshall devoted several pages to Bass and his wife in “Unconquered Souls,” Marshall’s history of Ypsilanti’s African Americans.

Marshall said Bass went to the University of Michigan to specialize in the study of venereal diseases, hoping for an appointment to a government hospital. Stymied by racism, he took over the practice of an older, ailing doctor in Ypsilanti.

“He immediately delved into community affairs and he was active in many things,” Marshall said.

Among other accomplishments, Bass helped found the current NAACP chapter in Ypsilanti after World War II, became president of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Business and Professional League, and convinced Ypsilanti leaders to seek funds to build the Parkview housing complex.

But many people’s first memories of Bass are of a family doctor, helper and adviser.

“He was just a wonderful person,” said Patsy Chandler, a well-known Ypsilanti leader in her own right. “He was the type of person, if you hurt, he hurt.”

Since childhood, lifelong Ypsilanti resident Shirley Brown had a close relationship with Bass and his wife.

Louise Bass began a Girl Scout troop on Ypsilanti’s south side in 1944.

“Mrs. Bass sort of adopted all of the kids on the south side,” Brown said. She remembered how supportive the Basses were of the teenage club that Louise Bass’s Girl Scouts later formed.

“The Basses were the only people that would allow us to have parties. We would meet in their basement,” Brown said.

Brown called the Basses her “second parents.”

“It was just a relationship that grew and grew,” she said. “I grew

to love them.”