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Belleville author shares Custer's story


By Kristen Oelschlagel.

Mary Thomas is a woman of many talents.

The local journalist and broadcaster has taken her talent and passion for writing even further with the launch of her fourth book.

“Writing a book gives you the opportunity to use that skill that you have, that you’re not able to use to its full extent in writing news,” said Thomas.

Thomas has been a broadcaster at Quinte News for over three decades and has written four books. Her latest book, Canadians with Custer, follows the story of Canadians who joined the 7th Calvary Regiment of the United States army in the Battle of Little Bighorn.

“The book starts eight or nine years before the Battle of Little Bighorn, when the first Canadian joined the 7th Calvary. As each Canadian joins the story sort of goes through those nine years,” Thomas said.

Thomas found 17 Canadians who joined Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer in his 1876 last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn. One of the most prominent Canadian’s was William Cooke, who became Custer’s right hand man. Brighton-born journalist Mark Kellogg also joined Custer’s group.

In addition to being an author, Thomas is an avid hiker and covers city council and other various boards for Quinte Broadcasting as well as hosting the program Newsmaker Sunday on CJBQ.

Her work has taken around the globe, to places such as Bosnia, Honduras and South Korea, where she went with the City of Belleville to Belleville’s sister city Gunpo.

Thomas first got into writing books about historic events when the opportunity came up to write a book about a World War II airman, who happened to be her brother.

“It’s a wonderful story about an airman who was helped by a long list of people in France and Belgium. Usually airmen in World War II were helped and hidden by a family, in this case it was a long list of people who helped him,” Thomas said.

It took her three years to write Canadians with Custer, but she took a different approach with her latest book than she did with the others. Thomas used the Internet.

“For my first two books I used snail mail, and it took a long time. But for this one (book) the Internet certainly helped. A lot of it (research) I had help through an Internet board of people who are either Custer fans or hate him. And I used library archives in the U.S. and Canada.”

Thomas said she does have something in mind for a fifth book, but hasn’t started it yet because she spent the summer catching up on her reading.

“I can’t read anything serious while I’m working on the books because it’s always in my head. That’s why you don’t want to read a heavy or prize winning book that’s going to get in your head, because the writing is always in my head,” said Thomas.