Paula Cate Thomas


Paula Cate Thomas, 73, died on Sunday, June 19, 2022.

She was born and raised in Cleveland and graduated from Cleveland High School in 1967. She attended Cleveland State Community College and the University of Chattanooga. At the age of 50, she returned to college and received a bachelor’s degree from Covenant College.

Paula was a ballet teacher for many years at Frances Gould School of Dance. She later bought the studio, which then became the Paula Duff School of Dance. She was a positive influence and mentor to so many of her students, not only in ballet but in life as well. Paula loved life and was always up for a new challenge and adventure. She learned to scuba dive in her early 60s. Paula also loved to entertain and made everyone she met feel welcomed and at home.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Tom Varnell; as well as her parents, Paul and Lela Ramsey Cate.

Paula is survived by her husband, Bill Thomas; daughter, Mary Duff; son, David (Whitney) Duff; stepsons, Scott Varnell, Blake (LeeAnn) Varnell and Brett (Brittany) Varnell; grandchildren, Sloan and Camila Abbott Duff; step-grandchildren, Brenna, Cade, Thomas and Lillian Varnell; sisters, Amanda (Don) Willoughby and Mollie (Rusty) McAmis; nephew, Paul McAmis; nieces, Elizabeth McAmis and Catherine Willoughby; sister-in-law, Ann Marie Fei; as well as many dear cousins that she loved.

Paula requested that the people who passed through her life know that they meant so much to her.

There will be a Celebration of Paula’s Life at a later date. Her wish is that memorials be made to: St. Labre Indian School, 112 St. Labre Campus Drive, Ashland, MT 59003, or to the charity of your choice.



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