Lionel “Nel” Thomas, a longtime packaging operator at The Advocate, died Wednesday after a battle with liver cancer.

He was 58.

Visiting for Thomas will be at Winnfield Funeral Home at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Thomas, who was born in New Orleans, graduated from McKinley High School in 1971 and served in the Marine Corps, according to his obituary.

Thomas also attended Southern University for two years.

Ronnie Fremin, packaging manager for The Advocate, said Thomas had worked continuously for The Advocate since 2002.

Thomas had worked for the newspaper prior to that, but left for several years before returning, Fremin said.

Thomas was a dedicated employee with a great work ethic, Fremin said.

“He was really an above average employee in the department,” Fremin said. “He was a close friend to many.”

Fremin said people enjoyed working with Thomas because of his bright personality.

“He just kind of got along and did what was asked of him,” Fremin said. “He was very thorough in doing what he was asked to do.”

Thomas will be missed by his co-workers, Fremin said.

“(Friday) was one of his shifts that he would have worked,” Fremin said. “It was a little somber out on the floor today.”

Vanessa Thomas, Lionel Thomas’ sister, said her brother acted like a father in her family.

She said her brother worked many odd jobs to support his family, starting as early as 16 years old.

“He didn’t have any kind of childhood,” Vanessa Thomas said. “He had to help my momma. He was spectacular. He was the best.”

Sharon Smith, a longtime friend of Lionel Thomas, said she admired Thomas because he was a dedicated father.

“He was involved in their lives up until the day he died,” she said of Thomas’ involvement with his children.

Smith said Thomas also had several hobbies, including cooking, working with plants and riding bicycles.

“He would ride all the way from Gardere Lane up to north Baton Rouge on that bike just to visit us,” she said.