By Bennet Lerner
Thomas Ohlson, known to Chiang Mai Mail readers as “Mark Gernpy”, writer
of the column “Let’s Go to the Movies”, passed away on February 1, 2013, at
Rajavej Hospital, due to a virulent lung infection. Born on June 7, 1934, he was
78 years old.
Thomas had lived in Chiang Mai for nearly 20 years. Before coming to Thailand he
graduated from Occidental College, CA, majoring in English and Drama. He was an
officer in the Navy, and, on leaving the Navy, was a social worker in New York
City, working with battered women. Later, until retirement in 1991, he was the
Director of Computer Support for the Department of Human Resources, Office of
Budget Administration of the City of New York.
His primary interest, however, was the theater. Thomas had a promising career as
a playwright and was the founder of the Theater of Concern, a travelling
theatrical troupe that performed religious plays, many of them written by
Thomas. His “Christmas play”, “Gold, Frankincense, Christmas Tree Ornaments, and
Myrrh”, a serio-comic portrait of a teenaged, unwilling, and
not-quite-sure-of-himself Jesus, was his most successful work and is still
Unfortunately, Thomas’ theatrical career, one New York critic dubbed him “the
next Neil Simon”, was derailed by his alcoholism. It was not until Thomas
started what he called his “next incarnation” in Thailand that he found peace
and sobriety. A friend wrote, “Thailand was Thomas’s liberation from his
In Thailand, he was especially appreciated for his witty and informative movie
columns in both the Chiang Mai Mail and the Pattaya Mail and his blog
(http://thomatfilms.blogspot.com/). Thomas said often that he wasn’t a movie
critic but that he wanted to stimulate his readers to decide on their own
whether to see a movie or not.
“Even when they are really, really terrible, almost every movie has something in
it that will be worthwhile for someone,” he once said.
The last movie he saw, “the last movie I’ll see before the end of the world!”,
he said, because he saw it on 12/21/12,was “The Life of Pi”. About that film he
wrote, “I’d be very happy if this won the Oscar for best picture of the year. I
think it’s that good as popular entertainment, and as an artistic achievement.”
The friend mentioned above also wrote, “Thomas’s greatest love was Thailand.
That is where he was the happiest ever.” Among his joys here were his
“grandsons”, whom he nicknamed “Sunshine” and “Moonbeam”. Thomas was cremated
and, as he requested, most of his cremains were floated down the Mae Ping River.