Michael Gerard Thistle

Champion rower, reinsurance entrepreneur, Navy veteran


Michael Gerard Thistle, 80, originally from the Girard Estate neighborhood of South Philadelphia and most recently of Wyndmoor, died peacefully on Thursday, Nov. 9 at Keystone House with his wife Pamela by his side. Mike bravely fought non-smoker's lung cancer under the guidance of his Fox Chase Cancer Center doctor/friend - whose family happened to live next door to Mike's in South Philadelphia growing up (the doctor's father was the Thistle's family doctor who made house calls). A 3-month prognosis lasted 3 years, giving Mike the chance to see his daughters, Jane Zoe and Sally, go to college. And enjoy his days connecting with so many in the Chestnut Hill community, notably the purveyors at the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market who took great care of Mike in his last days.

Mike was blessed with two wonderful marriages, his first (30 years) to Pamela Bekir, whom he met when he was in Istanbul, Turkey as part of his tour of duty in the US Navy during Vietnam. Their son, Michael Iain, still holds his mom's memory close in his heart. Three years after Pam's unexpected passing, Michael married Pamela Rosser Thistle and they raised two beautiful daughters, Jane Zoe and Sally Rosser Thistle. After years of being a successful reinsurance executive, last with XL Capital, Mike embraced the role of father/caregiver to Zoe and Sally with love and zeal. They adored him as did their teachers, local business owners where they shopped, contractors who were often at the house, tax collectors and municipal representatives whom he visited often and became friends with.

Like his brothers and his dad, Mike was a Philadelphia attorney, but used his legal expertise in his reinsurance business. His company reinsured the World Trade Center and he was meeting with Marsh McLennan (office at WTC) on 9/11. Fortunately, Mike moved the meeting to New Jersey that day. That location shift saved many lives. Every year, Marsh employees reached out to thank Mike.

Mike grew up near 22nd & Shunk right on the Stephen Girard Park with his brothers Tom, Dan and sisters Sissy (Agnes), Terri (Sally) and Frankie (Mary) and his parents Theresa (Ted) and Thomas. It was a spirited household with lots of singing, dancing and neighbors, family and friends stopping by, sometimes staying for months. His mom loved to bang pots and pans and dance the Mummers strut at any opportunity.

Mike attended St Joe's Prep and his friends there were lifelong soulmates. Even into their later years, the "Toads" would meet for dinner, some flying in for the meal. He was a champion rower, his undefeated quad winning The National Championship, The Stotesbury Regatta, The City Championship and The Catholic League Championship and his double winning The Schuylkill Navy Regatta at the Prep. Mike earned a rowing scholarship to St Joseph's University, then served in the Navy for a 4 year tour of duty, enabling him to earn his MBA from Temple University and his law degree at Quinnipiac College.

Cape May was always a part of Mike's and the entire Thistle family's lives. For generations. In fact, Mike was born in Camden, New Jersey because his mom couldn't make it over the bridge to Philadelphia coming back from Cape May. 

In honor of the loving end of life care Mike received at Keystone House (hospice) in Wyndmoor, we are encouraging donations to KeystoneCare in his name. 8765 Stenton Avenue, Wyndmoor, PA 19038

Mike's funeral Mass will be held at Our Mother of Consolation in Chestnut Hill on Tuesday, November 21st at 10:45 a.m. with visitation from 9-10:45 a.m. that day. The service will be followed by interment at Holy Sepulchre on Cheltenham Ave, where he will be buried next to his mom.