She’s a competitive problem solver who loves to network with people.
“If I know of a way to help somebody, I will just make a call. I mean the worst they could say is no, right?”
Helping others is one of the many reasons we are honoring Dr. Yvonne Thomas as part of National Women’s History Month. Yvonne has spent most of her adult life as a dentist, but she eventually put the dental drill down for paintbrushes, sculptures and suitcases. However, her love for dentistry, art, and travel all began outside of Baytown. Way outside of Baytown.
“I was born and raised in London, England until I was 14 and then we moved to New York,” said Yvonne. That’s right. As part of this series we have found two wonderful women who moved here from England. What are the odds?
Yvonne would finish high school in New York before going to Pace University and eventually dental school. It was there that Thomas was determined to lead by example. She said, “I knew I wanted my own practice because I wanted to be my own boss.” Besides being her own boss, there was something else Yvonne was eager to do: escape the Northeast.
“I was just looking for the heat. I needed to get out of there,” she said. A friend of Yvonne’s moved to Texas from New York. It was that visit in 1997 that brought her home. Yvonne added, “She wanted to open a dental practice and the two of us worked together until I bought my practice.”
Yvonne, a single mother most of her life, worked hard volunteering and working with the PTA at school. The lifelong networking professional made many friends along the way, including Oscar Chapa, who became her husband in 2011.
“It was definitely the Brady Bunch. We had six children in college all at once,” she said. The family of 10 stayed busy until Yvonne and Oscar retired in 2015. Well, sort of. Yvonne said, “We were building our real estate portfolio so we have real estate and that’s what we manage now.”
Despite a working retirement, Yvonne likes to travel, spending time in other states and countries. She said, “It’s nice to go and see how the places are, how people live, just to see the city’s architecture and the things to do. It’s just interesting so we do a lot of travel.” While some of their children live close to Baytown, Yvonne likes to go visit the other kids and her five-month-old grandson. Yvonne added, “As long as I have internet and a telephone, I can do whatever I need to.”
Yvonne needs her phone and laptop for a lot because she’s still serving our community. She’s the President of the Arts, Culture, & Entertainment district. Her big focus has been on the new sculpture trail near Town Square. She said, “It’s really going to turn things around in downtown. We believe there is going to be a ton of people coming from schools and other groups. It’s going to make a huge difference because people are going to see Texas Avenue in a different way.” Thomas-Chapa is also on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, has been on the board of the American Heart Association and the YMCA. She’s also helped the United Way and many others. She said, “Imagine what would happen in Baytown if everybody got up and helped with challenges? I’m going to do my part and I just enjoy it. I don’t do it as a chore. It feels like fun. It feels like a challenge.”
As we recognize Yvonne during Women’s History Month, Yvonne says women have made a huge impact on our country and in our community. However, she says we have a long way to go. She said, “I believe strongly that it’s still a man’s world. Our numbers are increasing in many different areas but it has taken a long time. I mean we’re in 2022 but it’s important to recognize those women who have done so much and are continuing to do so much, even with the struggle.”
For the future female leaders, Yvonne says your options are limitless. “Reach for the stars. If it’s something you want to do, prepare a plan, and come talk to me. I’ll walk you through it. I think they can easily be distracted and feel like they’re not good enough or not worthy enough, but it’s out there if you want it.”
She also has suggestions for the community as a whole. Yvonne said, “Join different organizations, boards, city boards and find out what’s going on in Baytown. People don’t even realize Baytown is going places and there are a lot of naysayers. They have a lot to say, but they don’t ask the right questions to the right people. I think that they should look into what is really going on in Baytown and not listen to rumors.”
As far as the recognition goes, Dr. Yvonne Thomas says it makes her feel appreciated but it’s not going to change her love or commitment to Baytown. She said, “I don’t do it for a pat on the back. I don’t need a trophy or medal. It makes me feel good to know that the things I do bring people joy.”