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Cuero wreck victims were lifelong friends

By Sonny Long
June 24, 2010 at 1:24 a.m.

Michael Thomas

SERVICES

Visitation for Michael Thomas will be from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Friday at Freund Funeral Home, 213 N. Gonzales St., Cuero. Graveside services will follow at 11 a.m. at Westville Cemetery.

Funeral services for Derell Prater will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mt. Bethel Baptist Church on Grant Street in Cuero. Burial will follow at Hillside Cemetery.

The graduating class of 1979 has started a memorial fund for Derell Prater.

Classmates have set up a fund to defray funeral expenses at the Wells Fargo Bank in Cuero, said Cheryl Beck Bunjes, the class of 1979 reunion coordinator.

Those wishing to contribute can give to the "Memorial Fund for Derell Prater," account number 7065102860.

CUERO - Derell Prater and Mike Thomas were two peas in a pod.

"They were two of a kind," said David Prater, Derell's older brother. "They were pretty much the same sort of person. Both were really kind of quiet."

David described his brother, about five years his junior, as "a decent person who was always willing to help others."

He said Thomas was the same way.

"Anytime I would ask him to help me do something, whether it was pull weeds or look at my air conditioner, the answer was always yes," David said. "He never turned me down. He was just a good guy that enjoyed life."

Thomas worked as an air conditioning repairman for many years in Cuero.

David said his brother and Thomas were lifelong friends who knew each other since kindergarten.

"They didn't hang out together every day, but if you knew one, you knew the other," David said.

The two men died following a car wreck Saturday near Cuero en route to their high school reunion. Prater died at the scene and Thomas died on Monday in a San Antonio hospital.

Prater graduated from Cuero High School in 1979, Thomas in 1981.

Leonard Thomas of Portland, called his younger brother "a good kid."

"He always wanted to follow his big brothers around and be around us, to see what was going on," Thomas said.

Derell was nine months old when his mother died, he had already lost his father, and was raised by his aunt and uncle LaVaughn and Mellonea Roy, David said.

His family was always important to him said family members.

Clara Prater, Derell's sister-in-law, said he was "kind, caring and compassionate with his children."

Derell was the father of six, four girls and two boys, including a 3-week-old baby.

"He loved his kids," said David.

Derell also enjoyed motorcycles and owned one since high school. He excelled in sports at Cuero High, playing football, basketball and running track, said David.

He also served in the Coast Guard and worked as an oil field electrician.

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