Obituary: Bob Thomas
February 14, 1926 – August 10, 2013
Farewell River City! Yes, this is my final Nevada Appeal column, my obit. I realize this is kind of weird but who knows me better than I?
I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana to Harold and Marie Thomas. Dad was Welsh and mom was French. Dad was with Duesenberg Motors. Mom was a homemaker and a fabulous cook. I was a breech birth, 10:00 pm at home. Some say I’ve been backwards ever since.
We moved to Long Beach, California in 1930 during the Great Depression. Dad hooked-up with Proctor and Gamble’s brand new facility where he remained for 14 years. I was an only child except for two older cousins who came to live with us for a few years and were like brothers. I had a great childhood, getting started in music as a trumpet player and drummer at the age of eight.
By the age of fifteen I was playing in big dance bands professionally, going on the road with them during high school summer vacations, making big money for a punk kid. Many older, more experienced musicians had already been drafted into our armed forces. In February, 1944, I entered the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. I loved the Air Corps. When the war ended my choices were to sign up for three more years as a pilot or get out. Sadly, early myopia (near sightedness) would have grounded me within a couple of years so I opted to get out and go to college. That was a dreadful disappointment.
While in the Air Corps, in my off-duty hours, I organized and conducted a Special Services big band and we played three dance jobs and for one visiting USO show every week, all for extra pay. There were a bunch of great professional musicians on the base who had been drafted but not as musicians, and they loved the opportunity to play again. Life was a bowl of cherries, flying and blowing my horn. It was a super good band, on a par with any.
Graduating from UCLA in 1950 with a major in music and a minor in science, I entered the aircraft industry as a draftsman, got my electro-mechanical engineering credentials in off hours, and played my trumpet on weekends. While a student at UCLA, I made more money in music than I did in my first two years of engineering. Losing the Air Corps as my preferred career because of my eyes, I really wanted music as my second choice instead of engineering. But Elvis, the Beatles and TV killed big-band ballroom dancing by 1956. Ex GIs who had danced every chance they got during the war just wanted to stay home with their wives and kids and watch TV.
My first marriage was in December of 1951 to Camilla Wicks, the world’s foremost woman concert violin soloist in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. She was a prodigy, performing the Mendelssohn violin concerto as guest soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of nine. Over the years, she was guest soloist with every major orchestra in the free world, playing 80 — 100 concerts per year for several years. She was a great musician. I was a good musician. Big difference! We owned the “Duke of Cambridge” Stradivarius violin.
Somehow, we had five children, two girls and three boys. Camilla played concerts while pregnant (hidden by fabulous gowns) right up until three weeks before birth. When she retired from the concert stage she favored coaching in universities and conservatories around the world.
During Camilla’s concert years I developed my engineering skills, my third career choice (there’s a lesson here somewhere), and eventually immersed myself in founding and building UNI-LOC, which became a world-class high-tech electronic instrument company. We saw little of each other. With her genius she should have never married. We tried to have it all . . . Doesn’t work well . . . We got a friendly divorce. Google Camilla Wicks for her career details.
Unexpectedly in 1966 I met Ingrid Hendrikx, the soul love of my life. While raising our boys I had a live-in nanny during the week but I needed kid sitters on weekends. Ingrid’s many sisters filled the bill while they were in high school. When she was 21, and a hostess at the Bell Telephone exhibit in Disneyland, I saw her for the first time in four years and was thunderstruck! The 20 years difference in our ages didn’t seem to matter so after a couple of years we got married. That was 44 years ago. She is the most beautiful person, inside and out I’ve ever seen or known.
This wouldn’t be complete without my acknowledging a few of the outstanding Carson City citizens with whom I’ve been involved: Mayors Marv Texeira, Ray Masayko and Gene Scrivner and Alan Glover, Neil and Yvon Weaver, Al Bernhard, Bob Grayson, Shirley Rowan Clark, Kit Carson Weaver and Dan Flammer, who was also mayor, and the best friend I’ve ever had.
My life has been remarkably free of turmoil. Was I eventually successful? In many more ways than I ever thought possible. And I’ve enjoyed several hobbies: golf, flying, yachting and writing columns for the Nevada Appeal, off and on for over 38 years. Life owes me nothing and I owe it nothing — zero regrets – a clean slate. I pray that Jesus will accept me into His realm, and that someday I’ll be reunited with Ingrid and our families.
And finally, I’ve been fortunate to have had Leo and Sietska Hendrikx as my mother and father-in-law; Al Escalante, Heinz Doring, Rich Rauch, Steve Isham and Ralph Hendrikx as brothers-in-law; and Bella Escalante, Jose Doring, Monique Ellis, Giovanna Sixt, Sietske Isham and Katinka Rauch as sisters-in-law – a truly unique and special family. I am also survived by my kids, Angela Camilla Jeffrey of Dallas, Lise-Marie Wertanzl and her husband, Dietmar of Miami, Paul Robert Thomas of Miami and Erik John Thomas and his wife, Barbara of Boulder and my grandkids, Christina Jeffrey, and Sterling and Tristan Wertanzl. Philip Ward Thomas, my youngest son, beat me to the Pearly Gates. I’ve dearly loved them all. God bless you citizens of Carson City. I also pray that all of you will survive the future in peace and good health, and with Jesus.
A Funeral Mass will be held at St. Mary’s in the Mountains on Monday, August 19th at 11:00am. A Private Reception will follow.