Bob Thomas, who was instrumental in launching the Pleasanton Weekly nearly nine years ago, died Saturday at his home in Burlingame after a long illness. He was 57.
Mr. Thomas, who had spent much of his career in commercial real estate, was general manager of the East Bay Express, where he had worked for six years, when he joined Embarcadero Publishing Company (EPC) in 1998 as vice-president of Business Development. For the next six months, he worked in sales and general management at Publishers Press, a printing facility in San Jose owned by EPC that also printed EPC's newspapers, the Palo Alto Weekly, Mountain View Voice and the Almanac in Menlo Park.
His key contribution to EPC, however, was the start-up of the Pleasanton Weekly in January 2000, and later the Danville Weekly in 2004. These added to EPC's portfolio of community newspapers that now also includes the Pacific Sun in Marin County.
Mr. Thomas' background and business expertise and passion for local news and advertising made him uniquely qualified to evaluate and ultimately select Pleasanton as the prime area for EPC's foray into publishing operations outside the Peninsula area. As president, he helped the newspaper become a successful and respected publication in the community.
He was also part of Pleasanton from the start, frequently meeting with advertisers and newsmakers. He also helped launch the highly-successful Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund, which has grown from a 2002 goal of $25,000 to last year's $150,000 in contributions that went to eight nonprofits in the Tri-Valley.
Mr. Thomas was a strong advocate of locally-focused journalism, always willing to leave regional and national stories to others while concentrating both the news and advertising columns on local readers. At a pre-publication meeting with then-Mayor Ben Tarver in early January 2000, Tarver told Mr. Thomas that while he looked forward to a new newspaper, he felt that it would be short-lived "because this is a small town and in six months there won't be anything left to write about."
Mr. Thomas set out to prove him wrong, and he did.
"Despite health challenges that dogged him towards the end of his tenure in the East Bay, Bob was an instrumental part of the decision to open up a second paper in Danville," said Mike Naar, EPC's vice president and chief financial officer.
"For those who knew Bob, his accomplishments come as no surprise," Naar added. "Even so, they pale in comparison to the grace, good-naturedness and intelligent practicality he brought to work every day. His sense of humor, his incredible optimism, and his evenness defined the remarkable prince of a human being Bob was. We will all deeply miss him."
Mr. Thomas is survived by his wife Candy, a son Ross and a daughter Brin. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9 at First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame, 1500 Easton Dr. at the corner of Easton and El Camino Real.