June 14, 1942 ~ October 28, 2016
Friends and family sadly gathered on November 16 – 17, 2016 to say farewell to a beloved husband, father, grandfather, mentor, and friend, Ken Thomas, who passed away unexpectedly at his Aptos home, he was 74 years old.
As a much loved, long time educator, coach, and community advocate, Ken was instrumental in the forming of organizations throughout Santa Cruz County. The community was indeed the benefactor of Ken’s authenticity, generosity, and compassion for people.
In 1973, as track and cross country coach and teacher at Soquel High School, Ken was approached by Jim Reding and his committee from the City of Capitola who were celebrating Capitola’s 100th birthday. The idea of a foot race to kick off the celebration and to possibly raise funds for local schools needed a race director.
This seemingly minor event turned into what is now known as the Wharf to Wharf Race, which has raised millions of dollars for local schools. Ken continued to serve as the president of the Board of Directors for every one of the 44 Wharf to Wharf races from that day forward. He leaves countless friends, colleagues, and former students, who will deeply miss his devotion and guidance.
Ken and his wife, Sandy were married in 1970, in Santa Cruz at Holy Cross Church and made their home in Aptos. The majority of Ken’s teaching and coaching took place at Soquel high in the 70’s and early 80’s, and most of his administrative experience was as the Harbor High Principal in the late 80’s and through the 90’s. He also stepped up to serve as interim principal at both Aptos and Scotts Valley High Schools.
“I’ve known Ken for 30 years,” said Mark Dorfman, Athletic Director Aptos HS, “He was a generous, big-hearted, kind, and inspirational man. He was a great friend to everyone, a visionary leader, a tireless and selfless worker, and a wonderful husband and father. Through his educational career and his Wharf-to-Wharf career, he positively impacted thousands and thousands of lives. He was an icon in the community, and he will be terribly missed.”
“Ken was interim Principal here from 2007 to 2009,” Said Louie Walters, Athletic Director Scots Valley HS, “He was not just a friend but also a mentor, historian and leader.”
Scott McConville, current Wharf to Wharf Race Director said, “Ken had great charisma and joy in living. He lived to help others and was unequalled as a mentor and leader.”
From Michael Watkins, County Superintendent of Schools – Thoughts on Ken, “I have had the honor and great pleasure of working with Ken for over 30 years. Ken was one of those rare educational leaders who could motivate, inspire and accomplish things that very few others in our field could.
He mentored teachers, championed fitness, raised money for schools and was the Principal of more than one Santa Cruz County High School. His dedication to the success of the annual Wharf to Wharf race is legendary. Ken would take on difficult issues with unparalleled passion and commitment.
The latest issue that we spent much time discussing was that of adolescent and adult mental illness and how to reform that broken system. Ken was an advocate for all children. This county owes a great deal of gratitude to Ken for making the lives of so many much richer.”
Ken was happiest when he could be with his family, be on the golf course or help those who needed kind words, motivation, or a solution to a problem.
He is survived by his wife of 46 years, his mother, Ethel Donna Thomas; his daughter and son-in-law, Arin and Arthur Spalding; his son and daughter-in-law, Josh and Joni Thomas; and his son Brodie Thomas.
Any kind acts of charity can be directed to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) PO BOX 360 Santa Cruz CA 95061, Or to the Wharf to Wharf Race (4510 Capitola Rd. Capitola, CA. 95010)