The thing I recall most often about Theo is his distinctive laugh. I heard it for the first time over the phone, and it made me giggle. I was a sophomore at Santa Barbara High School, in the counselor’s office, applying for a job. Ken Larson, my recruiter for the Neighborhood Youth Corps, asked me if I could type. I said I would certainly be able to after completing my typing class. Ken was on the phone, speaking to Theo, then held the phone away from his ear. I heard this booming laughter ring out from the speaker and I covered my mouth with my fingers in amusement. Theo said to send me over to his office and he would give me the job.

Theo, supervisor of office services/print shop with the Santa Barbara School Districts, was my first boss. Under his supervision, I learned typesetting with the printing trade, a profession that has sustained me through the years.

Theo Thomas
Courtesy Photo

I became a better employee throughout the13 years I worked for him. Theo introduced me to politics and taught me the inner workings of a large company. He was a fair and protective boss who would even go to the superintendent of schools on my behalf. I appreciated his input and concerns about my job and future aspirations. He was open about his opinions of the world and extremely approachable with questions concerning life in general. I learned a great deal from hearing him relate his experiences, as well as from watching him interact with those around him.

Through the years, I have been introduced to Theo’s children, even babysitting for a few of them. They were all beautiful children, the pride of his heart. He always loved having family around.

He coaxed me into joining two of his favorite associations, and they also became very dear to me: Retired Seniors Volunteer Programs and Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association. He also asked me if I could provide graphic artwork for the Boys & Girls Club functions, as he believed in the good deeds that organization accomplishes. I was happy to help him with the graphics he needed.

In every memory I have of Theo, I picture him smiling. I feel the warmth of a friendship that has lasted more than 40 years. Theo shaped my worldly outlook and helped me become who I am today, and I’m very thankful for that. He made a lasting impression on all the students he taught in his print shop. They learned the technical aspects of the job, as well as valuable life lessons. His former pupils continue to express their gratitude for introducing them to the printing profession: Many of them, living in different parts of the country, have contacted me asking about Theo.

An instructor, advisor, and mentor to countless students during his career with the School Districts, Theo made it a point to give everyone a set of values and a work ethic they could take with them to future jobs. I was just one of the students who benefited from his kindness, expertise, and on-the-job training. I will miss seeing him, having lunch with him, and hearing that wonderful laugh.


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