Hiram Thomas Jaqua

Date of Birth

December 6, 1931

Date of Death

October 1, 2022

Hiram Thomas Jaqua (Tom), a CA native passed peacefully on October 1, 2022 after a very brief illness. He was 90 years old. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.

Tom was born in 1931 in Altadena, California and raised in Laguna Beach. He had fond memories of walking to school barefoot and visiting the beach every day and remembered seeing Betty Davis shopping at the local grocery store. As a teenager growing up in Laguna Beach, Tom apprenticed at a commercial photo studio which launched his career in photography.

After graduating high school in 1950 Tom was immediately sent to the Korean War as a member of the Army National Guard, 40th infantry division. He was a motor pool dispatcher for a year in Japan, driving officers to various duties. One of his best memories was hiking to the top of Mt. Fuji. In Korea he drove an M-16 halftrack and received honorable discharge in 1952 after suffering an injury.

At San Diego State where Tom graduated college, he was the photographer for his college newspaper, and then worked for KFMB-TV as a newsreel photographer, news script writer and editor. At college Tom met and married Anna Jean Chaney.

Upon graduating, Tom worked at Convair in San Diego documenting their test activities at Edwards AFB and became a specialist in air-to-air motion picture photography. As a pilot himself, Tom greatly enjoyed the thrill of riding with the nation’s top test pilots (including Chuck Yeager) in the latest fighter jets.

In 1957 Tom worked at General Dynamics Astronautics and documented the Atlas Rocket activities at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc. In 1959 he moved with his wife and infant daughter to Santa Barbara so that he could commute to Vandenberg and establish a photo/optics office for General Dynamics.

Tom worked at Vandenberg Air Force Base for fifteen years and during this time became a top NASA photographic officer, documenting all NASA activities for Vandenberg, Edwards and Williams Air Force Bases and various Navy facilities. He met and photographed all of the astronauts in the space program, including Neil Armstrong and his family.

During his time in Santa Barbara Tom designed and helped construct his house on San Marcos Pass and later his house above San Antonio Creek, which was featured in a “house beautiful” section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Tom greatly loved the outdoors and took his family of three girls and his wife on many outdoor adventures, including annual backpacking trips in the Sierras, Nordic skiing in Mammoth and bicycling in Morro Bay.

In 1976 Tom and his family moved to a suburb of Washington D.C. where he was promoted to Director of Audio Visual for NASA. In addition to documenting space shuttle missions, he also wrote and produced NASA radio programs that were sent to radio stations nationwide for airing. Tom traveled from coast to coast with video crews to interview professors and scientists that worked on NASA projects and became good friends with Willard Scott, a popular television personality on the Today Show, who narrated many of Tom’s programs.

Tom retired in Santa Barbara and lived many years in a mountain cabin at Flores Flats, at the top of Gibraltar Road. He greatly enjoyed his time with the community there and became a true mountain man, living off the grid, keeping busy with numerous building projects and bushwhacking trails.

In his later years Tom moved off the mountain and resided with one of his daughters near the beach. His favorite pastime was collecting driftwood, shells, and other treasures he found along his daily beach walks. He often made temporary art with these found objects, artistically arranged on the beach or his outdoor patio.
Tom is preceded in death by his brother Richard Jaqua, sister Joanne Hedley and niece Candace Hedley. He is survived by his daughters Jennifer Jaqua, Allison Jaqua (Rob Robinson) and Sara Jaqua and grandchildren Nico Fairbanks, Dylan Fairbanks, Dakota Fairbanks, Van Henderson, niece Colleen Hedley, nephew Craig Hedley and cat Lula.

Tom was a gentle spirt whose kind and humorous nature touched everyone he encountered. He will be greatly missed by his family. A celebration of Tom’s life will be held this Saturday, November 12th at 3:00 pm at a local beach. Contact: htjaqua@gmail.com for details.


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