Sam Bauman: A memoir on the less-known side of friend Bob Thomas

Nevada Appeal readers know that columnist Bob Thomas died recently. He was 87 and finally lost his wearying battle.

That’s all that most readers really need to be told. They know him well enough through the some 37 years of editorial columns. I’d like to share memories I have him through the years we shared at the Appeal, not always as fellow columnists.

I met Bob when I was new at the Appeal, working as entertainment editor. He wrote a column about how the news media was all left-wing. I disagreed, having worked for three major American newspapers, Newsweek and The Associated Press. So I wrote a denial.

A few days later he stopped by my desk and introduced himself. “Let’s have lunch,” he said. “I’m buying.” We had lunch, and that was the beginning of a long and fruitful time, finally sharing the table with Guy W. Farmer, which pitted me against two conservatives. He didn’t always buy, but he always had firm opinions and ideas to share. We disagreed often but never reached deadlock.

We shared a bottle of Champagne one New Year’s Eve with his gracious and charming wife, Ingrid. Later on we shared Scotch with his son Eric one night.

Bob asked me to copy-edit his two books, one on professional sales and the other on how to create a world-class company. He showed me a check he wrote to Hillsdale College for $1 million. He wasn’t bragging, only showing me he backed his beliefs completely. (Hillsdale accepts no federal money and bars students who do — his kind of college.)

Yes, he was wealthy after founding two corporations and eventually selling them. But he never flashed his money; we always took turns paying for lunch.

Bob was a determined aviator and promised to give me in a ride in his Algerian biplane he kept at the Carson Airport. Unfortunately, his eyesight began failing and he sold the plane. But he did take me to the Reno Air Races and lectured me on all the aircraft.

Bon was as deeply religious as he was political. He often tried to alter my irreligious beliefs but finally gave up.

He was not a member of the Republican Party and was selective about which Catholic church he attended, even when it meant he risked serious health problems from the Virginia City St. Mary’s of the Mountains church altitude.

He also enjoyed sailing the seas and for years kept a large motor yacht in Canadian waters. The boat was what largely cost him his life when he clogged his lungs with sawdust as he sanded the hull. He could have hired it done, but that wouldn’t be Bob.

Early during his life in Carson City he was very active in political affairs — school board, legislature, airport (he was proud of having written the law that created the airport authority).

Guy and I had lunch with Bob two weeks ago at the Fandango. Guy and I could see that Bob was not well.

He resigned from writing his Thursday column recently. “No more zing in it now,” he said.

That was my friend Bob; I hope that he thought of me and Guy as friends as well.

Bob wasn’t particularly literary, although he had a gift for a fine phrase. We rarely talked of the theater or novels. But as he was a man of brilliance, I’m sure he would not be offended by this memoir of a truly special man. We’ll all miss him.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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