Services will be held Friday, Dec. 7, for John Tuomy, a former Palo Alto teacher who served for eight years on the Palo Alto Board of Education.
Tuomy suffered fatal injuries from a fall off a ladder on Wednesday, Nov. 28, and died on Friday, Nov. 30. He was 66.
He was born in Spokane, Wash., and moved to Palo Alto with his family in 1949. He went to Besse Bolton's Nursery School and Elizabeth Van Auken Elementary School. He attended Jordan Junior High and then Palo Alto High School.
After briefly attending Foothill College and the University of Oregon, he transferred to San Jose State University, where he studied political science.
In 1968 he became on intern for former U.S. Rep. Don Edwards and worked with the Mexican-American Political Association and the residents of east San Jose.
After 18 months at Golden Gate University Law School, he decided to stop studying law and discovered an interest in teaching through tutoring at his wife's school.
"I'd go home and think about it, and think about different ways to get through to the kids," he told the Palo Alto Weekly in 1998. "It was one of the first jobs I'd ever done that I really enjoyed doing, and I couldn't believe people got paid to do it."
He attained his teaching credential in the early '70s and student-taught in east San Jose and then at the Barron Park Elementary School in Palo Alto during a time when teaching jobs were scarce.
He was then hired at Palo Verde Elementary School, and after five years he was offered a position at the district's gifted program and eventually a spot as its computer coordinator.
"It was before Apple, even," he said. "We were timesharing on the district's HP 2008. I'd finish teaching, and I'd spend hours at the computer."
In 1977, he administered a $250,000 federal grant to teach children how to tutor each other on computers.
In 1979, he left the district for the private sector to better support his family. After a series of jobs in the tech industry, he became vice president of sales and marketing for Leemah Datacom Security Corp. in 1988 and became CEO in 1990.
But he didn't leave education behind. He fought against the proposed closure of Gunn High School in 1988 and served as co-chair, along with Carolyn Tucher, of the committee that put helped pass "Building for Excellence" school bond in 1995. After the bond passed, he reluctantly ran for school board. He served two terms, ending in 2003.
"He knew what he was signing up for," said Tucher, referring to his already busy schedule as a father and businessman. "He wanted to make sure he followed through on the commitments we made for the bond, and he really cared about education from making a career in it for as long as he did."
Tucher said his background as a teacher, his knowledge of technology and his deep love for the community made him uniquely qualified for the job of school board member.
"Often his test for decisions would be 'What would my father think of this? How would this sound to a longtime Palo Altan, and how would it affect them?'" Tucher said.
On the board he built a reputation as someone with strong opinions who always spoke his mind.
"There was nothing wimpy about John, but he was good-hearted," she said. "I think being straightforward was a good quality, and when all was said and done he would play with the team."
Tucher said Tuomy, who lived for years in the Greenmeadow neighborhood of Palo Alto, also ran for the school board to represent the place he lived.
"South Palo Alto has half the kids in the district, but there aren't many board members from those parts," she said. "He felt that his neighborhoods weren't as well-represented for no other reason than that they didn't run for the board."
School Board President Camille Townsend expressed in a press release the impact of Tuomy's death on the school district.
"John Tuomy loved this school district and he wanted the best for its students. His boisterous advocacy came with a thoughtful analysis and a willingness to put his shoulder into the work ahead. He focused on the future. We will miss him as a friend and as a leader," she stated.
Tucher spoke highly of Tuomy's dedication to his family. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn, a technology trainer for the Palo Alto Unified School District; his daughter, Erin Mershon and son-in-law Geoffrey Mershon of Palo Alto; his son, Brian Tuomy, a teacher at Gunn High School and daughter-in-law Ariane Tuomy, of Redwood City; sister Elizabeth Rundell of Palo Alto; sister-in-law Susan Custer of Mountain View; nephews Doyle Rundell of Menlo Park, Travis and Jordan Rundell of San Francisco; and granddaughters Amanda and Leah Mershon.
Services will be held on Friday, Dec. 7, at 4 p.m., at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 670 E. Meadow Dr. in Palo Alto. It will be public, Brian Tuomy said.