Hugh L. Thomas died peacefully on April 24, 2019, in Creston, Calif. On March 1, he celebrated his 90th birthday with many friends and family. He lived a long, full richly rewarding life.
Hugh was born in Pacific Palisades, which was largely country then, on March 1, 1929, in his parents home. He was the only one of his family to be born in the U.S. as his parents, brother and sister immigrated from Wales years before. His father, Lewis Thomas was a tailor and had one of the three businesses in Pacific Palisades at that time. He tailored and made clothing for many in the movie industry, including his good friend, Will Rogers. At a young age, Hugh would be taken to the beach by his older brother and sister, David and Olwen, and he grew up loving, living and working on the ocean.
Hugh grew up in church and in Boy Scouts, developing a love for the Sierras and outdoor life. As a child, Hugh wanted to be a trapper and his friends called him Trapper Thomas. Upon graduation from high school, Hugh boarded a bus and went to Oregon to work in a lumber camp for three months. When he came home in the fall, he enrolled in college. To put himself through school, Hugh worked as a janitor in the school labs; as a lifeguard on the Los Angeles beaches, which he continued to do for 10 years; and diving for lobster and abalone. Following this period he was in the coast guard for two years.
He decided to become a fish and game warden, and at that time, four years on the highway patrol was required for that career. He finished that phase and began as a warden on the beaches on Long Beach, advising his former fishing cronies that he was now on the side of the law and if he caught them in a violation, he would write them a ticket. Hugh married and had two wonderful children during this time before he transferred to Georgetown in Northern California.
In Georgetown, Hugh met his dear friend Ray Nilsson and together they worked that district in the Sierras. Hugh was well acquainted with the ranchers and loggers of the area and developed great friendships there. He would help ranchers in the spring drive the cattle to the high meadows for the summer feed and again in the fall to bring the cattle back down for the winter pasture. During this time High instilled in Leslie and Greg a love for wildlife, the outdoors and God. He was a deacon in the Garden Valley Church and helped to build it.
After several years in the Sierras, Hugh transferred to Morro Bay. At this time, he was captain, supervising five counties and assisting to develop the dive program for the department of fish and game. He got his private pilot’s license to travel from Morro Bay to Monterey, Sacramento, or Ft Brag in northern California. It was at this time, he met his wife, Leona at the airport where mutual friends worked. They married in 1981 at the Sign of the Cross in Parkfield and the two families merged. During this time, while patrolling remote areas, Hugh again developed a great friendship with many of the ranchers in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.
After Hugh left Fish and Game, he worked for Ducks Unlimited as a regional director. His area of supervision at times covered Arizona, central and southern California. He helped start fundraising events to develop wildlife and waterfowl habitat in the U.S, Canada and Mexico. During all these years he found time to be a ski patrol for 10 years and commercial fish salmon in Alaska for 10 years. And of course, hunting and fishing for sport were a part of his life throughout all his life.
After retiring from Ducks Unlimited, Hugh took up commercial fishing again in local water. For many years, he fished out of a kayak of the coast of San Luis Obispo and Monterey. He then began fishing out of Avila and developed a special friendship with many of the fishermen there. Throughout this time he was in church at the Church of the Good Shepherd and later Vintage Community Church.
Hugh is survived by his wife, Leona, son Greg Thomas and wife Carol; daughter Leslie Sears and husband Richard, stepson John Botts and wife Linda and Mike Botts and wife Nadine; stepdaughter Lori Lawhead and husband Bill. Grandchildren: Ryan Botts and wife Nicki, Randy Botts and wife Sarah, Travis Thomas, Michael Lawhead, and Amy Lawhead. And great-grandchildren: Eli, Anna, and Kaitlyn Botts and Jessy, Jessa and Jayda Archuletta. Many nieces and nephews and friends.
In Lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Central Coast Home Health and Hospice in Hugh’s name. The address is 253 Granada Drive, Ste. D; San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.