Nov. 26,1928 - March 9, 2013
Paul Thomas passed away peacefully in his sleep at age 84 on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital in Woodland with his wife, Mary Anne by his side. Paul was born on Nov. 26, 1928, in Springfield. He was the fifth child born to Jim and Marie Thomas. His family farmed and had cows and horses.
Paul learned to milk cows at the tender age of 6. His older brothers would take Paul to town with them to pick up a truckload of lettuce for the cows and would bribe him to help load and unload the truck by saying he could drive the truck when they arrived home. At age 7, since Paul's mother did not drive, Paul would often drive her down the country roads to deliver the milk, which would be picked up for delivery to town. Of course his father would always make sure the school bus had passed by so he would not be seen driving and delivering milk instead of going to school.
Paul attended a two-room schoolhouse in Springfield while living on the ranch. There were two teachers with four grades in each class and the principal was the school bus driver and the main disciplinarian for the school. During Paul's early grammar school days the family moved into the town of Watsonville. In 1943 they moved to San Mateo where Paul graduated from San Mateo High School in 1946. He received his associate arts degree from San Mateo Junior College in 1948 and his bachelor of science degree in agronomy from UC Davis in 1950. Paul worked for Purity grocery store through high school and college as well as the school library to pay for his education.
After graduating from UC Davis, Paul accepted a position with the W. Atlee Burpee Seed Company in Santa Paula, as assistant vegetable plant breeder. His experience with Burpee Seed included flower breeding and the supervision of hybrid vegetable seed production. 1951-1953 was spent in the U. S. Army with the last 18 months of service being stationed at the U. S. Army Hospital as security intelligence in Japan. In mid-1953 to 1958 Paul returned to the Burpee Seed Company and continued on with his career as a plant breeder.
Paul married his sweetheart, Mary Anne Stewart, of Taft, in 1956 when they moved to Ventura. Mary Anne was a speech therapist for the Ventura City School District. In 1959 their son, Rodney Scott Thomas, was born. From 1958 until 1974 Paul held a position with Petoseed Company, Inc. in Saticoy, as head of the Research Department and plant breeder. Paul initiated the first hybrid vegetable seed-breeding program for disease resistance by a commercial vegetable seed company. In 1972, under Paul's direction, the Research Department of Petoseed was transferred to Woodland, for the purpose of breeding and developing new varieties of hybrid vegetable seeds. Paul went on to establish research stations in Arroyo Grand, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Jordan, China and Thailand.
Paul was appointed vice president and director of research for Petoseed in 1974. During his career as a plant breeder with Petoseed Paul was credited the development of 73 new hybrid vegetable introductions, which included seven All-America winners. In 1984 Paul was awarded the Silver Medallion by the All-America Selections Committee from the American Seed Trade Association for his contributions to horticulture. In 1991 Paul became senior vice president of Product Marketing for Petoseed Company and held this position until he retired in 1993.
Paul was elected Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 1992. The All-America Selection Committee awarded Paul the Breeder Cup Award in 2012. He served on several boards including the board of directors of the All-America Selection Committee and the California Pepper Commission as commissioner representing the California Seed Trade. Paul was a 54-year member of the Masonic Lodge and was the Past Patron of the Ventura Chapter No. 79, Ventura, in 1966. Paul loved to bowl and was a member of the Senior Bowling Team in Woodland.
Paul is survived by his wife of 57 years, Mary Anne; son Rodney Scott Thomas (Linda,); grandsons Derrick and Stewart all of South Carolina; sister, Isabell Thomas of Grass Valley and several nieces, nephews and cousins. Paul was preceded in death by his parents Jim and Marie Thomas; brothers Jim Thomas, Gordon Thomas and Norman Thomas.
Paul will be remembered by everyone for his great sense of humor, story telling and generosity. He was a gentleman, a fair person and a good friend in both his professional and personal life.
Visitation is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, March 22, at Woodland Funeral Chapel, 305 Cottonwood St., Woodland. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at the Woodland Presbyterian Church, 2324 Columbia Drive, Woodland. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Shriner's Hospital for Children Northern California, 2425 Stockton Boulevard, Sacramento, 95817; to Stollwood Convalescent Hospital, 135 Woodland Ave., Woodland, 95695; or donor's favorite charity.