Tom Sprague
1928 - 2021
Tom Sprague
January 25, 1928 - September 1, 2021
La Jolla
Most remember Tom Sprague for his upbeat attitude, smile, sparkling blue eyes and willingness to help. When you asked him how he was doing, the response was typically "magnificent", "superb" or "just peachy, how about y'all". Tom was industrious his entire life. By age 12 he found creative job opportunities selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door, picking asparagus in the fields, selling corsages at dances and removing damaged fenders at the local auto body shop. In 1942 at age 14 Tom started work as an errand boy at the Stockton Record, launching a 15-year career as a reporter and award-winning columnist. In October 1957, Sputnik began orbiting the Earth, and Tom decided he wanted to work in the aerospace industry. He landed a position with Aerojet in Sacramento in 1959. Tom rose through the ranks at Aerojet and became Vice President of Public Relations. As company spokesperson, Tom would find himself at the forefront of history as he explained the role the company's satellite technology played in defusing the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and how their rocket engine would be key for bringing the Apollo 13 astronauts back home safely.Tom's work brought him deep into the space program including attending the joint session of Congress in 1961, when President Kennedy proposed that the US land a man on the moon, being at the Cape for liftoff of Apollo 11, and in Mission Control in Houston when they landed on the moon.Tom earned many accolades throughout his life: Otto Boss Lifetime Achievement award from the San Diego Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Outstanding Professional by both the San Diego Press Club and the San Diego PRSA, Andy Mace Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Relations, Eva Irving Award for Outstanding Community Service, University of Pacific (UOP) Family of the Year Award, Outstanding Service award from United Crusade of San Diego, and others.His gift for writing came from years of meeting newspaper deadlines and observing the role model of his single mother who was a teacher and wrote something every day. He's been published in Time, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, Life, Fortune and a favorite True Detective, as well as the major daily newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and San Diego Tribune. He also taught Public Relations Writing at both California State University Fullerton and San Diego State University. Tom poured his heart into volunteer efforts. He served on nonprofit boards of the YMCA, United Way, Little League, PRSA and also directly helped others as a girls softball coach, boys basketball and baseball coach, respite giver for Alzheimer care givers, and a volunteer driver for the elderly. He helped a Holocaust survivor create and publish a book of letters and memories, helped with Multiple Sclerosis publicity, published newsletters for the San Diego Miata Club, helped create the San Diego PRSA Legends organization, and actively supported the San Diego Senior's Computer Group. Tom with his surviving wife Patricia support many causes. They started a fund at Father Joe's Villages to provide children new clothing and a scholarship fund at UOP that provides support to art and math majors. Tom was born in 1928 in Eureka, CA to Claire and Irvine Sprague. He was the youngest of four children. He moved to Stockton in 1937, married his college sweetheart Patricia White at the Santa Cruz Mission in 1950 and was drafted into the army for the Korean conflict from 1952-1954. He raised two sons Gary and Brian, regaled two daughters-in-law Michele and Kathy, and entertained four grandchildren, Casey, Eric, Emily and Daria. A memorial service will be held November 20, 11am at Torrey Pines Church. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Claire Sprague Fund at Father Joe's Villages in San Diego, in memory of Tom at
Published by San Diego Union-Tribune on Oct. 17, 2021.
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Memorial service
Torrey Pines Church
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5 Entries
Jenna Sprague Savage
November 20, 2021
Tom is way up there in the annals of public relations and journalism excellence. He inspired us all and influenced us to always do better. Bless all in his family to whom I extend deepest sympathy.
Michael Bardin, APR
October 22, 2021
To me, he was my Uncle Tommy, and always funny, sincere, encouraging, creative, ready for action, and a general joy to be around. I will miss him dearly.
Patsy Fergusson
October 18, 2021
Thank you for letting us know of Tom's passing. What a gentleman! He lived a full and good life. As an Aerojetter (79-89) , I had on many occasions worked with Tom on some fun stuff. Shoot, I think he beat me playing racquetball at the Y. We have a lot of great memories of Aerojet and Tom. He kept us a family! May he rest in peace and enjoy his next life, until we all meet again.
Monica Kopczynski
October 18, 2021
Our deepest sympathy to the Sprague Family. Tom was an integral part of Aerojet management. His outstanding writing and general communications skills were evident during my time at headquarters. His humor and relaxed attitude were also much appreciated. We met Patricia often at company social events. They were a very attractive couple. May he Rest In Peace.
Kevin and Cathy Coleman
October 17, 2021
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