By Carm Greco
San Diego's theater community lost one of its pioneers March 6 when Tom Blakistone succumbed to complications due to a fall and a lengthy convalescence, a few months shy of his 92nd birthday.
A successful mechanical engineer and management consultant, Blakistone was yanked out of retirement in 1982 when his wife, performer/director/producer Olive Blakistone, discovered a space in the Lomas Santa Fe Plaza shopping mall in Solana Beach she deemed suitable for her long-dreamed-about theater. Thus was born
North Coast Repertory Theatre
, now celebrating its 27th season.
Olive assumed the artistic reins of the fledgling theatre, while Tom threw himself wholeheartedly into the role of business manager. In 1995, Tom turned over his duties to new leadership, while Olive remained artistic director until 1998. They remained active on the board until 2002. Even in retirement, the Blakistones continued their ardent support of North Coast Rep as donors and honorary members.
"Without Tom and Olive, there would be no North Coast Rep," said David Ellenstein, producing artistic director. "Their vision and steadfast commitment to the theater were responsible for putting North County on the theatrical map.
"Tom's passing leaves a void here at the theater and for all who were privileged to know him and work with him."
No one feels that void more than his mate and business partner, Olive, who noted sadly that they would have celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary on St. Patrick's Day.
"Tom's favorite story at parties was to tell people I was his fourth wife, but that we'd been married for 48 years," she said.
Olive referred to her husband as a Renaissance Man. She also described him as being noble; a dedicated wordsmith who was always eloquent, much in the manner of William F. Buckley, a person he admired for his style, but not his politics; an ardent Democrat; compassionate; dedicated to theater; a lover of Mozart; piercingly intelligent; open-minded and always looking to the future; precise; an inventor who had a passion for science as well as art; a man who'd rather repair than replace, and above all, financially scrupulous.
"Although he was frugal, Tom believed money was meant for the good of man," she said. "He had a heart of gold and would generously help out those less fortunate."
Tom Blakistone was born in Seattle on June 22, 1917. He graduated from M.I.T. with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1939.
Following graduation, he worked for Sherman Fairchild, founder of Fairchild Camera & Instrument Co. as a personal aide for several years. During the war years, Blakistone returned to M.I.T. as a scientist in its radiation laboratory.
After working several jobs in California, he and two partners opened a small aerospace company, Kinelogic Corporation, which they eventually sold to the Dictaphone Corporation. During his tenure at Kinelogic, Blakistone was granted a number of patents for his inventions.
He then embarked on a new career in the late 1960s as a management consultant, which led him to Tom Gordon, a psychologist who had written a book, "Parent Effectiveness Training." The Blakistones took his training course, and in short order, Tom began working with Gordon fulltime to disseminate and teach the course internationally until his short-lived retirement 10 years later. No sooner had he settled down to enjoy his golden years, Olive and North Coast Repertory Theatre beckoned.
In addition to Olive, Tom is survived by their two children, Kathleen and Brian, two daughters Nancy Sellers and Barbara Arnello from a prior marriage, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. The couple also retained a close relationship with his two stepsons from a prior marriage, Peter and Brown Williams.
A Celebration of Life service for Tom Blakistone will be held at North Coast Repertory Theatre from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 19. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to North Coast Repertory Theatre. For more information, call Karen Begin, (858) 481-2155, ext. 10.