James Walton Thomas (Jim) a 39-year resident of Los Altos passed away unexpectedly on November 7, 2016. Born on Sept 9, 1946, in Buffalo New York to James and Madalen Thomas. Jim was born into a Navy family and the son of a Pearl Harbor survivor. He was a family man and electrical engineer by profession. Jim received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Santa Clara University in 1968 and continued his education with post-graduate work at UC Berkley 1968-70. His life-long love of engineering began in his father’s garage where he developed a passion for technology. In high school he was a lab assistant in his father’s electronics class at Citrus Community College where his natural ability to mentor and teach had its beginnings. Jim’s passion for technology led him to work in small, Silicon Valley startups that gave him the freedom to innovate and design. He specialized in measuring and optics and ultimately co-founded General Lasertronics in May of 1996. He was uniquely talented in optical design and was credited as an inventor on over a dozen patents. At Lasertronics he helped develop the only laser ablation system that is both approved by the FAA and US Navy. He was highly regarded by his colleagues in an industry he helped to build.
Jim was a loving and devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He loved his grandsons and would share his love of science while working on various outdoor projects, at his workbench, or baking chocolate chip cookies with them. He was a voracious reader and shared a life-long love of learning with his son and grandsons. He had many interests: he frequented Astronomy lectures at Foothill College, loved the ocean, and was a long time member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In his younger years he was an avid scuba diver, sailor, and outdoorsman. He and his wife Janis sailed throughout the Caribbean and across the Atlantic on a sailboat adventure that lasted over 1½ years. Jim was a true, non-materialistic man. He would replace things only when they were truly broken, preferring to fix them instead. For over 30 years he drove his much-loved red Volvo 240 station wagon over half a million miles and through 3 odometer replacements. He took his wife and son on many fun road trips around California, Oregon, Nevada and Northern Mexico in his beloved Volvo. His wife, Janis, of 45 years, survives him as well as his son, Patrick, daughter-in-law, Dina and 2 grandsons: Fabian, and Camilo. Jim was blessed with a large and loving extended family including sisters Mary Jo Buettner (husband Joe), Ann Thomas, and Robert Thomas (wife Kathy), Alan (brother-in-law) and Pat Mickelson, sister-in laws Kristine Clevenger, Patrice and Dan Abbott. Jim was lovingly referred to as Uncle Jim by his 14 nieces and nephews and their families. He enjoyed many close and long-lasting friendships. He was an inspiring, rare man whose selfless contributions, clever wit and humor will be missed by all who knew and loved him. To celebrate his life a memorial service will be held at the Los Altos United Methodist church on Friday, January 20, 2017 at 1:00 PM with reception following at the Creekside Center. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Bay Area Cancer Connection in Palo Alto.