Rest in power, Gary Thomas

Jan 15, 2020

Gary Thomas
Credit KBBI

KBBI founding volunteer Gary Thomas died Tuesday evening. Thomas was checking on a friend’s house off Cottonwood Hill Ave near East End Road. According to Alaska State Troopers, Thomas was found by using a phone location app after he was late getting home. The initial investigation indicates there was a water heater explosion that caused Thomas’s fatal injuries. The state fire marshal is investigating.

Thomas served this community as a volunteer captain at Kachemak Emergency Services, as a member of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department, as editor and publisher of the Homer News and as a volunteer host and auctioneer for decades worth of fundraising and advocacy events across the peninsula. He was general manager of KBBI from 1980 until 1991 and helped the station raise funds and celebrate milestones long after he was employed by the station. Gary Thomas was 68 years old.

Everyone here at KBBI would like to extend our deepest condolences to his many friends and to his family. Here is few minutes from KBBI’s audio archive of Gary in 1991, talking about how he came to work at the station. The Rita he mentions is Rita Turner, the Pete, is Pete Caron.

A gathering is planned for Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Homer Mariner Theatre
Call 907-299-7133 for a recorded message to be updated with infomation about memorials for Gary.
Transcript of audio, recorded in 1991:
Gary Thomas:

Yeah, what actually happened was that Pete told Rita that she had to change the format in a certain way. Rita refused to do it, so Pete fired Rita. Rita then took the appeal to the board of directors. Well, at the same time, Pete came to me and said, Hey, look Gare. I just fired Rita Turner as program director today and I want to hire you as the new program director. Now there's this little matter of a board of directors meeting where she's gonna make her appeal. The board will support my decision. And so you show up on Thursday as the new program director.

Okay. I mean, that's, you know, I was looking for a job. That'd be nice. Actually. I started volunteering at the station before they signed on the air July, I suppose, were first training volunteers to sign on here. And so that board meeting on that Wednesday night, Rita was there, whole bunch of people. They had this big meeting, big turnout of volunteers and everything to support Rita. And Pete's fatal flaw was that he showed up stumbling drunk to this board meeting. I think if he'd shown up sober that he probably would've been able to weather it, but he showed up stumbling drunk. So what the board did was, they upheld Pete's decision to terminate Rita, and then, they turned around and they fired Pete, and then they turned around and hired Rita as a temporary building coordinator to oversee building a new studio building over at the FAA tower. That all happened in the same meeting. So you know the question, in my mind is - let's see - am I supposed to show up as the program director tomorrow or not? Back then NPR came to Homer on the phone line, and it was just one channel and channel one was whatever KSKA turned up on their demod. So you'd be in the middle of airing a program and someone would spin the dial. And you know, the program would change.

I remember that, coming in and putting on some headphones and listening. Well, nobody knew why I was there, you know? What are you here for? Well, Lance Peterson shows up. I mean, they've just lost their general manager and Lance shows up as chairman of the board and I said, well, Hey Lance, you and I should talk. Cute little Lance,  he just kind of said, well, why don't you go across the street, just have a cup of coffee and we'll, we'll come and get you later on. The board decided to make Barbara Park the interim general manager. Engineering wise. The station was in chaos. We had two tape machines. The engineer couldn't figure out why they wouldn't work. I remember one being pulled out and he was going to package it up and then it sat at the station for a week and a half because he couldn't figure out how to ship it back  because the box was too big to be mailed via the post office. Old turntables, I mean, everything was antique and simple and not very much of it.