SOLANA BEACH — San Diego theater world lost one of its pioneers March 6 when Tom Blakistone succumbed to complications suffered from a fall and a lengthy convalescence, a few months shy of his 92nd birthday.
A successful mechanical engineer and management consultant, Tom 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 Blakistone assumed the artistic reins of the fledgling theatre, while Tom Blakistone threw himself into the role of business manager. In 1995, he turned over his duties to new leadership, while she 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 Theatre were responsible for putting North County on the theatrical map. Under their leadership, North Coast Rep emerged as one of the region’s most important theaters and served as a template for operating a successful, and ultimately, award-winning intimate theater.
“Tom’s financial acumen not only steered the Rep through rough seas, but he also helped set the standards of excellence for the Theatre that remain in place today. 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 Blakistone, who noted sadly that they would have celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day. The couple chose that day to be married because she was born in Ireland and the day held special significance for her.
“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.
Blakistone lovingly referred to her husband as a Renaissance man. When pressed for more details, she described her husband as being noble; a man seldom at a loss for words; 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 theatre; a lover of Mozart and all things beautiful; a great communicator; piercingly intelligent; someone who never gave up on ideas; 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. He had a heart of gold and would generously help out those less fortunate. Not surprisingly, he led a long rich life and was blessed with many, many friends,” she said.
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.