Thomas Jerry Blackwood Jr, 81, of Lafayette, passed away peacefully on Sunday Sept. 16, 2018.
“Coach” as he preferred to be called was born in Palo Alto in 1936 to Thomas Jerry Blackwood Sr and Alice (Kovall, of Ely, MN) Blackwood. After moving numerous times in his youth, he went on to be a 3-sport athlete at Menlo-Atherton High School in Menlo Park, CA where he was named ‘Peninsula Athlete of the Year’ in his senior year. Coach then attended college at San Jose State University before joining the Army. His decision to enlist would shape his life. He began service at the Monterey Language School, but posts in Turkey and Japan instilled in him a love of travel and history that followed him forever. Upon being discharged he enrolled at SF State University pursuing his passion for history and teaching. Upon graduating, he would go on to spend his next 40 years teaching and coaching at Miramonte High School.
With his extensive sports background, coaching came naturally. After 2-seasons as the JV basketball coach, he was offered the head coaching job for the varsity men’s basketball team, a position he would hold from 1963-2003. During that time he coached countless student athletes, won numerous league titles, a North Coast Section title and NCS Coach of the Year, retiring as the sixth all-time winningest coach in California State History. Additionally, he coached various levels of football, tennis and track. In the classroom he taught all levels of social studies and, for any lives he did not touch through sports, he surely reached through his classroom. He was deeply involved with student life on campus and sincerely loved going to work every day.
In the late 1970s, Tom met the future mother of his children Vicki Blackwood. They spent their honeymoon visiting Ely and during his time with Vicki they started a family, having two sons, Justin and Christopher, while finding time to travel to China, vacation in Ely and Lake Tahoe, attend countless basketball games and move to Lafayette. Tom remained an active figure in the boys lives as a parent, teacher and coach. It was with great pride that he watched his sons share success and a love for the game that was his life’s work.
Tom retired from teaching and coaching with a determination to continue living life to the fullest. He spent the last 15 years of his life traveling the world, watching basketball games and walking the Lafayette Reservoir. While at his 50-year high school reunion, Tom reconnected with former classmate Geri Owings, and together they spent their time cruising, exploring foreign locales and making regular trips between San Diego, Las Vegas and the home he loved in Lafayette. Tom was a tireless supporter of his boys, traveling anywhere to watch them play collegiate basketball and visiting them in all residences throughout adulthood.
Tom was especially proud to be a member of the Menlo-Atherton Hall of Fame for his athletic pursuits as a student and in the inaugural class of the Miramonte Hall of Fame for his coaching contributions. Additionally, Tom loved spending summers in Ely surrounded by extended family, lakes for fishing, DQ for snacking, and local establishments for socializing. Ely always had a special place in his heart, as all his students can attest, and he always had his next trip planned to visit.
Coach is survived by his sisters Bobette Blackwood and MauraShaun Blackwood, his brother Ken Kunkel, his two sons: Justin and Chris Blackwood; his grandchildren: Bennett, Henry and Dylan Blackwood and his ex-wife Vicki Blackwood, in addition to numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his father Thomas Jerry Blackwood Sr and his mother Alice Kunkel.
Memorial Service to Celebrate the Life of Tom Blackwood will be held at the Claremont Hotel, on Sunday October 28 from 2 – 6 p.m. The family asks that any donations be made to: COPEC (Community Outreach Program for Exceptional Children) which brings alternative therapy methods to special needs children in the Bay Area regardless of socioeconomic status or backgrounds.