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Thomas Merrill Brians

October 4, 1944 ~ June 29, 2023 (age 78) 78 Years Old


     Thomas Merrill Brians, age 78, passed away peacefully on June 29, 2023, at home with his family in Petaluma. He was born on October 4, 1944, to Merrill and Elizabeth Brians of Penngrove, California. Devoted husband for 31 years to Donna (Rosenthal) Brians. Dear father of Michele (Peter) Koning and Teresa (Ken) Davis. Loving stepfather of Maria and Angela Pozzi. Brother to Linda (Kenneth) Parker, Dennis (Nancy) and Douglas Brians. Brother-in-law to Jerry (Laura) and Del (Carole) Rosenthal, Joe (Sissy) and Jim (Lisa) Flocchini. Cherished grandfather (Papa) to Christopher Pozzi, Michael Whitt, Bailee Ann Mitchell; Louis (Lauren), Anthony (Bell), Clara (Troy), and Amy Sue Machado; Kai and Devon Banks and JR Davis. Great grandfather to Zoey and Maverick Machado. Also survived by numerous and wonderful nieces and nephews.

     Thomas was a graduate of Petaluma High School class of 1962, California Polytechnic State University, class of 1966, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture with a Major in Animal Husbandry, and San José State University, class of 1974, with a Master’s Degree in Quality Assurance Engineering.

     Tom’s family roots stretch back to 1850’s in Penngrove. His family mined basalt on their property for San Francisco cobblestones and farmed 160 acres of hay for cattle and dairy cow feed. He grew up on that ranch raising cattle and Grand Champion Hampshire hogs. Because he was an active member of the Future Farmers of America in high school, he went on to major in Animal Husbandry at Cal Poly. When he graduated from there, he got a management position on a huge ranch in the San Luis Obispo area. But after taking a tumble off a large incline on a Cat D9, he rethought careers while recovering in the hospital, hence the change to modern technology.

     His lifelong career as a Quality Assurance Manager included extensive and varied industry experiences in research, development, and quality control in the areas of space technology, thin film, optical and plastics engineering. In addition, he had a Lifetime College Teaching Credential, Alameda County. He taught quality control courses (statistics) at Ohlone College, Fremont, CA. For 28 years Tom worked for Innovative Molding, Inc. until his retirement at the age of 75. He was considered a legend in the packaging industry having engineered many unique closure designs, packaging solutions, and providing the highest level of technical support to all his customers throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. Those customers usually became friends with Tom as his high energy and upbeat attitude always came through during every customer visit.

     He is listed in the publication of Who’s Who in Science and Engineering that includes profiles that cover major figures from a variety of the sciences and engineering disciplines including research and technology within engineering that includes optical engineering. He was also a member of the American Society for Quality Control.

     Early in his career with a Silicon Valley company, Raychem Corp., he was involved with the first heat shrinkable plastic tubing that actually went along on the Apollo missions to the moon. Although he had earned a master’s degree in his educational field of studies, he still was a country boy redneck at heart like the rest of his Penngrove friends he grew up with.

     He loved woodworking, fishing, building/restoring marine in-board engines with his brother Dennis, hunting, and running a “Cat” for hours on end helping his cousin Lee till the soil on the Brians’ Ranch in Penngrove for which he was born and raised on.

     He was an active member of the local American Antique Caterpillar’s Association and the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club. One of his hobbies was collecting antique caterpillars, restoring them, and plowing those beloved fields on the ranch. He also was a member of the Penngrove Social Firemen and enjoyed many hours alongside his cousin Lee barbequing meat for the Club’s yearly 4th of July celebrations.

     He was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer more than three years ago. A new chemo and combination of drugs seemed to be working miracles and his monthly tests came back good again and again. Most don’t survive that long after that kind of diagnosis, and it says a lot about what a tough guy he truly was. Tough guy with a heart as big as all outdoors.

     After being reunited with his high school sweetheart, Donna Sue, in June 1990, they soon married and traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Eastern and Western Caribbean, Alaska and Hawaii. They also loved spending time with their family and friends on 30+ cruises. Visiting their grandchildren in Montana was always a huge priority for them. He had a great sense of humor and always had a story to share from one of his and Donna’s trips. On many of their road trips they drove their cherished ’96 corvette which they also had fun racing and competing in autocross races. He and Donna were not known to be without somewhere to go, even if it was just taking a daytime road trip to have lunch at Quincey’s in Fort Bragg, to put a few bucks in the slots at Tahoe, or checking out the farming conditions in the San Joaquin Valley. One of their favorite trips was visiting with their close friends Del and Linda Petersen in Santa Maria to have a steak dinner at the best steak house in California, Jocko’s, in Nipomo. He lived a very full life with his beloved soulmate Donna Sue.

     His health decline started very recently and was extremely rapid, he was, however, not in any pain or on any pain meds right to the end. God gave this man a peaceful departure because he earned it. His message to everyone, “hug one another every day and always tell those special loved ones how much you love and appreciate them.”

His advice to those who read this obituary is to carry on, embrace life, and rejoice for you never know what is waiting for you around the corner in your lifelong journey.

     Donations in Tom’s name can be made to the Penngrove Social Firemen’s Club, P. O. Box 264, Penngrove, CA 94951, designated for the Bill King Memorial Fund which is given each year to a Petaluma High School student for outstanding ag mechanics.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Thomas on September 24, 2023, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the home of Rod and Midge Bolman.

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