Often my dad would say, “Hey, don’t step on that turtle!” You knew he was tricking you, but he was so darn convincing that you could not help but look down. This is Tom in a nutshell: he’d tease you, he’d laugh at you, but he did it because he loved you—and you knew it. So, raise your hand if you knew Tom loved you; hey dad look, can you see all the hands?
Thomas Lloyd Skinner, known to most as Tom, brother, or Ol’ Buzzard of Madera, CA joined his hot rod brethren at the great dragstrip in the sky on May 13, 2020. We were fortunate to have him pass away at home in the company of loving family and friends.
Tom was born in San Bernardino, CA on Christmas Eve, 1945. He resided in a cabin deep in Cajon Pass with his parents William and Florence Skinner. He spent his youth exploring the creeks, canyons, and caves of the area. The family moved to Fremont, and Tom attended Logan High School where he specialized in raising hell. Whether it be drag racing on back roads, cruising Mission Boulevard, or racing through Niles Canyon, Tom lived life to the fullest and had many stories to tell about his youth. Tom was briefly in the Air Force and attended medic training.
At a July 4th party in 1969, Tom fell madly in love with, Teri Flores the cousin of his good friend. Much to the chagrin of Teri’s sister, Barbara, they married four months later. Over time, Barbara warmed up to Tom, and they formed a strong brother and sister-in-law relationship that occasionally involved their middle fingers and a laugh. Teri and Tom were married for 50 years, still dancing to their favorite song “How Sweet It Is” until the end and spending Friday nights at the Vineyard restaurant with their “Vineyard Family”.
At the commencement of their marriage, Tom was comfortable working for the City of Fremont, but he knew earning a college degree was important, so he said next and challenged himself to obtain a bachelor’s degree as fast as possible. He moved to Teri’s hometown of Madera to reside with her parents. It was a challenge while Tom obtained his bachelor’s degree, but he graduated with summa cum laude honors in three years. He earned his B.A. in political science, and he also completed course work in the Masters of Public Administration program.
Tom obtained a job at the City of Merced and worked his way up to the position of Public Works Director. Having reached this pinnacle, he looked for the next challenge becoming a city planning consultant. With two partners, Tom created Valley Planning Consultants in 1984. For several decades, Tom and his company thoughtfully helped communities throughout the central valley plan and develop projects, always looking for the next challenge. His planning philosophy was steeped in honesty, integrity, and creativity. Also, Tom believed that being challenged built character, and he always looked for the next challenge to overcome.
Over time, a love from Tom’s past resurfaced hot rods. Once, when Tom was an early teen, an older friend gave him a wild ride in a red 1960 El Camino. Tom vowed to one-day build a ’60 El Camino that could rival that seminal ride. And he did. He also built a 1963 Impala straight out of the Beach Boys song, “409.” He loved these cars, but like many other times in his life, he looked for the next challenge. He wanted to go drag racing. He, along with the help of many friends, built a 1953 Studebaker racecar. He never got to take it down the track, but he did get to show it off at several car shows. Over the years Tom, along with his shop buddies, have built numerous hot rods, always pushing the envelope. On Saturday and Sunday, it was not uncommon for “the shop” to be filled with friends working, helping, and hanging out. Just like in other aspects of his life, he was always looking for the next challenge.
Tom will forever live in the hearts and minds of everyone he has met. He is survived by his wife, Teri Skinner of Madera, CA; his two sons and their spouses, Bill and Tyler Skinner of Pismo Beach, CA and Jacob and Chantal Skinner of Madera, CA; four grandchildren, Sierra “Baby-girl” and Brooklynn Skinner and Oliver “Buddy” and Noah “Bubba Bear” Skinner; a niece and great niece Natasha “Sweety” Flores and Zoey “Zipper”; his sister and brother-in-law Dr. Barbara Flores and Dr. Esteban Diaz; his mother-in-law Carmen Flores; many extended family members; his many business acquaintances; his many friends including those he met at car shows, The Vineyard, and blues music shows; and his shop buddies who spent many hours laughing at Tom’s jokes and antics.
Tom is now contemplating his next challenge; I know it. Maybe he is bench racing it with hot rod friends. Maybe he will learn to play harmonica and guitar like he always wanted; maybe he will finally “take it easy.” Hey dad, come back here, I want to tell you something…how far do you think you would have gotten, if I didn’t just call you back? If you understand that last example, you knew Tom.
Hey dad, next.
A CELEBRATION OF LIFE WILL BE HELD AT A LATER DATE WHEN THE SHELTER IN PLACE RESTRICTIONS HAVE BEEN LIFTED..
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