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Former Irvine Co. executive Larry Thomas of Newport Beach dies at 70

Former Irvine Co. executive Larry Thomas of Newport Beach dies at 70
Larry Thomas, a former Irvine Co. executive, is pictured at his office in Newport Beach in 2007. Thomas died Monday night in his sleep, according to his daughter. (File Photo)

Larry Thomas, a Newport Beach resident who spent 20 years as an executive at the Irvine Co., died Monday night. He was 70.

His daughter, Leigh Thomas Beach, announced in a post on social media Tuesday that Thomas, who had cancer, died in his sleep.

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“While I’m not sure how to carry on without him here physically, I take great comfort in knowing he’s no longer in pain,” Beach wrote. “I assume he sauntered through heaven’s gates and asked for a glass of wine. God knows he deserved one or two.”

Thomas wore some significant hats during his career. He was a reporter for United Press International, a campaign manager for former California Gov. Pete Wilson and press secretary for George H.W. Bush when he was vice president. Thomas also served as former Gov. George Deukmejian’s press secretary and ran his 1986 reelection campaign.

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“Larry was one of Governor Deukmejian’s most loyal and talented assistants,” said Steven Merksamer, Deukmejian’s former chief of staff, in a statement. “He brought great energy and humor to the administration and was admired and loved by all of us.”

Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren hired Thomas in 1987 as Thomas was preparing to leave Washington to be close to his daughter and the ocean, according to Daily Pilot archives.

“We will miss Larry and his precision in words and life. I had the privilege of calling him a colleague and friend for more than three decades,” Bren said in a statement. “Larry’s outstanding talents and wonderful sense of humor left an indelible mark. He will be greatly missed.”

Thomas, who was one of the best-known public faces of the Irvine Co., served as senior vice president for corporate communications at the company and retired in 2007.

“This month I turn 60 and will celebrate 20 years at the Irvine Co.,” Thomas wrote in a letter to colleagues in 2007. “Something deep inside of me says it’s time to trade in my suits and ties (and sell my pocket squares) for some board shorts, T-shirts and Rainbow sandals and join the old guys on beach cruisers who seem to be living a relaxed, rich life in retirement.”

Beach said her father was first diagnosed with oral cancer within weeks of his retirement. He beat it, but it returned in November, in his throat.

Known for his communication skills, he could barely speak, she said. He continued to express himself through writing.

“I remember him telling me he got 10 extra years,” she said in an interview. “I think he really lived the last 10 years really well.”

In that time, he traveled, took cruises and got to know his young grandchildren, developing a Sunday tradition of taking them to the park, breakfast, church and then for ice cream.

He is survived by his daughter, son-in-law Eric Beach, and three grandchildren, Rylan, Sawyer and Saxon.

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