The elder statesman of Fircrest’s City Council, Robert “Bob” Thaden, died Monday following a recent serious illness, just days from his 77th birthday.
Thaden, a retired faculty member at Tacoma Community College, was appointed to the council of the suburban Pierce County city in 1996.
Fircrest Mayor David Viafore remembers Thaden standing out from a panel of 18 would-be council members 17 years ago.
“He had a wide variety of credentials, and knowledge,” Viafore said. “And he wanted to get involved.”
Thaden retained his council seat in subsequent elections. He was often unopposed.
Viafore called Thaden an “anchor” on the council.
“He was a true gentleman,” the mayor said. “When he talked, we all listened. He had a great influence on all of us.”
In 2002, Thaden was selected by fellow council members to serve as mayor pro tempore, which means he stood in for the mayor in his absence. He still held that No. 2 position at the time of his death.
“He was a very gracious man,” said council member Matthew Jolibois. “He had a certain fairness, and openness. His personality transcended politics.”
He said that when citizens took their concerns to council, Thaden was always a careful listener.
“Whatever you had to say, he took a heartfelt interest in it,” Jolibois said.
Before entering local politics, Thaden taught English, business and critical thinking skills at TCC. He was president of the college faculty for four terms.
Thaden’s friend and former TCC faculty colleague Joe Betz described his friend as “a happy man” who was well-liked by both faculty members and administrators at the college.
“He loved teaching, and students loved him,” he said. “He worked hard at what he did.”
Thaden graduated from Bellarmine Preparatory School. He attended Gonzaga University for his undergraduate degree, earned a master’s degree in school administration from the University of Puget Sound and did further graduate studies at California State and Oregon State universities.
He was also an Army officer in the Military Police Corps.
Those who knew Thaden recall a sports fan who loved following the Seattle Mariners and the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Viafore requested that city flags be flown at half staff in Thaden’s honor.
Thaden was preceded in death by his first wife, Gretchen, and a daughter. He is survived by his current wife, Pat, and his son, Tim.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Charles Borromeo Parish.