Thomas Ainsley, F182814, who served as FMCA national vice president, Western Area, from 2006 to 2008, died on July 22, 2014, at his home in Sacramento, California. He was 79.
Tom’s retirement in 1991 after a 30-year career in sales and marketing offered him and his wife, Joan, the opportunity to discover and pursue what became their passions: motorhoming and volunteering at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
“We really didn’t know many people who motorhomed, but he thought that (motorhoming) would just be wonderful,” Joan said. “It became very important to us.” They bought a Safari Trek, traveled to a Safari rally in Oregon, and made some good friends. Then they attended a Western Area Rally in Indio, California, and joined FMCA. Tom loved driving the motorhome and seeing new places, Joan said.
“Going to the national rallies gave us a chance to tour around the United States,” Joan noted. Their travels took them to places such as Perry, Georgia; Redmond, Oregon; Pomona, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; and much of Canada. They also made several visits to Cincinnati, Ohio, for Executive Board meetings.
But no place captured Tom’s heart like Humboldt Redwoods State Park, set along the Eel River in northern California. The 53,000-acre park features the largest remaining old-growth forest in the world. The ancient redwood groves are “like a cathedral,” Joan said. “It is awe-inspiring. It’s just a magical place.”
Once, while visiting the park in their motorhome, the couple spoke to the park manager about volunteering. “That would be fun to do,” Joan recalled Tom saying. When the manager told them he had an opening and asked if they would like to sign on, they didn’t hesitate. “We did that for 11 years in the summertime,” Joan said. Tom, an outgoing fellow with a good sense of humor, especially loved chatting with all the motorhome owners who arrived at the visitors center.
Indeed, in a “Chapter Spotlight” column in Family Motor Coaching magazine (February 2004), the couple wrote that “volunteering is more than just work. It is great fun and gives us a sense of satisfaction in helping others.” Such sentiments were the focus of a campfire conversation at Humboldt Redwoods in the spring of 2003 involving the Ainsleys and several other FMCA members who were also park volunteers. Afterward, Tom was instrumental in helping form FMCA’s Traveling VIP chapter. VIP stood for “volunteers in parks.” The chapter, which was active until this year, held rallies that not only included food, fellowship, and fun but also offered members the chance to volunteer or to learn about such opportunities.
Tom’s FMCA involvement also included service on these committees: Long-Range and Development, 2002-2004; Nominating, 2005-2006; Governmental and Legislative Affairs, 2005-2007; Convention, 2007-2008; and Marketing (chairman), 2007-2008. He also was a vice president of the Western Motor Home Association from 2002-2006.
Tom was born March 22, 1935, in Chicago, Illinois, and earned a business degree from the University of Illinois, which is where he met Joan. After his college graduation, Tom served four years in the U.S. Army at the Presidio in San Francisco, California.
In addition to his wife, Tom is survived by three sons — Doug, Matt, and Mark — and their spouses; a brother; and seven grandchildren. Memorial donations can be made to Save the Redwoods League, 114 Sansome St., Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA 94104-3823; www.savetheredwoods.org.