Thomas P. De Paolo, 1923-2015

Tom de Paolo
Tom de Paolo

Tom de Paolo, 91, passed away July 2, in Laguna Beach, of complications from diabetes. He went as he always said he wanted to, in his home overlooking the Pacific. He received a steady stream of calls and visits from family and friends in his last few days, and had a smile and a few very funny one-liners for everyone.

Tom grew up in Los Angeles, son of race car driver, Peter De Paolo, and his wife, Sally. Their home in Los Feliz was the base for Tom’s early adventures in the Hollywood Hills and the surrounding area, a time and place he would remember as simple and carefree. He attended John Marshall High School and then USC, and served in the Air Force during World War II before finishing up his degree in cinema in 1948. While at SC, he met his wife-to-be, Derelys (nee Sturdevant), and they shared a wonderful life together for 53 years until Derelys’ passing in 2001.

De Paolo’s career started in the mailroom at the advertising firm, J. Walter Thompson, and he rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a vice-president. After retiring from JWT, he spent many years consulting in the advertising department at Disneyland, a job he loved as much for his role as mentor, advisor, and friend to his co-workers, as for the pleasure of being able to stroll down Main Street during his lunch hour.

In his later years, De Paolo took up two creative pursuits. Following in the footsteps of a couple of his ancestors, he became an accomplished oil painter and exhibited and sold his work in galleries throughout Southern California. He also became a writer, with several cookbooks (the first being “The Suddenly Single Chef,” written after he lost his wife) and a series of children’s books to his credit. He kept painting and writing up until two weeks before his passing.

De Paola is survived by his daughter, Dana Aron, of Foothill Ranch; son Peter and his wife Laurie, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; son Tony and his wife, Daria Buonassisi, of La Jolla; five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

At his request, no services are planned. Donations in his honor may be made to protect and preserve a place he had visited and loved since childhood,


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