Thomas A. Fuentes, a nationally known leader in the conservative movement and the Republican Party, died Friday at his home in Lake Forest at 11:55 p.m. PST, with his wife Jolene and his children Michelle, T.j. and Joey by his side, after a long struggle with cancer. He was 63.
“He was fortunate he had a lot of time spent with friends before his passing, with a lot of love,” said his daughter, Michelle, in the early morning hours of Saturday.
Fuentes is best known as the longest-serving (1984-2004) chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, California. As the GOP leader of what until very recently was considered the most populous Republican county in the U.S., Fuentes built a vigorous, well-financed party organization that consistently captured most of the legislative and U.S. House districts as well as most of the county offices. Fuentes never backed away from being a conservative voice as well as party leader. Conservative leaders in the Golden State such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, former Rep. Christopher Cox considered him one of their closest allies as well as a friend.
“America has lost a great patriot,” said Thomas L. Phillips, chairman of Eagle Publishing, Inc., in a tribute written to his friend Fuentes. “He grew the Orange County GOP into a bastion of Republican strength in the state. He stood firm for conservative principles and resisted attempts to water down Republican ideals.” Fuentes was a member of Eagle’s board of directors.
But there was much more to Tom Fuentes than being a party leader. Born in Los Angeles, California Oct. 16, 1948, he graduated from Santa Ana (Calif.) College, went on to earn a B.A., from Chapman University and St. Patrick’s Seminary.
An engineer by trade, Fuentes devoted much of his life to public service and community service—in effect becoming an example of what Ronald Reagan would call “the citizen politician.” He was the first Hispanic to serve on the South Orange Community College District Board of Trustees. He was also a senior fellow with the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and was named by President George W. Bush to the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation.
Fuentes was best known to us as an active member of the board of directors of Eagle Publishing, the parent company of Human Events and Regnery Publishing.
Along with his civic, business, and community activities, Fuentes was also a devout Roman Catholic involved in his church as a Knight of Malta and a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Tom leaves his wife Jolene and three children, as well as a circle of friends nationwide and internationally whose lives were made better by his friendship.
Detailed plans for services have been made, but a date has not yet been set.
The family asks that friends and well-wishers not call or email at this time.
The family asks that those wanting to make donations in Fuentes’ memory send them to the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, Attn: Advancement Office, 920 E. Alhambra Road, Alhambra, CA 91801 or St. Michael’s Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers, 19292 El Toro Road, Silverado, CA 92676.
Thomas A. Fuentes Remembered As a Patriot, Friend, Mentor to Youth — Thomas L. Phillips remembers a leader and a dear friend, whose “insight and sage political advice were invaluable” to the organizations and individuals he counseled.
Tom Fuentes: Fighter for Conservatism — Bruce Herschensohn looks back on a friend who was interested in everything and recalls, “it wasn’t simply that people learned from being with Tom. They learned and laughed.”
To Tom Fuentes, A Simple Man — a tribute from Kathy Tavoularis, who served as the executive director for the California Republican Party from 1993-2005, and worked directly for Fuentes.
Thomas A. Fuentes ‘In His Own Words’ — He encouraged an audience in September to “foster the noble and wholesome ideals of our conservative cause. Be not afraid, my friends.”
Tom Fuentes: A Life in Pictures