Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Passing of my good friend Rob Tonkin's father

My sincere heartfelt condolences to the family.

This story is taken from Sacbee / News / Obituaries.

Obituary: Businessman took Boy Scout oath seriously

By Robert D. Dávila -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 17, 2008

Millard C. Tonkin, a prominent Sacramento business and civic leader who formerly co-owned the local Seven-Up Bottling Co. and was active in many community groups, died Wednesday. He was 89.

He died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia, said his wife, Lillie.

Mr. Tonkin and his uncle, Harry, were partners in Tonkin Corp., which bought the Seven-Up franchise for the Sacramento region in 1962. Millard Tonkin became president after his uncle retired and ran the bottling works until retiring in 1994.

The company built a modern plant in Sacramento and also produced other brands, including A&W, Frostie and Orange Crush.

An enthusiastic salesman, Mr. Tonkin built Seven-Up into the No. 2 soft drink in the region through widespread distribution in grocery stores and restaurants. He also developed good will with donations to nonprofit groups and charity events.

"Schools and churches would ask for contributions, and he'd personally go out back and fill their trucks with cases of soft drinks," said Chris McGlasson, the company's former marketing director.

Giving back to the community was a way of life for Mr. Tonkin. He was president of the California-Nevada Soft Drink Association, Congregation B'nai Israel and the Golden Empire Council of Boy Scouts of America.

He served as district governor of Rotary International No. 5190 and president of the South Sacramento Rotary Club.

He raised money and served on boards of the Sacramento Symphony Association, Sacramento Theatre Company, the McClellan Air Force Base Museum and Mercy Hospital Foundation. He was a UC Davis Foundation trustee and past chairman of the UC Davis Leadership Council.

As a philanthropist and volunteer, Mr. Tonkin was guided by the Boy Scout oath.

He often cited its commands "to do my duty to God and my country," "to help other people at all times" and "to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight," said his son, James.

"Ever since he became an Eagle Scout, he was smitten with the whole basis of service to others above self," his son said. "He was a strong believer in that saying his whole life."

Millard Cyril Tonkin was born in 1918 in Portland, Ore., and reared in San Francisco.

He left the University of California, Berkeley, before graduating to join the Army in World War II. He fought in the invasion of Okinawa Island and rose from private to first lieutenant.

He returned to San Francisco, worked in his father's liquor purveying business and married Carole Meyer in 1949.

In 1953, he and his uncle, Harry, started a Seagram's distributorship in Sacramento. He also owned an Avis rental-car franchise before joining his uncle in buying Seven-Up.

Mr. Tonkin was active in the Masons and Ben Ali Shrine Temple. A music lover, he played violin in the San Francisco Junior Symphony as a boy and also learned the piano and organ. His first marriage ended in divorce after 23 years, and he married Lillie Guest in 1978.

Friendly and engaging, he enjoyed meeting clients and networking with other business people. He was a down-to-earth corporate leader who often sent handwritten notes of support or thanks to employees and friends.

He was widely honored for his public contributions. The Boy Scouts showered him with tributes, including Distinguished Eagle Scout, the Silver Beaver Award and 1989 Man of the Year.

He received the 1984 YMCA Community Service Award and was named 1988 Sacramentan of the Year by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

"He was well known as a man of very high ethics and morals, very conscientious," retired businessman Jim Carpenter said.

Go to: Sacbee / Back to story

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