Thomas "Tom" Behnke, a trained sound engineer who dabbled in magic, smoked a mean salmon and was a lifelong enthusiast and backer of Boy Scouts of America, died Nov. 26 of heart failure. He was 53.
A native Santa Rosan, Behnke was born May 4, 1959, the second of two children of Barbara and Tom Behnke. He attended Roseland Elementary School, Cook Junior High and Santa Rosa High School where he was a three-year drum major.
Active in Boy Scouts, Behnke eventually became an Eagle Scout after completing his community service project.
"He organized a crew to refurbish the Girl Scout Council office which was on Summerfield Road at the time," said Behnke's father, Tom of Santa Rosa. "He did it all himself."
Behnke later became a Scout Master with Cub Pack 4.
Behnke attended Santa Rosa Junior College before moving to Sonoma State University where he earned a degree in business administration.
A wiz with electronics and a stereo-aficionado, Behnke eventually started his own sound engineering company, Resounding Sounds. The job put him behind the scenes at public events with live music as well as in the studio helping musicians record their music.
"Whether he was doing construction, electrical installation work, sound production for bands or setting up some production, he was consumed with details without ever making it a worry for anyone else," Behnke's sister, Celeste Behnke Keith of Sacramento, said. "He loved being behind the scenes and watching other people experience the subtleties of what he did. He got a great deal of joy out of that."
Described as having a "wicked sense of humor" by his sister, Behnke was happier behind the scenes but could hold a crowd in his hands if he wanted to. A talented magician, he performed at his sister's wedding reception.
While working sound at a bar in Sebastopol more than two decades ago, Behnke met Valerie LaMar, who became his wife and partner for 26 years.
Behnke was an avid cook who began making dishes for his family in his 20s after successfully mimicking Julia Child and butterflying a turkey, Keith said.
"He was always trying different things," she said.
Behnke was a past president of the Optimist Club, a council member of the Etude Club and the main organizer of the annual Optimist fishing derby.
In addition to his wife, father and sister, Behnke is survived by his mother, Barbara Behnke of Santa Rosa.
Friends are invited to a celebration of Behnke's life from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse, 430 Tenth St., Santa Rosa.
— Kerry Benefield