Thomas Graham

Thomas Patrick Graham wrote songs for his wife; he planted flowers for her, too. He worked for hospitals, bookstores and farms. He read histories and murder mysteries.

He fished at Lake Sonoma with his brothers. He dropped out of high school; later, he would graduate fifth in his UC Berkeley class with a bachelor's degree in cultural anthropology.

"He was my hero," said his partner of 17 years, Mary Gannon Graham of Sebastopol. "He was smart and had a lust for life and a thirst for knowledge."

Thomas Graham died July 23 of a heart attack he suffered in the garden of his Sebastopol home. He was 54 and known to many as a former manager of Copperfield's Books in Montgomery Village, though at his death he was working on a farm.

Graham was born Dec. 5, 1958, to John Joseph Graham, who worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Mary Evelyn Graham, who worked for Contra Costa County.

He did not finish high school — "He had a very colorful childhood," said Gannon Graham. "He just enjoyed life to the fullest, let's put it that way."

When he was 19, he visited his brother John, who died in 2011, in Sonoma County and, said his wife, "fell in love with it and decided to stay."

Graham, who made his home first in Santa Rosa, worked numerous and varied jobs over the years.

For many years he was a certified purchasing agent who worked for companies including North Bay Rehabilitation Services, Palm Drive Hospital and Reach, the medical helicopter ambulance service.

He also worked for a time at Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastopol, from where he would bring home sick plants that he would nurse back to health in a special section of his garden.

Gardening was a joyful enterprise for him and his favorite flower was probably the Shasta Daisy, Gannon Graham said.

Every year, she said, when he planted anew, "he'd say he planted the flowers for me."

In 1996, after returning to Santa Rosa Junior College, where he got his G.E.D. and two associate's degrees, Graham took a job as a bookseller at Copperfield's Books in Montgomery Village, looking for flexible work to accommodate his studies.

He was by then divorced from his first wife, Stephanie Graham, and the father of three children. And he had blue eyes that captured Mary Gannon's attention. A bookseller, too, she was also drawn "by how kind he is to everyone who meets him. He had a way of making people feel really comfortable and at ease right away."

They fell in love. In 2000 — the same year Graham graduated from Berkeley — they married.

"He was an amazing father and he shared his beautiful children with me and after I fell in love with him, I fell in love with them," said Gannon Graham, now an actress and drama teacher.

Music was a leitmotif of their life together. Guitars filled the couple's house. And he would play while she would sing. "Old-timeys," jazz, bluegrass, rock 'n roll, they covered it all.

"I had to be careful," said Gannon Graham, "because, if I said, 'I like this song,' or 'I want to sing this song,' the next thing I knew he'd be learning it so he could play it for me."

A search for inner peace and a spiritual path also marked Graham's life, his wife said, and he arrived, as a practicing Buddhist, at the belief that, "We were spiritual beings having a human experience."

In 2007, Graham left his Harmony Farm Supply job to return to Copperfield's, first as a bookseller and later as a manager, a role in which he entertained customers and employees and brought musicians such as Shawn Colvin and Rodney Crowell to perform at the store.

"He was the type of manager who realized that bringing out the guitar on Fridays and singing a few songs made for a fun environment for customers and employees. He was well loved by both," said Vicki DeArmon, Copperfield's events manager.

Since November, Graham had managed Green String Farm in Petaluma's farm store, where colleagues said he had transformed the business.

"The farm store never looked as good as it does right now and it's never run as well as it does right now, and that's all due to how good he was at his job," said Farm Manager Misja Nuyttens.

"He was a uniquely gentle soul," she said, "and he really set an amazing example of patience and professionalism, above all."

Graham's survivors also include his brother Paul Graham of Danville; sister Anne Graham of Martinez; and his children Christine Graham of San Francisco, Patrick Graham of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Alison Graham of Santa Rosa.

A private celebration of life service is planned.

— Jeremy Hay