Thomas W. Cain
For more than two decades, Judge Thomas W. Cain '70, J.D. '73 stayed one step ahead of cancer as the disease ravaged his body, all while overseeing some of Silicon Valley's most colorful estate cases. But after 27 surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, the popular Santa Clara County Superior Court judge succumbed on Jan. 11, 2014, at age 65.
At Cain's request, no memorial service will be held. Instead, he asked friends and colleagues to honor his memory by performing a random act of kindness.
"Tom was a great person," Presiding Judge Brian C. Walsh said in a written statement. "He was uncomplainingly helpful to all of his colleagues," and known for "his indelible spirit, optimism and kindness."
In his 24 years on the bench, Cain never put in for a particular judicial assignment, such as criminal courts or probate, as most judges do. Instead, he'd always write on the annual request form, "Where ever the presiding judge needs me," Walsh said.
Recently, Cain presided over two high-profile probate cases. One was the dispute over Monte Sereno millionaire Ravi Kumra's estate after he was slain in a botched robbery at his mansion. The other was the showdown between painter Thomas Kinkade's estranged wife and his live-in girlfriend. The women in the Kinkade matter wound up reaching a secret settlement. In the Kumra case, Cain ruled that two school-age daughters of a former prostitute not connected to his slaying were, in fact, Kumra's biological children and entitled to a monthly family allowance.
Cain was appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian in late 1989 after working as a lawyer in the Santa Clara County Counsel's Office. But he didn't just preside over legal cases. He also helped decide cooking competitions long before the Food Network made such contests popular. As a certified "Kansas City Barbecue Judge," he judged the "Jack Daniels' World Invitational Barbecue Competition" in Lynchburg, Tenn.
An avid cook, the judge also won an award from Sunset magazine for his salmon recipe. The magazine published the judge's recipe for oven-baked "Oriental Fish and Chips" in the August 1996 edition, complimenting him for his "striking presentation" of "potato-encrusted fish with a confetti of red and yellow bell peppers topped with steamed asparagus spears brushed with olive oil and browned under the broiler." "Cooking was his passion," his sister Pat Thompson said.
Cain was born in Maryland in 1948 and moved to San Jose with his family in 1956. He was the oldest of three children and the only boy. Elected class president at one point, he decided at an early age to become a lawyer, Thompson said.
"You never wanted to play Monopoly with him because he could B.S. his way through anything, which is important for being a lawyer," she said.
Last year, he received an award for outstanding service to the probate bar from by the Silicon Valley Bar Association. During his career, he also served as an instructor at Lincoln University School of Law and guest instructor in Southern Russia in a program sponsored by the American Bar Association.
Cain loved sports, so much so that he'd watch soccer even if it was broadcast on a foreign language station. He also attended spring training in Arizona for the Giants and the A's every season.
He died Saturday at his Willow Glen home, surrounded by his family. He is survived by wife Terri (who recently retired as director of court services), son Josh and daughter Alessandra '14 (and their mother, judge Vanessa Zecher B.A. '84, J.D. '87); sisters Pat and Jan, mother Mary Jane; stepchildren Anthony, Troy and Sara and grandchildren Elsa, Madica, Taylor and Dylan.
At Cain’s request, instead of a memorial service, he asked friends and colleagues to honor his memory by performing a random act of kindness. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, a contribution to his memory be made to Optimal Hospice in Santa Clara. Any sympathy notes may be sent to Campus Ministry which will be forwarded to the family.
submitted Jan. 16, 2014 10:29A