Thomas Vliet Lenz died peacefully in his sleep Monday, Feb. 18, at his home in Las Vegas, with family members present, at age 101 after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer. He was born July 22, 1917, in Philadelphia to Thomas Kane and Sarah “Sadie” Virginia (Vliet) Lenz. He was raised in Pasadena, Calif., and graduated from Pasadena Junior College in 1939.
Lenz worked for several months as a geology assayer in Searchlight, Nevada, and returned before World War II to install aircraft engines at North American Aviation and Lockheed aircraft factories. He and co-workers took flying lessons, and often traveled to the Mojave Desert, an area he loved throughout his life.
He entered the U.S. Army in 1943 and was awarded the Expert Rifleman medal. He served in the Army’s 548 Ordnance company in Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of the Rhineland and, after being transferred to Gen. Patton’s Third Army, the liberation of
western Czechoslovakia. He was honorably discharged in 1946.
After the war, he worked for Pacific Gas and Electric and other utility companies. In spare time, he built an inboard-engine fiberglass motorboat, which he sailed to Catalina Island.
He received his business degree in the 1950s at Mexico City College, where he also climbed Mexico’s three highest mountain peaks. He toured Yucatan with college friend Spencer Giffords, the late father of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Lenz returned to southern California and married his wife Alexandra on May 5, 1962. He worked in San Francisco — and helped build a still-used bridge in Marin County — while an investment advisor and securities broker with close friend Clarence Yee.
Lenz moved to Del Mar, California, in 1969. After retiring, he published two books about computers and the stock market. He moved his family in 1979 to Spring Creek, Nevada, where he and Alex continued their love for planting trees. They moved to Las Vegas in 2005 to assist his mother-in-law, Frances.
Even in his final months, he enjoyed exploring science, especially physics and astronomy, as well as history and desert geology. His stories, wonderful humor and love of family will be missed.
He was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Leanor Beatrice Ross.
He is survived by his wife Alex; sons Mark (Jill Rummler-Lenz) Lenz and Eric Lenz; granddaughters Amy (Iván) Rios and Nicole Lenz; and many dear members from the family of his late nephew and best friend, Grant Ross.
Inurnment is planned this spring at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada.