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Austin attorney, businessman, philanthropist dies at 63
Austin Business Journal staff
Austinite Robert Thomajan, 63, died in a plane crash in the Florida panhandle on Monday. He was a founder of Austin-based wine store Grape Vine Market.
Thomajan and Jack Nyce of Horseshoe Bay-based Nyce Flight Services were the only two people on board the twin-engine Piper Aztec when it crashed about 40 miles northeast of Pensacola, Okaloosa County authorities say.
The men were flying from Marianna, Fla., to Lockhart when the plane disappeared from radar screens at nearby Eglin Air Force Base Monday afternoon. Private citizens discovered the plane's debris, according to Rick Hord, public information officer for the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
Hord says the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
Thomajan founded Grape Vine Market, located at 7938 Great Northern Blvd., with partners Chuck Huffaker and Steve Savina in May 1999.
Savina says Thomajan will be "sorely missed and remembered forever."
"Without the input of Robert Thomajan, Grape Vine Market would not be here," Savina says. "His sagacity allowed him not only to create innovative retail ideas but to solve and act on problems while most ordinary people would still be isolating the problem.
"He was a doer, not a thinker, only because he had thought about it, figured it out and was doing it before anyone else was done thinking about it. Make no mistake, though, he was not a micromanager. Although he demanded the best from all of us, he was more than willing to listen to any concerns no matter how minor."
Steve Hicks, chairman of Austin private investment firm Capstar Partners LLC, says his friendship with Thomajan reaches back about seven years.
"He certainly was one of the smartest businessmen I've ever known," Hicks says. "Anything he did, he attacked with his heart and soul."
Hicks says he and Thomajan were not only neighbors in Austin, but also on the island of St. Bart's, where they each had second homes.
"[Thomajan] was really loved down there," Hicks says. "In the last two years or so, he had learned how to speak French and he was doing some law work there. He had a real love for that island; it's something we both shared."
Thomajan, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., moved to Austin in 1986 to extend the presence of his New York-based law firm Milgrim Thomajan & Lee. Thomajan was an active supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Austin Lyric Opera, Ballet Austin, Meals on Wheels and St. David's Toast of the Town event.
Memorial services for Thomajan will be held Sunday at Cook Walden at 6100 N. Lamar at 10:30 a.m.