Thomas McKey Elder, Jr., a former school principal and teacher in the Hesperia Unified School District, died Sunday, April 26, at his son's home in Apple Valley. He was 88 years old.


Tom was a lifelong resident of So.Cal, graduating from San Bernardino High School and Valley College. He served four years as a photographer in the Army Air Corp. After his discharge in 1946, he married Elizabeth Meador of Oklahoma City, who preceded him in death in 2004 after 58 years of marriage.


After graduating from the School of Theology at USC, Tom realized his true calling was in education. He obtained a BA and Teaching Credential from Whittier College, an Administrative Credential and MA in Educational Psychology from Long Beach State College, and completed his coursework for an RSW and Ed.D from USC.


For 30 years, Tom worked as a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent for the Hesperia School District. He was a founder of the Hesperia Teacher's Association, began the district's computerized instruction program in the 1970s, and worked tirelessly to improve teacher-training and curriculum. He was involved with Boy Scouts, Wranglers, Little League, Kiwanis, Phi Delta Kappa, SB Co. School Administrators Assoc, and Retired Teachers Assoc.


After retiring from the school district, Tom served for 20 years on the Victor Valley Community College Board. He was a founding board member of High Desert Homeless Services. He was able to spend more time on his love of gardening, photography, and sailing. He read scientific books and magazines profusely and decided to study calculus at age 80. Tom was deeply involved in education his entire life and felt that "learning how to think and act in a positive manner is the most important job a person ever has."


Tom is survived by his children and their spouses, Thomas M. III and Cindy Elder, Christopher and Candee Elder, Patricia and Tom Radi, Diane and Don Sill, 9 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandsons.


A celebration of Tom Elder's life will be held on Sunday, May 31, at 2 p.m. in the Regency Room at Sterling Inn, 17738 Francesca Road, Victorville.


In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Thomas and Elizabeth Elder Endowment Fund, administered by the Victor Valley College Foundation, 18422 Bear Valley Road, Victorville, CA, 92395. This fund has been established by the family to provide scholarships to students entering the teaching profession.