Ex-National owner dies on Reno trip

Tom Coleman was a major player for 50 years in Nevada City

 Steve Cottrell

Nevada City Advocate

Thomas Allen Coleman

Feb. 18, 1938 – June 26, 2018

Thomas Allen Coleman, 80, former owner of the National Hotel in Nevada City, died June 26 of a massive heart attack while in Reno, Nevada. He was the best friend any community could hope to have and his death leaves a void that will not soon be filled.

Tom is survived by Ernestine Kehn, his partner of nearly 30 years; his son, Clark, and daughter, Carrisa, and Ernie’s son, Jim, daughter, Jamie, and grandsons Jack and Miles.

Tom’s death occurred just days before he was scheduled to ride down Broad Street, smiling and waving to the crowd as Grand Marshal of the Independence Day Parade. Seated in the lead carriage, however, was Ernie –– the love of his life –– who, until the hotel was sold earlier this year, managed the bar and restaurant while Tom ran the upstairs operation. To the end, Tom and Ernie were partners in business and partners in life.

When he purchased the National Hotel from Dick and Nan Ness in the fall of 1979, Tom became owner of the building in which his Terra Alta Real Estate firm had been conducting business for several years. And although Tom continued to maintain the real estate office during his early years as the hotel’s owner, he eventually closed shop and concentrated on being the hospitality kingpin that most people think of when they hear his name mentioned.

Although much of Tom’s marketing focus was designed to attract tourists, he always reminded locals, “This is your hotel, too. I’m just the guy paying the mortgage right now.”

He was active in the community for more than half a century –– a Rotarian, Elk and longtime Nevada City Chamber of Commerce director –– and served on more volunteer committees and received more awards than space allows.

If any organization or person needed help, Tom was there to donate money, rooms, meals and whatever else it took to help a good cause. He was the kind of person every community needs, but few can lay claim to.

It’s often said and written at times like this that there will never be another citizen like the one who has just passed. Sometimes that’s polite praise and sometimes an embellishment for the sake of the family. But when it comes to Thomas Allen Coleman, it is the truth.

A community celebration of Tom’s life will be held at the Nevada City Elks Lodge on Saturday, July 14, beginning at 2 p.m. The lodge is located on State Highway 49, just west of town.

Bruce Bradley contributed to this story.

Thomas Allen Coleman

Feb. 18, 1938 – June 26, 2018