Thomas H. Gentry in Waipio in 1981.

Developer Gentry
dies after three
years in coma

His Gentry Cos. built more
than 8,000 homes in Hawaii

By Harold Morse

Thomas H. Gentry, 67, prominent housing and business developer left in a longtime coma following a 1994 boat racing accident, died yesterday at his Waialae Iki home.

Chief executive officer and chief shareholder of the Gentry Cos., he was equally well-known for building and racing powerboats, winning a world championship in offshore powerboat racing in 1976, with more championships and speed records to follow.

After the Nov. 13, 1994, boating accident at Key West, Fla., he spent a month in a Florida hospital before being flown back to Hawaii and eventually moved to his Honolulu home in January 1995. He remained unconscious under 24-hour care.

The accident occurred in a powerboat race when his high-speed, 40-foot boat flipped during the Offshore Championships. Gentry had broken a world speed record the month before, driving his UIM Class I offshore powerboat 157.428 mph. Other speed records he set were the Super Vee record of 126.382 mph in 1986 and the Superboat record of 148.329 mph in 1987.

"My dad was the original 'self-made man,'" said Norman Gentry, his oldest son and president of Gentry Pacific, Ltd. "He was unique. He was dynamic. He took and overcame risks, both in business and in sports. He loved the pulse of the business and the intensity of competition.

"My father's energy and drive laid the foundation for the Gentry Cos. We draw upon his spirit and vision every day as we continue to develop communities for the people of Hawaii."

Born in Berkeley, Calif., Gentry studied at the University of Idaho and Ohio State University before earning a bachelor's in civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in 1953.

Gentry started his business from a public telephone booth, parlaying that modest beginning through nonstop effort and ingenuity into a group of companies operating in nine states.

He fell in love with Hawaii on his first visit in 1965 and returned in 1968, formed Gentry Hawaii Ltd. and built his first residential projects in Windward Oahu.

He became one of Hawaii's best-known names in residential and commercial real estate.

Over the past 29 years, Gentry companies developed more than 8,000 homes in Hawaii, including Ewa by Gentry and Waipio by Gentry, and some 6,000 additional homes in the western part of the mainland. He also developed more than 2 million square feet of retail, office and industrial facilities in more than 40 major projects, including the Gentry Business Park at Waipio and Gentry Pacific Design Center at 560 N. Nimitz Highway.

He was a past president of both the Developers Association of Hawaii and Urban Land Institute,

Gentry is survived by wife, Kiana; two sons, Norman and Mark, and three daughters, Tania, Corin and Candes Gentry, all from previous marriages; stepdaughter Angel Vardas; and two grandchildren.

Services will be at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Outrigger Canoe Club, 2909 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki.

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