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Tom Hawthorne Passing Photo 22

Hawthorne Cat Founder and Cat Rental Pioneer Tom Hawthorne Dies

March 19, 2022
Hawthorne Cat, the Caterpillar equipment dealer in San Diego, the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific Region, announced the death of company co-founder James Thomas "Tom" Hawthorne on March 10 at the age of 93.

[Obituary provided by the Hawthorne family, edited and posted by Michael Roth, RER]

Hawthorne Cat, the Caterpillar equipment dealer in San Diego, the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific Region, announced the death of company co-founder James Thomas "Tom" Hawthorne on March 10 at the age of 93.

Hawthorne founded Hawthorne Machinery Co. in 1956 with his father, J.B. Hawthorne. Hawthorne led the company as its CEO for the next 50 years. 

Hawthorne was recognized as an icon in the construction markets and a pioneer in the short-term equipment rental business founding Hawthorne Rentals during the 1950s, decades before most Cat dealers entered the short-term rent-to-rent business. He was often referred to as the godfather of the Cat rental program. Hawthorne was also one of the first Cat Dealers to establish a separate and dedicated Power Systems business unit (Hawthorne Power Systems). The company quickly expanded beyond San Diego to Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Islands.

Hawthorne believed that helping a customer succeed in growing his own business should be goal No. 1.

Hawthorne Cat is now in its third and fourth generation of leadership with Tom Hawthorne’s son-in-law Tee Ness as chairman and grandson Dave Ness president/CEO. Hawthorne’s legacy of a commitment to excellence lives on through programs such as the Tom Hawthorne Diesel Technology Center at Miramar College, which grants scholarships to students earning their degree in diesel technology. Also, the Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center sponsored by Interfaith Community Services was designed to help homeless veterans stabilize their lives. In his retirement, Hawthorne started a new company called Toolshed Equipment Rental & Sales with his brothers Paul, Jack, and Gary Hawthorne.

Hawthorne is survived by his wife Margie, daughter Debbie Ness and her husband Tee; daughter Chris Perreault and her husband Steve; daughter-in-law Suzy Hawthorne; sister Kathryn Ireland, brothers Paul, Jack, and Gary Hawthorne and their wives; 10 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his first wife Dorothy and their children Brian, Bruce, Carol, and Linda Hawthorne.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, March 23rd, at The Church at Rancho Bernardo, 11740 Bernardo Plaza Court, San Diego. In lieu of flowers, donations to Interfaith Community Services, Outreach International or Elizabeth Hospice would be appreciated by the Hawthorne family.

Hawthorne Cat is the authorized dealer for Cat construction and power equipment in San Diego, Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, and American Samoa. Hawthorne sells, rents, provides parts and service, training, and emission solutions to various industries including general building construction, landscaping, marine, paving, and power generation. For more on Hawthorne Cat, visit www.hawthornecat.com