Thomas Anthony Santesteban

November 8, 1949March 17, 2019

Thomas Anthony Santesteban, 69, rode into the sunset on March 17th, 2019 in the comfort of home hospice in Peoria, AZ.

While renal failure was ultimately Tom’s cause of death; there is much more to share about his cumulatively rich existence. Tom, or “Tommy”, was born several weeks premature in Winslow, AZ on November 8, 1949, to parents Ruth and Anthony Santesteban. This was the first time that the theme of “underdog” would emerge in his colorful life. A few years following the death of his father when he was less than 2 years of age, Tom, his older brother, Fred and his mother and his stepfather, Jim Attebery, moved to Phoenix. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, particularly one with Tom’s energy. Both his maternal and paternal grandparents, Mary and Clarence Burgess and Mica and Fernando Santesteban, in addition to his mother’s 3 sisters: Betty, Mary Lou, Wilma and their spouses lent an influential hand in his rearing. This would come into play particularly after the passing of Tom’s mother, Ruth, when he was 18.

Perhaps fueled by his struggle to overcome an early reading delay, he not only mastered the art of reading/writing, but became the first person in his family to attend college. He would later earn a Bachelor’s degree, 2 Masters degrees and a Ph.D. in Education that both prepared and propelled his lifelong career in Arizona public education and service, including his position as President of the Student National Education Association. During his career, he held a position with the Arizona School Boards Association, taught Special Education at Lookout Mountain Elementary in the Washington School District, became an Assistant Principal at Copperwood Elementary, and spent nearly a decade as an Assistant Superintendent for Personnel with the Peoria School District.

Tom had many loves and hobbies during his life, including listening to music and playing the guitar and the drums, watching movies, the art of debate (as many reading this well know), the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, pouring over magazines and keeping up on current events, dapper dressing, and a general penchant and appreciation for the finer things in life.

There were several people whom he loved above all else. Throughout his life, women played a central and formidable role. From 1978 to 2000, Tom was married to Pam (Turner) Santesteban. Together, they created successful co-dissertations and a child. In 1981, he became a father to his only child and daughter, Austin (Santesteban) Fairbourn in whom he instilled a curiosity for learning and a love of the arts. The last 14 years of his life were spent in a loving, and intellectually stimulating relationship full of laughter with his partner, Julie Smock. It should be noted that Tom also enjoyed a special relationship with Julie’s daughter, Alison Smock, M.D. whom he admired as much for her kind heart as her doctor’s coat. In the end, he lived to welcome a granddaughter, Turner Marie Fairbourn – one of the few people who was his equal in both the strong will and sass departments.

He is also is survived by his stepfather, Jim Attebery, his brother, Fred and sister-in-law, Debbie, his step-siblings, Jim and Kacie, his nieces, Jenny and Katie, and his son-in-law, Charlie Fairbourn.

One of the defining characteristics of Tom was his unbelievable will to live, and his ability to overcome staggering physical odds. He was faced with a gamut of illnesses including, cancer, heart attack, brain aneurysm, and diabetes. For many, any one of these issues would have proven grave, but not for Tom. If a cat has 9 lives (and by the way, he had no great love of cats . . .), then Tom had a baker’s dozen. His family especially wishes to thank his long time oncologist, Dr. Jeffrey Isaacs, for his excellent care. For the last several years of Tom’s life, diabetes and associated dialysis treatments made things complicated. Visits to the hospital became more frequent than road trips to his favorite place - Sedona. Facing additional and potentially untreatable physical challenges, Tom made the brave decision to voluntarily discontinue dialysis, and live out his remaining days on his own terms. His decision was supported by his loved ones, and he spent the last week of his life in home hospice, fawned over by family and friends. In true Tom fashion, he spent the week enjoying all things forbidden by the diabetic diet: chocolate milkshakes, fried rice, Japanese beer, chimichangas, orange juice, donuts. . .and yes, more chocolate milkshakes.

A private celebration of his life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to University of Arizona Cancer Center, ,, or the Peoria Education Foundation,


No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.

Thomas Anthony Santesteban

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Brenda (Punki) Compton (Newcomb)

April 17, 2019

I have not seen Tom in years but still have such vivid memories of elementary and high school, and 39th Drive! He was a wonderful friend and neighbor. Such a kind heart and I was so elated to hear of his successes. The world needs more Tom Santestebans. RIP my friend.

Linda Youngs

March 27, 2019

Tom & I both attended Alhambra High School in the 60's. I actually became friends with Tom when I would go to the neighborhood grocery store for my mom after school and would talk to Tom while he bagged my groceries. Many years later, Tom & I worked together at Washington School District until I transferred to Peoria Unified School District. I came in to work one day and Tom had been hired to work on a special project for the superintendent. He & I ended up sharing an office and we continued our friendship. In fact, he came in one day from a tour of one of the schools and I noticed his very red cheeks. Having worked in an emergency room, I encouraged Tom to visit a doctor. Unfortunately, my suspicion became reality when he was diagnosed with lupus. When my husband was hurt in a horrible accident, it was Tom, then an Asst. Superintendent, who helped me work through some of the issues with Workman's Compensation. Tom always had a smile and a cheerful greeting for me even on tough days. I am so sorry to hear of his passing, but so typical of Tom to do it on his own terms!