When I first met Tom and Cindy Graham, I had no idea what the koi and water garden world meant to them or what their roles were in it.
In the months since we met, however, I have realized that there is a story to be told here.
Tom is one of those lucky few for whom the koi hobby started out as a passion and turned into a job he loved. He became an active member of his local koi club over 25 years ago, and that connection ended up changing his life.
Tom learned about the Koi Club of San Diego (KCSD) from Takemi Adachi, Owner of California Koi Farms. When he and Cindy stopped in at the farm for the first time, Takemi was rushing off to attend a meeting to help create the club and told Tom about it. Tom attended its first meetings, worked its first koi show and won Grand Champion Novice in the club’s second show with a classic Sanke.
He showed fish at every KCSD show thereafter for 25 years, as well as at a number of shows held by other local clubs. He served as President and Koi Show Chairman for the Koi Club of San Diego on more than one occasion. He also served as the official show photographer for KCSD for many years and produced a number of multimedia presentations of the shows for the awards banquets, using slides he shot throughout the events synced to music and multiple slide projectors.
Tom often was not in many photos because he was taking them. He had more cover photos for KOI USA than anyone before or since. Speaking of photos, the Associated Koi Club of America’s (AKCA) Champion of Champion photo contest was Tom’s idea. He had to convince Bob Finnegan and the rest of the AKCA staff that it was doable. It has continued to be a staple event at seminars for years thereafter, and is still an annual contest for AKCA.
With Tom’s convention services back- ground and contacts, he was able to convince AKCA to hold their annual seminar outside of the Los Angeles area by moving it to San Diego in 1990. This was the beginning of the multi-day format for the seminar.
In 1993 at one of the AKCA seminars, they asked Tom to step into the roles of Editor (temporarily), Production Manager and Ad Sales Manager for KOI USA, which he took. As the job demands grew, he recruited his wife Cindy to join him, and she took over layout and design so he could focus on sales. During his tenure, they helped the magazine grow from 60 pages to 148. Cindy even served as (a very popular) Editor for a few years. In total, they produced 90 issues over 15 years.
Tom also created and published the popular KOI ID Poster, sold primar- ily through AKCA, and he sold the Koi Collector’s Pocket Guide directly. Many of his photos and articles have appeared in books, calendars and other magazines over the years.
In 2008 he and his wife, Cindy, ventured out with their own magazine, POND Trade Magazine. As our readers know, it has thrived under their leadership, evolving into the magazine I was proud to purchase from them recently.
Over the years he has kept close contact with businesses in the trade and hobbyists worldwide. He enjoyed going to koi shows wherever he could, from the All Japan Koi Show in Japan to the British Koi Keepers Koi show in England and many dozens of shows throughout the U.S.
Locally, he was instrumental in the development and construction of the 8,000-gallon koi pond at the Japanese Friendship Garden (JFG) in San Diego, and he served on the JFG Board of Directors for many years. It was his vision to have only high-quality koi in the pond and build it to true koi pond specifications, which was unheard of in other public gardens.
Tom has loved talking on the phone and in person at many of your businesses and events around the county. He loves to talk to anyone and everyone who has an interest in koi, water features and pond construction. His largest personal pond totaled over 7,500 gallons and was six feet deep — a true show koi pond.
He also enjoyed working with the International Pond Professional Companies Association (IPPCA), the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society (IWGS), Pondemonium (by Aquascape Inc.), the National Association of Pond Professionals (now part of IPPCA), Pondapalooza (also gone by the wayside) and many clubs and their events. At one time he belonged to three koi clubs and the local water garden society.
After doing ad sales for 20 years, the time has come for Tom to take a break and do things that, hopefully, will not be as stressful. Tom and Cindy continue to help me with the transition and they “wish Lora Lee many successful years to come.”
Tom would love to talk to you and keep in touch.