Remembering Thomas Peake
The healthcare industry lost one of its veterans this week. Our friend and colleague Thomas Peake was vacationing with his wife in the Grand Canyon, and while hiking alone, died from a fall on the Grand Canyon National Park Lava Falls Trail.
Thomas was a copywriter on our staff for many years. He was one of those unique individuals who could grasp the many nuances that define the healthcare industry, particularly from a business-to-business perspective. From case studies to brochures, from ad copy to press releases, from award applications to bylined articles, from Web copy to white papers, Thomas could do it all.
Yet being a great writer wasn’t really what defined Thomas. The fact that he could sort out features from benefits, or zero in on a company’s compelling value proposition—that was only part of it. What continued to amaze me over the years was the creativity and zeal with which he approached each project. He could take the most mundane assignment and breathe life into it. Always positive. Always embracing the challenge.
I remember once when we asked him to develop brochure copy for a middleware company—a company whose products are nearly invisible to the market and a brand that is often set aside in white label negotiations. I couldn’t imagine how to make this brochure interesting and compelling. Thomas suggested we focus on the company’s longer-than-most’s history, and started the brochure this way: “The year is 1983. Swatch watches arrive. Joe Theismann and John Riggins lead the Redskins to a Super Bowl victory. Ewoks and leg warmers are everywhere as Return of the Jedi and Flashdance dominate the box office. And, frustrated with the arcane structure of the existing ICD-9 database, Dr. Paul Tanaka decides on a new approach. He envisions an intuitive system based on a more clinical perspective.” Only Thomas could conceive a lead for a technology brochure that reads like that.
But perhaps my personal favorite writing assignment that captured Thomas’ creativity and skill was for a calendar that featured our client’s computer carts. The concept was called “Great Carts in History” and illustrated many types of carts that had profound impact on society—our client’s carts included, of course. Here’s a bit of Thomas’ prose: “Hay Cart: Thousands of years ago, beta testers thought this hay cart was the coolest thing on wheels since…wheels! (Hottest thing before that? Fire, of course)” And another: “Food cart: Life without steaming sustenance from street food carts wouldn’t be so flavorful. No sweet cheese curds on biscuit dough in Syria? No French fries with mayo and peanut better in Brussels? No hot dogs in NYC?”
This project went on to win awards for copywriting. Only Thomas could tie all that together—humor, intellect, research, creativity, skill.Granted, I only know a small bit of who Thomas was, and reading his memoriam on Facebook, I realize there’s so much more. I will miss Thomas dearly. May he rest in peace.