Bob Tretheway, the longtime leader of Christmas Unlimited, died Tuesday afternoon after several days in hospice care.
Tretheway, 69, had been battling congestive heart disease for years, but he was cheerful when he spoke to The Gazette last week, declaring that when he died, it would be "with cookies in my mouth and ice cream in my hands."
"Our hearts are heavy this afternoon as we lost our beloved executive director of 26 years, Bob Tretheway," said a post on the Christmas Unlimited Facebook page.
"Duty, decency, reliability, honor, dignity, respect: these are all qualities that Bob not only held in high esteem, but practiced every day during his time on this planet," Phillip Tapia wrote on Facebook. Tapia owns Tapia Advertising, which handles marketing and public relations for the nonprofit.
Tapia continued: "He was a larger than life leader that not only inspired me, but he inspired thousands in this community. You are loved and will always be missed."
Christmas Unlimited was founded in 1923 by four women from the southwest part of town and passed hands several times before Tretheway took over in 1991. It's known for its holiday toy distribution as well as other programs, including Operation Back to School, a school supply donation drive.
"He’s helped so many families in this community," Tapia said in a Facebook message. "His compassion and selflessness is legendary and should never be forgotten."
Information about a memorial service will be announced soon, the group's Facebook page said.
Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198