Thomas Keesling Sr., a longtime travel agency owner and a past president of ASTA, died Sunday. He was 88.
Keesling's led ASTA in the 1971-1972 term, according to the Society, and he held multiple roles at ASTA over the years, including general chairman of the 37th World Travel Congress in Athens. He was active in the Pacific Area Travel Association and sat on President Richard Nixon's National Tourism Resources Review Commission.
He founded Travel Associates in 1960 and operated the agency until 2001, when he sold it to a South African company, according to a statement from Travel Experts; after a brief retirement, Keesling affiliated with Travel Experts via a Denver-based agency, Tom Keesling Travel.
He was a consultant to China International Travel Service for nearly 20 years and to Abercrombie & Kent, and he sat on Seabourn's first President's Advisory Board.
He was known for his skill in escorting groups in places like Africa and Asia, Travel Experts said.
From the archives: Keesling's Travel Associates was named in our report on Conde Nast Traveler's travel specialists list, in 2000
Keesling's son, Frank, said in the statement that his father liked to tell everyone "Tom Keesling Travel's work starts when the airplane stops."
"Tom Keesling lived a huge and varied life," Susan Ferrell, owner and president of Travel Experts, said in the statement, and she called him "one of the industry's icons and a truly lovely and humble man."
He is survived by three sons, Tom Keeling Jr., Frank and James, and seven grandchildren. The family requested that contributions in his memory be made to the family's nonprofit organization, Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund.