Peter Thonis was a man of many dimensions: journalist, corporate executive, avid hiker, competitive weightlifter, sports fanatic, news junkie, and devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.
He enjoyed a long and successful career, beginning as a journalist for the Associated Press and later becoming the nation’s youngest editor of a city newspaper (the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel & Enterprise).
He took his journalistic skills to the corporate world, spending 14 years with IBM where he held several senior communications management positions including Director of IBM's worldwide public relations for the PC business. While at IBM, he also led financial communications through the massive transformation of the company’s business model beginning in 1991.
From 1995 to 1997, he worked for BBN Corp, a pioneer in the creation and development of the Internet (including creating the @ symbol used in email addresses), where he served a dual role of Vice President of Communications and Vice President of Marketing until BBN was acquired by GTE. At GTE, he was Vice President of External Communications until it merged with Bell Atlantic in 2000 and became what is now known as Verizon, a name he helped to create and then make a household word.
For most of his 13 years with Verizon, Peter served as Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and a member of the Verizon Leadership Council, the 12 seniormost executives responsible for developing and leading the implementation of the company’s strategy and operations. As CCO, he was responsible for all internal and external communications, stakeholder relations, crisis management and brand management.
Peter received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career including “Communicator of the Year” from the International Association of Business Communicators and was ranked by industry trade publication PR Week as one of the 50 most powerful people in Public Relations for three consecutive years between 2011 and 2013.
After retiring from Verizon in 2013, he launched a consulting practice, providing his expertise to a wide range of companies and organizations such as the Obama White House, New York Genome Center and Boston Bar Association. Peter was also an adjunct professor of communications at New York University, was a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, and served on the board of NYC Outward Bound.
Concurrently, he served as a volunteer and guide for the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), sharing his passion and expertise in hiking with the greater public. His deep, broad knowledge of the White Mountains, combined with his history of participating in search and rescue missions, proved invaluable to the AMC, friends, family, and hikers at large. Peter may have had a gratifying and distinguished career, but his heart was in the mountains and the woods of New Hampshire.
Peter died on Thursday, November 9, 2023 in Care Dimensions Hospice Residence in Lincoln, MA, after a heroic battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72.
He was born June 14, 1951 in Leominster, MA, a son of the late George and Lucille (Poitras) Thonis. Raised in Townsend, MA, he graduated from North Middlesex Regional High School and attended Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications on a full wrestling scholarship, graduating in 1973 with a dual bachelor's degree in communications and English. Peter then earned his master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.
He leaves his wife, Susan M. Tardanico; his children, Christopher H. Thonis (Robin) of Park Ridge, IL and Alexandra E. Thonis (Craig) of Sudbury, MA; his grandchildren, Aiden Jack, Hudson Knox and Ash Wylder; his former wife and mother of his children, Anne (Dennis) Thonis of Asheville, NC; his siblings, Michael Thonis (Susan) of Wellesley, MA, Paul Thonis (Natalie) of Corning, NY, James Thonis (Kathie) of Milford, NH and Michelle Ryan (Steven) of N. Chelmsford, MA; his mother-in-law, Anne (Lioce) Tardanico of Hudson, MA; in-laws, Gregory Tardanico of La Conner, WA, Lisa Shivo (Dennis) of Clinton, MA, Karen Rawson (David) of Gallatin Gateway, MT and Andrea Dullea of Manassas, VA; also survived by many nieces and nephews.
All services will be private.
Honor Peter’s memory with a tax deductible contribution to The Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund at www.oldmannh.org.