By Rick Radin | East Bay Times
EL CERRITO — To say that Tom Panas was an obvious candidate for El Cerrito’s Wall of Fame that honors residents for “above and beyond” contributions to the community is to risk understatement.
Panas, who was named to the select group in July, has been a key instigator of the city’s growing commitment to preserving its history, architectural and otherwise. He has also worked for years to improve residents’ quality of life with his service on El Cerrito’s New Library Committee that is trying to help the city build a larger state-of-the-art facility to replace the antiquated existing structure.
“I think Tom has been a remarkable asset to the community,” said Grace MacNeill, a retired El Cerrito branch librarian and a colleague on the New Library Committee
Panas, 63, moved to El Cerrito from his hometown of Santa Rosa in 1975, when he began working on his master’s degree in business at UC Berkeley. Soon after, he began taking an interest in civic affairs, particularly historical preservation. …
Panas began fighting to preserve what was left of El Cerrito’s historical resources, working with state and federal authorities to identify and protect significant structures.
He was successful in placing the Chung Mei Home for Chinese Boys on Elm Street on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the building was modified in recent years to house a private school, its designation as a historic district preserves the integrity of the role it once played. …