Thomas F. Puckett.

RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif.—Colleagues, business partners and family are recognizing the contributions of the late Thomas F. Puckett, founder of the HPC Puckett Advisory Company, who passed away at age 70 on Jan. 27. Puckett was a lawyer and advisor at the center of what was to become the reshaping of much of the U.S. ophthalmic laboratory business in the 1990s and 2000s, up to the present day, when many Rx laboratories were acquired by spectacle lens companies.

More recently, HPC Puckett had shifted a lot of its efforts to representing sellers among eyecare professionals and optical retail businesses as many private equity investors came into and started to invest in the U.S. optical market.  According to Puckett's son, Hunter, managing director of the company, Tom Puckett died after fighting an illness for over a year, remaining as active as he could until recently. 

Puckett is recognized for his strategic role on behalf of selling companies in the evolution of optical suppliers' delivery as well as the fast-changing U.S. optical retail and ECP landscape. Stated Kevin Rupp, former CFO of Essilor of America and chairman of the Essilor Vision Foundation, "Tom helped so many in this industry. He was instrumental to independent labs and eventually ECPs in creating a marketplace that allowed them to maximize value for their lifelong efforts. He was always also a significant contributor to the Essilor Vision Foundation every year. He was a great business partner, a better friend and an outstanding person."

Added Chris Harris, managing partner, FFL Partners, who has worked with Puckett for years on several deals including several recent ones involving FFL's involvement with Eyemart Express and New Look Vision Group, added, "Tom Puckett was a critical figure in the industry, helping others appreciate and understand the business. He played a pivotal role in many such deals; it was a pleasure to know him."

Hunter Puckett said that his father loved golf and loved to ride horses, which he continued to do. "Actually, back in the beginning of his work, which had focused on the telecommunications business,  he had done some legal work in Kansas for some optical practices and my mother had been part of the Duffens family, which owned a major Rx laboratory there. They asked Tom for his advice soon after discussions began with Essilor about a potential purchase, and that's how he got started in optical in a more major way, helping the family business. 

"Duffens Optical was one of the first major wholesale laboratories to be sold, in 1996. And, of course, after that, there were many more labs sold, continuing with Omega, Southern and dozens of others, to Essilor, to Hoya, SOLA and other companies, and the firm represented many on the sell side after that." 

Puckett was recognized by both the cable television and optical industries as an industry leader. In 2003,  Puckett was inducted into the Cable Television Pioneers, was a past member of the board, and an honorary member of the board, too, where he maintained an active role with the Cable Television Pioneers Cable Center located on the campus at the University of Denver.

In 1999,Puckett founded the Optical Pioneers organization, and was chairman or co-chairman of the Optical Hall of Fame Committee at the former Optical Laboratories Association. Puckett was a 2011 inductee into the Optical Pioneers Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the 2015 Director's Choice Award by The Vision Council, for his outstanding contributions to the ophthalmic industry.  

Tom Puckett expanded the advisory business to Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego, in 1987. The company still maintains a Kansas office. Hunter  Puckett joined the firm over 15 years ago.

Puckett was born in Topeka, Kans. He received his Bachelor's degree in business administration from Washburn University in 1974, and a J.D. degree from Washburn's School of Law in 1977. He practiced law in Topeka from 1977 to 1983, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, coupled with an emphasis in specialized taxation, forming HPC Puckett & Company in September 1983. 

In 1987, he  relocated HPC Puckett's corporate office to San Diego. That transition expanded the firm's activities to a national presence, as the company grew its involvement in optical supply, distribution and retail and vision care, and it now serves clients around the U.S.  

Puckett is survived by his wife, Carol Puckett, and the two were married 49 years. Puckett is also survived by Hunter's sister, Lindsay, and their families, including five grandchildren. 

The family is following Puckett's wishes and will not have a formal funeral service or a celebration of life. In lieu of flowers, they are suggesting that donations could be made in Thomas Puckett's name to the St. Jude's Foundation.