Longtime San Fernando Valley civic leader Gary M. Thomas died Friday morning during a hospital stay for a respiratory ailment.

Thomas was involved in numerous civic affairs and perhaps was best known as the longtime chairman of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley. Among other accomplishments, he was one of the founding chairs of the Valley Economic Alliance, and in 2011 he won the Fernando Award, the Valley’s most significant honor for lifetime volunteerism.

“He was definitely one of the good guys who did everything possible to support children and many other community causes,” said Pegi Matsuda, also a longtime civic leader. “They don’t make business leaders like Gary these days.”

Randy Witt, who chairs the Valley Economic Alliance and who recently became chair of the Fernando Award Foundation, credits Thomas with getting him involved in civic affairs.

“I was one of many, many people inspired by him,” Witt said.

Thomas was senior vice president and creative director of Aaron, Thomas & Associates, a Chatsworth company that specializes in creative consulting, printing and direct mail services to the political sector.

Friends of Thomas said he was admitted to a hospital five weeks ago with a respiratory illness but a few days ago had a setback and passed away Friday morning.

In a 2011 interview, Thomas explained that he was particularly fond of the Boys & Girls Club because it helps give direction and support for youths who sometimes come from challenged homes.

“It’s not just changing that kid,” Thomas was quoted as saying about the Boys & Girls Club. “It’s a generation-changing activity. We’re ending that cycle of poverty for them, for their kids, for their kids’ kids.”