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Rex Dietderich

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Rex Dietderich

Jul. 13, 1924 – Nov. 7, 2013


Rex was a man of many gifts, and with many passions.  He was born as Ellsworth Eidenmuller, changing his name when he was 27 to honor the beloved stepfather who raised him, Dr. Clifford Dietderich.  In 1941, Rex entered UC Berkeley as a 16 year-old pre-med student, but by 1943 he was headed for Europe with the 648th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  He fought first in France, where he was wounded, and when he recovered he was assigned to the liberation of Nordhausen, a Nazi work camp where he witnessed horrors he would never forget, as his 6-man detail was assigned the job of burying countless dead bodies with bulldozers.  Rex earned several medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.


Rex returned to UC Berkeley to complete a B.A. in Economics in 1949, after which he worked for Wells Fargo Bank.  In 1952 he married Shirley Rohlfing, who was the love of his life and his partner in many adventures.  Their children, Jean and Frank, often joined them on memorable backpacking and skin-diving trips.  It was also in the year 1952 that Rex began a distinguished career as a Firefighter and eventually a Captain in the Berkeley Fire Department.  He was proud to say that in his 29 years of service, not a single firefighter under his direction or command was injured.  He was a wonderful storyteller, often sharing amazing stories about his experiences during World War II and during his fire-fighting career.  After his retirement, Rex and Shirley celebrated by hiking the John Muir Trail, 210 miles from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. He also built a fishing boat with a jet pump, with which he and Shirley caught salmon that they supplied to Spenger's Restaurant in Berkeley. 


A wonderful singer (basso!), Rex was often involved in local opera, and  also was a fine sculptor who completed many excellent works, including a bust of his son Frank as a child that is a family treasure.


Rex was a fine athlete, as Shirley still is.  Rex favored marathons, while Shirley remains a sprinter and discus thrower.  They competed in track and field events around the world, collecting literally trunks full of medals.  Until not so long ago, Rex could be seen jogging up Marin Avenue in Berkeley, from the very bottom to the very top.  


Rex is survived by his beloved Shirley; son Frank of Berkeley, CA;  daughter Jean Myers (Greg) of Gilroy, CA; granddaughter Rebecca Myers of Napa, CA;  grandsons Bryan Myers, Gilroy, CA and Jeff (Debi) Myers; great-grandchildren Alyssa, Luke, and Kelly of Paeonian Springs, VA; brothers Bill Eidenmuller (Luz) of Hermosa, CA and Dr. Jerry Eidenmuller (Joan) of Santa Ana, CA; cousins Bill Helfrich of Indian Wells, CA, Susan Curry (Dick) of Orinda, CA, and Suzie Curtiss (David) of San Francisco, CA.


Rex's family would like to thank all the personnel at The Berkshire, where he lived for the past three years, for their excellent care and sincere love for Rex and Shirley.


A Memorial Service is planned for Monday, December 16 at the Brazilian Room, Tilden Park, Berkeley.  In lieu of flowers, donations to VITAS (Hospice), 355 Lennon Lane, Suite 150, Walnut Creek, CA, or to The Alzheimer Foundation (https://secure3.4agoodcause.com/afa/fundraisers/memorial1.aspx), would be greatly appreciated.


Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 13, 2013
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