May 8, 1927 - Jan. 8, 2013
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A loving husband, father and grandfather, a dedicated engineer, a relentless practical joker, an unwavering Christian. That was Richard Ray DeBolt. Most of his friends knew him as "Pete."
He tested the limits of body and mind into his twilight years. Nearing retirement, he took up marathon running, a sport of solitude that suited him. He returned to college to get a master's degree at Cal State-Chico in "Medieval Thought Patterns," a degree of his own making.
He ran until his legs gave out, and read, wrote and sang until he could no more.
In his waning years, he spoke often of his final adventure, meeting his Maker in Heaven. That journey began Tuesday, Jan. 8, when he died in his sleep at Courtside Cottages in Vacaville, spending his final hours with family by his side. He was 85.
He was born in Ponca City, Okla., on May 8, 1927 but California was home. He migrated to Richmond with his beloved mother, Liberty Elizabeth (Matson) DeBolt following the untimely death of his father, Franklin.
He attended Richmond High School - where he ran for office with the slogan: "Don't be a nut, vote for DeBolt." He graduated a semester early in 1944 and, at age 17 against the wishes of his mother, joined the war effort enlisting in the United States Navy, eventually earning the rank of ETMEc.
After his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1946, he enrolled at UC Berkeley where he earned his bachelor's (1951) and master's (1954) degrees in mechanical engineering. There, as an undergrad, he met the love of his life, Phyllis Longfield. The two were married 60 years and had four children.
DeBolt loved a good practical joke, once staying up all night to sew the button holes of his fellow Navy man's uniform shut. The next morning's roll call was quite a laugher.
A turning point in his life came in 1970 when he accepted Christ as his savior and joined Fairmede Neighborhood Church in Richmond. DeBolt and his family enjoyed many happy years of worship and fellowship there. His conversion came after attending Bible Study Fellowship classes, which he would later lead.
A lifelong learner, DeBolt had a strong interest in Middle English and was fond of saying he learned the language on the "University of AC Transit" during his daily commute to and from Chevron. That interest led to his master's degree at Chico State.
DeBolt worked as an engineer at Chevron in Richmond, San Francisco and San Ramon for 32 years, retiring in 1986. He was a problem-solver who frequently traveled to refineries across the country and around the world helping their engineers diagnose and fix malfunctions they were having with their systems. He had previously worked for Shell Oil in Torrance and Houston, Texas.
Funeral service with military honors and rendered by the United States Navy Honor Guard were held in a private service on Jan. 14 at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon.
He is survived by his wife, Phyllis of Vacaville; four children, Paul DeBolt of Vacaville, Suzanne Moore of Martinez, Kathyrn DeBolt of Poway, Sandra Liddicoat of Vacaville, and seven grandchildren, Emily, Alec, David, Jessica, Michelle, Megan and Nicole.
In lieu of gifts, please send donations to the Mission Solano Rescue Mission, PO Box 8, Fairfield, CA 94533.
Published in The Reporter on Feb. 17, 2013