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James F. VanHouten


1930 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
James F. VanHouten Obituary
James F. Van Houten
July 22, 1930 - May 10, 2018
Resident of La Selva Beach
Jim Van Houten passed away on May 10, 2018 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was a fifth-generation resident of Santa Cruz County and a descendant of two old Santa Cruz families-Williamson and Linscott. His father, Wendell Van Houten, was in the lumber business in Santa Cruz for 50 years.
Jim attended Mission Hill Middle School and Santa Cruz High School. He graduated from San Jose State College and later, after being in the service, went on to get a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley. At SJSC he enjoyed athletics (wrestling, basketball and track) and fraternity life as a member of Theta Chi. When he returned to college after 4 years of active duty in the Navy, he had a wife and two children and was studying engineering -a totally different experience.
Jim joined the Navy in 1953 and after graduating from officer's candidate school in New Port, RI, he married Eleanor (nee, Johnston) and they took off together to see the world, a career in the military (all over the country) and later, back to school at UC Berkeley.
Jim was a licensed Civil Engineer. His professional career involved working for various Bay Area cities in public works and community development.
Jim's military career continued after being released from active duty, with 25 years in the Naval Reserve. He retired from the Navy in 1982 with the rank of Captain.
Upon retirement from city work, Jim returned to Santa Cruz County where he became active in a number of civic and environmental causes, including the La Selva Beach Park and Recreation District, the Santa Cruz County Local Agency Formation Commission, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Watsonville Wetlands Watch. He was proud of his work, which included the design and construction of the Kirby Park Trail and boardwalk in Elkhorn Slough, the purchase of the "Bluff" in La Selva Beach, the purchase of Tarplant Hill in Watsonville and the long-term preservation of valuable wetlands in the development of the Pajaro Valley High School. In 2016, Watsonville Mayor Felipe Hernandez proclaimed February 2nd as "World Wetlands Day" and "Jim Van Houten Day" to honor Watsonville's ecological treasure and the La Selva Beach resident central to its conservation.
Jim is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ellie, Gus the wonder dog, his sons Douglas (Lori) Eric (Linda) and Tom, his grandchildren Laura Johnson (Max), Kevin, Alec, Milo and Lita, great-grandson Cooper and brother Peter.
A Memorial Service will be held on June 2nd, 2018 at 2:00 pm at the La Selva Beach Clubhouse. If you would like to offer condolences to Jim's family, share your memories and light a candle in his honor, please visit www.scmemorial.com.


View the online memorial for James F. Van Houten
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times from May 13 to May 18, 2018
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