Raymond Fred "Ray" Breitenstein passed away peacefully at his family's Roseville home on August 2, 2020.
Ray was born in San Francisco's St. Luke's hospital on November 5, 1929, the only child of Leonard and Margaret (née Borchers) Breitenstein-both recent immigrants from Germany. When Ray was two, the family moved from San Francisco to the then-bucolic community of Millbrae. (Ray often noted that, at the time of their arrival, there were only 43 homes in the tiny community!) The rural atmosphere helped spark Ray's life-long passion for the outdoors and outdoor activity. Two blocks from home, the undeveloped wilderness of the old Mills Estate beckoned, offering countless hours of hiking, hunting, and fishing. In 1936, the family purchased a substantial parcel of land in NorCal's Franz Valley-nearby the Wine Country town of Calistoga. Regular visits to the "Calistoga" property only served to deepen Ray's connection with nature and outdoor activity.
In 1943, at the age of thirteen, Ray began working at the Millbrae Cabinet Shop-at first on weekends and during vacation time, but the part-time job would later become his career. After graduating from San Mateo High School in 1948, Ray became a full-time woodworker for Millbrae Cabinet's Helmig family. During the Korean conflict, Ray enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served his country honorably, including time in the country of Korea.
In 1957, Ray married Dorothy Nonie Beck, and within several years, they brought two sons into the world: Stephen Robert and Jeffery Fred. The family lived happily in Millbrae until Dorothy's untimely passing in 1978. Ray continued working for Millbrae Cabinet until his retirement at the age of 55. Upon retiring, Ray soon moved to the Franz Valley property and married his second wife, Dorothy Ann Green. Ray and Dorothy shared many happy years together in Franz Valley, as they both shared a passion for a rural lifestyle and local history: Both were deeply involved in volunteer work at Calistoga's Sharpsteen Museum-an institution dedicated to the history of Calistoga and the Upper Napa Valley. Sadly, Dorothy Ann passed in early 2014, after which Ray's son Stephen graciously moved to the property to help care for his dad. Displaced by the Tubbs Fire in 2017, Steve and Ray moved to Roseville, where Ray enjoyed the remaining years of his life.
A gathering in tribute to Ray's life will be held on the family's Franz Valley property sometime in the spring of 2021. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Calistoga's Sharpsteen Museum of Calistoga History.
Published in The San Mateo Daily Journal on Aug. 12, 2020.