Richard ‘Dick’ Robenalt

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.11.08 PMDec. 7, 1926 – July 20, 2014

Richard C. ‘Dick’ Robenalt died of multiple health problems after a 2½-year decline. He was born in Lima, Ohio, in the midst of the Great Depression to Carson Buchanan Robenalt and Esther Elizabeth Schnell Robenalt, the oldest of four brothers. He credited his mother for the practical life skills he learned and his father for his inventiveness and creativity. He learned farming skills from his aunt and uncle at their farm near Toledo where his family would frequently visit. He learned responsible work habits and discipline at an early age, delivering 12 different newspapers to various parts of town at the age of 13.

At the beginning of WWII, when he was 16, he worked part-time on war munitions for two years. In October 1944, he left Lima for Alabama to help his aunt and uncle bring in their pecan harvest after they had been in a car accident. He was drafted into the U.S. Army on March 20, 1945, and went to Ft. McClennan, Ala., for basic training, then on to six weeks parachute school training at Ft. Benning, Ga. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne and finished his training at Ft. Bragg, N.C. He received an honorable discharge at the end of 1946 and went on inactive reserve status.

After a brief visit with relatives in Lima, he headed West to join his parents in Santa Cruz. He used his G.I. stipend to start a chicken-raising business which went well for about a year until a poultry disease wiped out all of his flock. He became intrigued with horses and bought a horse, teaching himself how to ride. He applied for a job at the polo field in San Mateo as a groomsman. His interest in and affection for horses grew as he got to know them and, at one point, he expressed interest in enrolling into veterinary school. He came to Davis in 1949 and enrolled at UC Davis as a pre-vet major.

He was called to active duty from inactive reserve status and on Dec. 7, 1950, his 24th birthday, he shipped out from Seattle Harbor to Korea for a year, postponing his education. In 1956, he received his master’s degree in nutrition with his research paper titled “The Thiamine Requirements of Young Turkey Poults.” He received several requests worldwide for reprints of his paper, the basis for his membership in the Sigma Xi Society, a scientific research society for which he was associate secretary for several years.

After three unsuccessful attempts to get into vet school, he went to work for the UC Davis Veterinary School as a Staff Research Assistant in 1956 and was a teaching assistant to freshman veterinary students. He worked in the Anatomy Department and became a micro- and neuro-anatomist and an expert at making teaching slides, having charge of the histotechnique lab. Many slides he made over the years are still in use today. Richard was proud of his work at the university and considered it a privilege to work with vet students in a teaching capacity. He retired from UC Davis in 1990 with 33½ years of service.

Richard was a lifelong learner and enjoyed crossword puzzles. He held many interests and varying jobs that kept him active and busy. He was very adventurous in his younger days, having worked in jobs as varied as caring for polo ponies; working as a cowboy; buying, selling and hauling cattle; and working in a feedlot near Dixon. He belonged to an autocross racing club in which he raced his MGA. At the university, he worked at the garage part-time as a student and sometimes drove busloads of students to games.

He was Vice President in charge of Buildings And Grounds and, later, President of the Davis Parent Nursery School. He was an active elder and deacon in the Davis Community Church and headed the Usher Committee, ushering and greeting with his wife, Linda. He was one of several members of the church sextons, rising early on many a Sunday morning and on other occasions to tend the duties of preparing the church building for services and other events. Richard and Linda were also active participants in the Master and Mates Mariners Group.

Richard enjoyed traveling on Globus and Trafalgar tours with his wife as long as his health allowed. They also enjoyed several road trips to points in California (Sierra City every spring and Fort Bragg every fall for many years) and to different parts of the U.S. They enjoyed numerous train trips, some of which involved the National Railway Historical Society to which they belonged. Richard came from a railroad background and was particularly interested in vintage railcars and various steam engines. He saw the 4449 when it was on the erecting floor in the shop in Lima. He was 13 years old at the time and could not know then that it would become the engine that pulled the American Freedom Train in 1976. Richard belonged to several railroad organizations and, although not active in all of them, he supported them financially as an important part of his legacy.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Richard and Linda enjoyed going out to dinner frequently and purchased season tickets for the plays and Sacramento Symphony concert series on the UC Davis campus.

Richard was proud of his one-quarter Scottish heritage (Buchanan) and decided to join the Clan Buchanan Society in 1999. Since then, he has been a frequent participant at the Scottish Games in Woodland and later, when he joined the Dixon Scottish Cultural Association, he enjoyed the games at the Dixon Fairgrounds.

He was known for his wit and charm, his quirky and gentle sense of humor and wisdom, his kind disposition, generosity to causes he believed in, loyalty and commitment to family and friends, and endless patience. He was also known for his beautiful, expressive blue eyes. Some of his favorite quotes and sayings were: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; “Don’t sweat the small stuff”; and a paraphrase of “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink…” — Dick’s version: “You can lead a person to logic, but you can’t make them think.”

Richard was proud of his heritage, his family, his military service and his work at the university. He had a long and good life. He was a very good man and a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 42 years, Linda; daughters, Leona Berger of Stratton, Colo., Susie Hedrick (Ben) of Winters and Laurie Brocksen (Stan) of Payson, Ariz.; son, Steve Robenalt (Monique) of Cameron Park; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild; brother, Stanley Robenalt of Belmont; two nephews and several nieces; cousins; and numerous friends. He is predeceased by his son, William, and two brothers, Donald and Karl.

Now he rests in the loving arms of the Lord.

The family wishes to express their heartfelt gratitude to the nurses, staff and volunteers of Yolo Hospice for the loving and expert care provided to Richard during his illness. Funeral services have already occurred. A Celebration of Life service will be held at Davis Community Church, 412 C St., Davis, at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

Special to The Enterprise

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