Richard D. Dettman passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, March 21, 2021 surrounded by his family. A few days before his passing he shared that there were two things he wanted his family and friends to know. One was that he loved his wife, Patricia and their daughters and second, he loved being a champagne maker and enjoyed his adventures and colleagues in the wine industry.
Richard was born on September 18, 1930 in Gary, Indiana to Anne Gillen and Walter Dettman. Richard attended Concordia High School, a Lutheran military school that accounted for his response of "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" to his superiors throughout his life. Richard spent a year at Valparaiso University in Indiana before moving to California to be with family.
In 1950 the Korean war started and Richard was drafted, not quite kicking and screaming. Basic training was at Fort Ord or as he called it "Fog Ord" in Monterey, California. After completing eight weeks of training, he was transferred to Cook and Bakers School and became a cook.
Christmas 1951 was spent on board a troop ship, the General Walker, heading for the far east. However, the ship docked on the island of Okinawa where he was stationed for 18 months. There he served in an anti-aircraft artillery group and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and was "First Cook." His mess hall served 140 men and while there achieved the honor of "Best Mess of the Island" by the Surgeon General of the Island of Okinawa.
Upon Richard's return to St. Helena, he became a short order cook at Donaldson's restaurant on Main Street. After the death of Mr. Donaldson the restaurant closed, and Richard became a merchant seaman in 1952 with the Military Sea Transport System. He held a variety of positions while on board various ships which included galley man, pot washer, pantryman on the General Sultan and General E.D. Patrick, as well as a deck hand on the General Shanks. He made trips to Hawaii, Guam, Philippines, Taiwan, Okinawa and Japan through his service. This deployment lasted for two years, then Richard returned to college at UC Davis, majoring in Food Technology.
During that summer, Richard found employment aboard a converted World War LST and headed for the Arctic. This summer employment, on the Marion County, went over the top of Alaska to a radar station located at Barter Island, close to the Canadian border. Later in the Army Reserve, Richard was promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant and completed an eight-year obligation of service requested by President Harry Truman.
After that summer, circumstances caused Richard to leave UC Davis and seek employment. He was a house painter when he was offered the opportunity to work for Christian Brothers Winery in 1958. After a probationary period at Mont La Salle in Napa, he moved to Greystone in St. Helena and work as a wine chemist under the leadership of Auguste Pirio. Richard loved the lab and also found the real love of his life there, with Patricia Mary Fulton. They married on Friday, July 28, 1961 in Napa, with a total of five guests.
Together Richard and Patricia built their lives in St. Helena and welcomed with joy, their three daughters. As a team, Richard and Patricia shared their family, careers, travels and both remained relentlessly proud of their daughters' personal accomplishments. Richard truly loved deeply both his family and friends and was never bashful about expressing it. Every single day he told Patricia, sometimes multiple times, that he loved her, calling out from practically anywhere "I love you!"
After the retirement of Auguste Pirio, Richard became Champagne Maker and Plant Manager of Greystone in 1979 until its closing 1989. Richard continued his employment with Christian Brothers at the south plant working in the warehouse and later in the cellar records until the winery was sold to Heublein Corporation in 1990. Richard was then hired by Sutter Home Winery. There he first worked in the warehouse and shipping department in American Canyon and later in the quality control department at all three plants.
In 1994 Richard established "Tweety Realty" the creation of birdhouses for local vintners to welcome blue birds, that consumed the glassy-wing sharpshooter. He enjoyed his wood-working hobby and loved to work on birdhouses, picnic benches for children and mosquito houses. One of Richard's birdhouse designs was published in the "Needlework and Crafts" magazine, for building birdhouses out of recycled wooden wine boxes.
Richard retired in 1997 having spent 31 years with Christian Brothers Winery and 7 years with Sutter Home Winery. Ironically during his retirement and because of his association with Greystone, he was taken back to his "other" home, as he accepted employment as a shuttle driver for the employees and students of the Culinary Institute of America.
Richard enjoyed many trips in his lifetime with Patricia and family to Europe, New Zealand, China, Canada, and a 11,782-mile trip around the United States in their Ford Ranger pick-up. His most favorite family trips were during summers, before harvest, camping at the Umpqua Light House State Park in Oregon. Salmon fishing in the Pacific Ocean, fishing for bluegill at Tenmile Lake and crabbing off a dock in Winchester Bay were some of the activities he delightfully shared with his family.
Richard is predeceased in death by his mother Anne Gillen, father Walter Dettman, sister Virginia Wisdom and brother-in-law Roland (Wiz) Wisdom. Richard leaves behind his wife of 59 years, Patricia Dettman, three daughters; Christine Dettman, Catherine Dettman and Carolyn Dettman Dunn (Steven), a daughter "in our heart" Wendy Leong from New Zealand and her children Jessica and Christopher Harris. He also leaves behind his niece Jody Hurd (Brad) and nephew Jim Wisdom (Carla), goddaughters Karen Altamura and Kaele Varrelman.
The Dettman family would like to acknowledge the outstanding care and love for Richard from Dr. Thomas Paukert, Sheryle Paukert, NP., the dedicated nurses and staff at Silverado Dialysis and DaVita Napa, Dr. John Bosetti and doctors and staff with the Eye Specialists of Napa Valley, Dr. James Woolley, and the A-Team at Piner's Ambulance.
Memorial gifts may be made in Richard's honor to the Earle Baum Center (4539 Occidental Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95401), Collabria Care (414 S. Jefferson St., Napa CA 94559) or the charity of your choosing. Just remember to raise a glass of vino to celebrate his incredible life, love of family and friends and faithfulness to God. A service will be held at a later date with family and friends.
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