Obituary - Richard Hamilton - Class of 1954

Richard Hamilton
Class of 1954

© Published in Ukiah Daily Journal on February 18, 2011

Richard Hamilton

Richard Hamilton IN MEMORY OF AND TRIBUTE TO RICHARD HOWARD HAMILTON March 17, 1936-January 9, 2011

Richard Howard Hamilton was born March 17, 1936, in Oakland, California to Howard Pillow Hamilton and Velma Viola Perry Hamilton.

He spent his school years in the Oakland public schools. In the fall of 1951 he met his future wife Eleanor Dougherty at the age of 15 at Oakland High School. Upon graduation from high school he joined the Army and spent two and half years in the service. After eighteen months when Richard returned from duty in Germany to Ft Carson, Colorado Springs, Co. Richard and Eleanor were married in Colorado Springs, Co. on December 28, 1956.

After attending San Francisco college and obtaining a teaching credential in 1962 with a major in Art (his mediums were Intaglio print making and painting with first oils and then acrylics) and minor in Social Sciences he applied for and became a teacher at Ukiah High School. The first two years were spent teaching Social Studies and crafts. Then he became and continued to be the Visual Arts teacher for 30 more years.

Richard Hamilton Richard Hamilton

Having come from a large city and moving to the country, Richard soon learned to revere nature. He became a fly fisherman, watching, listening and absorbing nature. He was a member of the Izaak Walton League for many years and practiced being kind to the earth. He also became a member of Cal Trust. He was an avid gardener, growing flowers and seasonal vegetables, enough for the family and beyond. He loved being "outdoors". Richard was a historian. He read continuously and was an authority on history and especially world and domestic wars. He never stopped learning and was always happy to share his education.

Richard referred to himself as an art "provocateur" and that has certainly become evident, as many students and parents have related currently and through the years. Every where we went there were former students who had comments like "you were my favorite teacher." He amazingly remembered names for students from years past. As a provocateur and an unofficial counselor he helped many students to pursue and develop their natural talents and to use their artistic ability in their adult lives.

Richard is survived by his "lifetime mate" Eleanor, son Gregory Scott, sister Pat Dimock, and brother-in-law Bud Dimock, sister-in-law Judy Shaterian and brother-in-law John Shaterian, brothers-in-law Chuck, Chris and Jon Dougherty, nephews Michael and Tim Dimock, nieces Lisa Hertell and Kim Ingham and numerous great and great great nephews and nieces.

Remembrances from these relative and close friends follow:

My situation is unique in our family, unique in the fact that I am adopted. Think about what a crazy crapshoot it is and how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful mother and father. I can recount many wonderful experiences that I have had with my father. His teaching schedule allowed him free time during the summers so we would go camping in the Land Rover at Little Doe outside of Covelo, fishing on the Russian River and backpacking into the Eel River valley. He offered many tall tails for my impressionable imagination. For instance, he always said that the reason he was bald was because he came between a bear cub and his mother and she swiped his scalp off in an attack. I told that story to so many kids thinking it was real. What a character! He had a justification for everything he did, however skewed. He was always there for support and perspective no matter how far away I was living. During High School, he was the popular teacher that everyone hung out with during the lunch break on the outside patio. I could count on getting busted by Dad for any prank I had pulled because the gossip would always get back to him. Back in July of 1975 Dad and I went backpacking into the Eel River valley below Lake Pillsbury. We slept on a sand bank looking up at the vibrant stars. Dad instructed me to make poles form the surrounding vegetation and to erect them in the sand around where we slept. The poles were supposed to dissuade the bats from flying to close; he made everything magical for a child's imagination. That night the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was occurring. It was a U.S./Soviet space flight where both countries met in space. Pop's and I watched the two spacecraft come from two corners of the sky. In that moment, he was my best friend, my confidant, and my mentor. My father and I were connected that night like the spacecraft above us. I will carry that bond with me for my entire life, proud that I had the privilege to have such an admirable father. The next morning dad awoke me with a finger up to his lips. There were several fresh water otters frolicking in the river right over the rock next to our camp. We snuck up on them and watched them until they moved off. When we left, we stashed pans above the 1964 flood line for future visits. He was always a source for inspiration from his own actions, always a great example. Although I will miss his wisdom, his companionship, and his love, he will always live inside me. He will always be there for me. Gregory Scott Hamilton

I started out my relationship with Richard with a request that my Mom and Dad return him to where ever he came from (the Peralta hospital in Oakland, Ca) Welcome little brother! His love and appreciation of his wife, Eleanor, his son Gregory and the place he created on a small walnut ranch in Redwood Valley is a testament to his life. As an art teacher he nurtured his students and inspired many to become serious about their art. He tilled the soil in his garden as he did his students minds. He faced his health issues with the courage of a born fighter. A true gentleman who will be deeply missed by his sister and family. Pat Dimock, Sister

I have a lot of memories of Dick as I was growing up. The one thing I will never forget is the time he took me for a ride and his car broke down. Instead of having me steer the car while he pushed, he had me push while he steered! He always thought that was funny. I'll miss him, but am glad I had him in our family as long as we did. Judy Shaterian, Sister-in-law The thing that stands out for me the strongest, and that which I'd like for your community to remember, is the integrity with which Uncle Dick undertook in support of his marriage. I remember being in my late 30's/early 40's, after having witnessed many, many marriages, and realizing how united the two of you were. I held the image of the two of you peacefully floating down the river together - not trying to out swim the other, united in the direction in which you flowed and willing to support the other should one of fall off the inner tube. Here were two people who lived simply and had found what truly positive marriage could be. That is what I most admired about Uncle Dick and should I ever remarry, will endeavor to emulate. Lisa Hertel, Niece

My Favorite Memory of Dick Hamilton

In the late 1960's or very early 70's, Dick (my uncle) took a summer school course at San Jose State University. He lived with my family (the Dimocks) in Campbell on Phantom Avenue. He brought his yellow, 1950's Triumph motorcycle, which was chopped. It had a bright yellow teardrop fuel tank. He loved that bike and he also constantly complained about the Triumph Company because the bike was always having mechanical problems I seem to remember he had to constantly fix it.

Anyway, one Saturday evening my parents were having a BBQ party and the adults were drinking. It was a beautiful summer evening, very early dusk when the temperature is perfect. At that point he came over to me and said "you want to go for a ride on the bike?" He had that smile of his that had a tinge of trouble in it, which revealed that endearing rebellious streak he had all his life. I said YES! As we walked to the bike, I realized he might be a bit tipsy. So my excitement was not tinged with a bit of fear.

We opened the garage door. I remember looking on the street and thinking, these could be my last moments. My fear had turned to panic because my parents had put the fear of God in me regarding the danger of motorcycles. But no way could I admit that to my Uncle Dick. Well, he got on the bike and began to pump the kick-starter with his leg. Ptumph! ptumph! vroooom, vroom, sput, sput, ...uph..psisss.

About this time he was turning deep red and he had a crazed and strained look on his face. I was secretly hoping he would fail to start the damn thing. He looked at it for a long second, got a little smile again. PTumph! Vroom, Vroom! And then the Triumph started and hit idle and we knew it was a go. He looked at me with a big grin, and yelled over the din of that rumbling metallic Triumph engine, "climb on!"

I got on behind him and he said, "now hold on!" I could smell that old motorcycle smell of oil and gas. I could have been atop Saturn V rocket. He revived the motor one more time and out we went onto the street. I remember thinking this thing is so loud. After a couple of seconds of real fear, I began to relax. He headed down the street and I focused on how he shifted gears and the rise and fall of the sound and vibration in the motor.

We cruised around my neighborhood, far and wide. I passed my friends homes and wished they would see me. At one point he went onto Lee Ave, a major thoroughfare and picked up speed and I remember squeezing him tighter for fear I'd fall off and perish. He went all the way to Hamilton Ave, and even bigger street, and turned right and this time he really picked up speed. I remember the swish of the wind, the vibration and exhilaration. It was probably 45, but felt like 100 mph. Then he slowed as he banked for right turn back onto Phantom Ave. toward home.

It was probably all over in ten minutes, but those ten minutes confirmed what I already felt about my Uncle Dick Hamilton. He was the coolest Uncle any boy could have. He was an avant-garde artist, teacher, fly fisherman, rebel, and an Easy Riding uncle who liked to hang out, even for a few minutes, with his young nephew on a totally cool chopper that he owned. I will never forget that fleeting moment in both our lives. It was a great one. Michael Dimock, Nephew

Whenever I think of Dick, one thing always comes to mind. I will never forget the times that I spent with you two during the summers. It was at that time that Dick would take us all for a ride in the Land Rover up into the mountains and we would all sing on the way. It's funny that I always think of that. But it was a very happy time for Dick and me was so much a part of that memory. Another thing I remember was that I always thought he was pretty "cool". Meaning he could relate to us. He didn't have the "old fogey" mentality. I remember when being there he would listen to Simon and Garfunkel, and I thought that was cool, instead of listening to "old fogey" music. He was loved very much by me and I will miss him terribly, but will always have the memories of the times we had. Kim Ingham, Niece

Dick was the best brother-in-law anyone could ask for. He was part of our family even before I was born. As kids, my brothers and I were always excited when we went with our parents to spend a few days with Dick and our sister at their home in Ukiah. Dick always had something fun planned, whether it was setting up the doughboy pool, taking us for rides in his Land Rover or taking us fishing. He had such a great sense of humor and was one of the great unsung artists of our time. He was a wonderful brother-in-law, friend and husband of my sister. We all miss him dearly and our lives won't be the same without him. Chuck Dougherty, Brother-in-law

Sometimes during the nineties our family went to dinner at a restaurant in Graton. We had just settled down at our table when across the room we heard this woman literally scream "Mr. Hamilton!" A waitress at the restaurant came running to our table, uncle stood up and they embraced. The woman was a former student. She was visibly very emotionally moved to be seeing her old high school teacher. She was shaking and smiling from ear to ear. There is something in that moment which returns and returns in my mind. Uncle's impact on people was inspirational. His grounded nature allowed for experimentation. His vehement opposition to greed and injustice allowed for success and comfort. Words can't express how warm this heart felt pulling up into the driveway of his home and seeing his smiling face walk out of the house. I am shaking and smiling from ear to ear. Tim Dimock, Nephew

Richard Hamilton, A Special Friend Remembered

I fondly recall all the wonderful times being with Dick on our Land Rover excursions and camp outs into the mountains. We explored places like the Mendocino National Forest, The Cow Mountain area and the Lost Coast. He was extremely fond of his 1969 Land Rover "88 that he kept in excellent condition and is still in the family today. Along with Dick's love of the outdoors was his intense concern for the environment everywhere. He supported various environmental organizations and he spoke out vehemently against wasteful, unrestrained despoliation of the environment by various private and public sources. Dick was also an integral part of the gathering of friends every Tuesday for coffee and discussions of the environment, politics and other problems and developments of the day. As a longtime high school teacher Dick was much admired by his fellow teachers and students. He had an extreme sense of fairness and social justice that carried over into his teaching. Many considered him a mentor. His family, friends, students and I certainly will miss Dick dearly but he will not be forgotten. We loved you "Dickie"! Don Brittingham, Friend and Co-worker

Remembrance of Dick

I first met Dick at my graduation ceremony at the California College of Arts and crafts in June 1968. He was acting as a master teacher for a lady who wanted to teach in the Ukiah Unified School District and who was also graduating. He was also on a mission to recruit a new crafts teacher to replace one who had departed abruptly from Ukiah High in March of that year. And so began my nearly thirty-year partnership and friendship with Dick in the high school art department. Our relationship was never adversarial. Dick had a feistiness, but wasn't at all confrontational, unlike me. He was much more levelheaded and even-tempered. Our differing natures but close relationship earned us the reputation as the bad boys of Ukiah High with some teachers and administrators, however.

As charter members of the American Federation of Teachers, local 2025, we manned picket lines in our orange hard hats (Dick's idea) when we were negotiating for salary and budget increases, and when we tried to get the voters to approve a building bond to replace the shuttered old high school building. We attended school board meetings in overalls and with bags of popcorn. It was low-key political theater, but it was fun. We spent eight years in double sessions at the old high school site due to the loss of the closed main building.

Dick was instrumental in using our meager budget to improve the lot of our art students, many of whom hadn't been outside the Ukiah Valley at that time. He started the Art Club and organized the school's first Mayfair, student art exhibit. Mayfair was very popular with students and parents alike; later it was to include the junior high art students.

Dick used the art club as an aid to organize field trips to art museums in Oakland and San Francisco. On one trip to the De Young and the Palace of the Legion of Honor, one of our "hippie kids" wandered away in Golden Gate Park and was picked up by the police for "smoking in public". We had to take a busload of kids to the juvenile detention center to retrieve our "mellow" student. Dick's diplomacy wit the police allowed us to bring the boy home with only a warning.

When the community finally passed the school bond, we got the chance to design our own classrooms - a chance most teachers never get, let alone move into a brand-new school. While the design changed quite a bit from our initial requests, we still got a four-classroom wing of the Home Ec building with outside patio workspaces fronted by huge sliding doors, a separate office space centrally located, tons of storage space and new furniture and equipment.

Dick was a city boy who really came to love the country. He taught me the beauty and magic of our Ukiah valley introducing me to fly-fishing on the Eel River East of Potter Valley, took me camping in the Mendocino National Forest above Covelo, and on one memorable occasion we went steelhead fishing on the Klamath River with his brother in law, Bud. Dick was the only successful angler that trip; he landed a 12 lb. female.

In our earlier days in Ukiah we bought motorcycles. It was my idea to roam the back roads of Mendocino Co. in summer, because I'd always wanted a bike since I got a ride on an old Indian as a kid. I found out Dick had way more time on two wheels than I did. He commuted from Oakland to San Francisco State on a Vesper scooter across the Bay Bridge. The best I could do to match that was about six months during my senior riding a small scooter to and from high school.

Dick was fond of British vehicles, so his choice of a motor was chopped British Triumph 650. Our collective biker gang included me, (on a Norton, another classic British machine), Dick and one of our ex-art students, Henry Grover, riding a modified Harley. Dick got rid of the Triumph after a couple of years (with a push from Eleanor, I'm sure). He returned to his major affection; his older (1969) model Land Rover.

Dick and Eleanor's kindness to me over the years began with my first year in Ukiah, when nearly every Friday night they invited me to a wonderful dinner at their home. Had I not had this time with both of them, where I was able to get help with lesson plans and teaching methods from Dick, and great meals and good conversation from Eleanor, I doubt that I would have stayed a second year. I sorely miss Dick, who was mentor, a good friend and a teaching companion for all those years. Bill Mattsson, Friend and co-worker

If desired, donation may be made to: S.P.A.C.E. (School of Performing Arts & Cultural education) Or The Mendocino County Library