by Celeste Dye
Richard Dye was born in Pasadena, California, in 1935 to second-generation Californians. He was taught to embrace heritage with deep respect. His father, born on Catalina Island in 1902, imbued in his son extreme deference for our beautiful coastal environment, civic pride, and knowledge of unique Santa Barbara early city history, including the essential long-term value of historic preservation.
Richard knew, as he grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, that personal dignity and close relationships are earned, not deserved. He developed a keen ability to positively communicate with anyone through genuine interest and sincerity. His personal charisma impacted everyone around him, affording him personal connections with everyone he encountered — from the stranger on the street to the man behind the shop-counter to the fellow businessman at a formal affair. His personality was explosive. Many Santa Barbarans will fondly remember his guitar playing and impromptu singing to waiters while dining at his favorite State Street restaurants. His song repertoire included many styles, including Neopolitan love songs and Mexican love ballads. He charmed us and entertained us through his love of song and life. Richard would greet the morning sun by playing his beloved “requinto” even before his first cup of coffee.
Richard loved life. He adored animals, fruit-bearing trees, our purple sandstone-flecked mountains, and beautiful, smiling ladies in the street. He loved the ocean and ocean creatures. He frequently sailed from here to the Channel Islands. An avid car collector, he restored early models, including a De Dion Bouton, Rolls-Royce, Packard, and Franklin. He would proudly dress in costume and drive them in local parades. As children, my brother Anthony and I would play hide-and-seek in the interiors as he worked on the nearly nonexistent exteriors.
Richard led an accomplished professional career. His master of science studying electronic engineering in 1959 led to a fellowship at Stanford University working with statistical communication theory in 1960. He attacked the beginning of his professional career — working on early laser wave communication prototypes — with characteristic verve. During 20 years at Santa Barbara Research Center, he earned six patents. Enthused by the challenge of early laser communication projects, Richard earned the title of chief engineer for ITT and was sent to Chile to install the first satellite communications system on the entire continent. But the U.S. backer pulled out financial funding, and Richard faced disaster. He single-handedly raised the funds by approaching investors, training his own technicians, and building his own laboratory.
Once, acting on the news that the Queen Mother was visiting Santa Barbara by ship, he contacted the British Secret Service directly and arranged a ship-to-shore demonstration. A human voice traveled along a laser beam and was received onboard, impressing the passengers to no end. It was a testament to his ideals: If there’s a way to make it work better, do it; if it can help solve a problem, work on it, because as he would have said, “Porque ingeniero soy.”
He had incredible foresight in regards to our country’s neighbors to the south, recognizing past harmonious relationships and promoting future bonds with this understanding in mind: People are one, regardless of color or heritage. Falling in love with the culture, the warmth of the people, the food, and the mutual love of life, he spoke proper fluent Spanish, though of Swedish descent. He eventually married Evelyn, his beloved Chilean wife, and raised two bilingual children.
From writing countless letters to the editor at the Santa Barbara News-Press to volunteering at the Maritime Museum to cameo appearances onstage with the Santa Barbara Opera (he was a spear holder!), he acted out civic duty with the same indefatigable spirit with which he led his life.
We thank you, Papi, for being a loving father and for raising my brother Anthony and me to be strong, to question what we see around us, to love life and music, and to be curious and hardworking. Thank you for planting the orange trees and the roses, taking us around the world, and showing us the beauty of humanity everywhere. Thank you for showing us we are all one. We will forever miss you. You are the last of a dying generation — noble, honest, and loving. You are a testament to a life fiercely lived.