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
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
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
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.