Dennis Rickard: 1953–2015

Dennis Rickard
Courtesy Photo

Dennis Rickard was the youngest of five sons born to John T. and Marion Foster Rickard in what became known as the “baby boomer” years following World War II. His father was mayor that year, and Dennis’s pride in his heritage — the Rickard family is directly descended from the De la Guerra and Oreña families that settled the area in the 18th century — emerged time and again throughout his life. One of his first appearances in public life was in his second year when the entire family rode in the Fiesta Parade in the mayorʼs carriage. Dennisʼs trip up State Street that August was the first of many he would travel — as participant, parade worker, and parade director — finally culminating as El Presidente, an office his father held when the festival restarted in the early postwar years.

For young Dennis, daily life was a show-and-tell by his brothers of how to navigate the world. He went along on every adventure, from hiking with Mr. Page, an old family friend, to his first horseback rides on the family ranch, brandings and barbecues, swimming through the summer at the Montecito Country Club, and school in the fall. As the years progressed, Dennis attended the same schools as his brothers, Dolores parochial (now Notre Dame), Santa Barbara Junior High, and then Santa Barbara High School.

Dennis learned to carve his own path, gaining confidence in sports and studies. He excelled in football, as had his brothers, at Santa Barbara High School, earning his teamʼs top honor with the 1970 “Hard Nose Award,” given to the team’s most outstanding defensive player, along with All-League honors.

He decided early on to pursue accounting, attending the University of Colorado and earning his BA at Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles, and then gaining his master’s and CPA license at CSU, Northridge. His chosen path as a CPA was highly successful. He spent a number of years in Los Angeles, working for a leading entertainment accounting firm, Gelfand and Bressler, going on the road with the some of the firmʼs clients. He reveled in his position as the road accountant for such bands as Earth, Wind & Fire and other top performers of that time. He was backstage at the bandʼs shows, handling the road business for the firm and sharing many of those dates with his friends as the Inside Man. Those years had many highlights, but he wanted to get back to Santa Barbara and open his own firm.

In 1981, Dennis returned home and set up his CPA firm in the Historic San Marcos Building, beginning his solo career as an accountant. Life took on more layers: His friends were all here or nearby. There were the trips to Mexico, where his friend Robert (Señor) Horbach had an international language school; or to Vail where Tommy Walker was lead chef for the Four Seasons Resort; sport fishing with Jerry Vigil in Ixtapa; down to the Gran Prix of Long Beach with Gary Douglass; and with his friend Mike Fryer, who worked for Roger Penske, watching the bossʼs cars compete at Indianapolis and Fontana, California.

Each year brought new clients and new organizations to become involved in, like the University Club and Los Alamos Society; each had a special meaning for Dennis. His father had been a member of both for years, and they held many old friends. He was simpatico to the spirit of the Los Alamos Society, a group of 49 area ranchers he often visited; they met once a year to elect new members, renew tales of days gone by, and enjoy a barbecue at a member’s ranch. His great uncle Dario Oreña had been a charter member of the Society, circa 1910. Dennis was elected a member in 2014, joining his brothers Jim, Bob, and Tom.

In the civic theater, Dennis, along with his brothers and area supporters, introduced the naming of the new airport terminal in honor of his late father, “Jack” Rickard, former mayor and Superior Court judge, who had been instrumental in annexing the airport into the City of Santa Barbara. As an aside, the method used to annex the airport by our father has since been removed from the state’s law books. In 2012, the City Council of Santa Barbara passed a resolution naming the new building the John T. Rickard Terminal.

Dennis’s chapter in his family’s history would be incomplete without his participation in Fiesta. In August 1983, the first of many such forays, he rode up State Street on his grandfatherʼs silver parade saddle as a participant in El Desfile Histórico (the Fiesta Parade). It cemented his love of the pageant and set the groundwork for his involvement in it in the years to come. From 2002 up to the time of his death in December 2015, he dedicated his time to fundraising, directing, and leading the August event.

One of his final triumphs took place just last year at this time when he and a group of representatives from the Fiesta Parade entered and rode in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. This was the first time in over half a century that a delegation from Santa Barbara had taken part in the famous Rose Parade, and the first time Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days was represented.

Dennis made his own history in Old Spanish Days in 2014, and with his first lady, Dianna Bottoms, appeared constantly during his year as El Presidente. With his election as one of the 49 in Los Alamos Society that same year, another of his lifelong ambitions was realized. He had made all his touchstones come true.

I will miss my youngest brother. We will all miss his laugh, his passion for his projects, and his generous companionship throughout his life.


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