In Memoriam | John DeLoreto: 1959-2022In Memoriam | Wed Jul 20, 2022 | 11:42am
A true genius, John DeLoreto was liked and loved by almost all who knew him. John was the fourth and last son of James and Frances DeLoreto. He had three older brothers — Jim, Ed, and Bill. John has two children, Caroline and RJ, whom he loved dearly, and two grandchildren, Liliana and Myloh Lydia. He was born on March 30, 1959, and passed into eternal life on June 17, 2022.
I had the great good fortune to know John from the first day of school in afternoon kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary School in September 1964. An initial story I can’t resist telling is that we each had strong opinions on the Johnson-Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964 and argued about it in kindergarten — hard to imagine, but true.
John was always verbally brilliant, but his most noticeable talent as a child was in math. He always saw and understood math concepts faster than any other child. He was also the best-behaved student. I remember once in 3rd grade when the teacher was upset at the behavior of the boys and held them all in to talk with them. Only John was excused to go to lunch because his behavior was good all the time.
As elementary school progressed, John’s prominence at Roosevelt increased. He was a student officer, including editor of the student newspaper and president in 6th grade. Roosevelt emphasized student elections at the time, and John was the all-time campaigning champ. In one race, he set up a lemonade stand at the entrance to school to give students free lemonade on the day of voting!
John went to UC Berkeley for his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature. He told me a number of times that it was a very small major field with brilliant instructors who taught a very small number of students the great works in European literature from antiquity through the early modern period. He was very familiar with the great works in the Western canon, sometimes in the original languages.
John married Victoria, whom he met at Berkeley, in 1981. They initially lived in Montecito, where Caroline and RJ were born. Later, the family moved to Goleta. These were among the happiest years in John’s life as Caroline and RJ attended Mountain View Elementary School.
In 1989, John was elected to the Goleta Water District Board of Directors, and the next four years were when he had the most influence on the community. In addition to his service on the Water Board (which, before cityhood, was the dominant local elected body in Goleta), he published a local newspaper, County Watch. In this capacity, he argued strenuously in favor of bringing state water to our area.
The question of participation in the state water project had long roiled local politics and was decisively defeated in the 1970s. After his election to the Water Board, though, John led the charge, both on the Board and through County Watch, for state water. As a drought at the time continued, the political tides shifted, and John convinced the majority of the Goleta Water Board to support development of water resources. His brother Ed remembers John enjoying the political process.
As a result of John’s leadership, state water came to Santa Barbara County. This was among the most decisive — perhaps the most decisive — contribution of anyone to our community in recent decades. John also worked to address groundwater issues in the Goleta valley and negotiated provisions into the ultimate development of the Camino Real Marketplace that later helped to make the City of Goleta financially viable.
Politically, John migrated from a traditional Republican when he first ran for the Water Board to a libertarian Republican as his term was ending. I remember attending a Lincoln Club dinner with him in 1992 or 1993 when Dan Lungren was planning to run for governor. The highlight of Lungren’s speech was when he rhetorically asked, “Is the war on drugs a Vietnam War or World War II?” John replied to those seated at our table, “The Vietnam War,” as he got up and left the assemblage. Recently, he moved to a more conservative Republican position.
John’s life ended on a high note. He bravely battled cancer for almost two years. When another long-time friend, David Beaver, and I had lunch with him a few months ago, he said his doctors were surprised he was still here. He took minimal medication and no chemotherapy. He was completely alive intellectually until the end. In his final days, he traveled with RJ and RJ’s two young daughters to the Grand Canyon, where John walked around the rim of the canyon and participated in water activities with his granddaughters. Earlier, Caroline spent several months with him. When he returned home, he could not have been happier.
When a great friend departs one’s life, there are several possible attitudes to take. Undoubtedly, the best is to remember and celebrate the many good and happy times. That’s easy to do with John DeLoreto. His spirit lives on in his family and friends. A website remembering John is located at celebratingjohndeloreto.com. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, for Roosevelt School. A memorial service in John’s honor will be held at the Santa Barbara Mission on Friday, July 29, at 11:00 a.m.