Out of his own struggles growing up in the small town of Dorr, Michigan, Dwayne DeVries came to understand and value the importance of hard work, community, and a strong support network.
After Dwayne’s recent passing, people from all walks of life have been coming forward with stories of his generosity, charismatic goodwill, and friendship: He housed a friend recovering from a rattlesnake bite, provided financial support to another friend too sick to work, pitched in to help friends move on many occasions, and once spent a week in the high desert helping a friend look for his lost son and his friend.
He was very much the Santa Barbara entrepreneur, having successfully built and sold several local businesses in building inspections and related environmental assessments and remediation. He had a reputation for thoroughness and rock-solid integrity. He was a legal expert witness in his field. As an inspector who never compromised in finding all the problems, he was often loved or dreaded, depending on which side of the real estate deal you were on.
His dedication as a father to his son, Cameron, was well known by all of Dwayne’s many close friends. That subject was part of his everyday conversations, in which he often humbly asked for advice from those he trusted most. In every area of his life, he never ceased to work hard and seek out people and opportunities that would help him become the best father he could be.
After planning his day at 5 a.m., Dwayne arrived early at the office. He would begin to telephone clients, and he’d patiently help and encourage his employees and partners to do their best. His example was the strongest influence on others. Some say that just being around him made them a better person. More than anything, his bright blue eyes and warm smile would put you at ease as his conversation made you feel respected and cared for with someone you could really trust.
After work, Dwayne’s time was often spent showing up for all kinds of events and progressive causes that he believed in and supported. One of his friends used to joke that he was the unofficial mayor because wherever you went in public, it wouldn’t be long before Dwayne appeared. He loved to play golf with his pals, listen to live music, and share some laughs. He served on councils and committees and volunteered at the YMCA. In the early days of The ManKind Project, he was there, pitching in to do much of the heavy lifting during its Santa Barbara inception.
In the last year he began doing what had been put off, as we tend to do, until the “retirement” years: He parachuted out of a plane, rafted the Colorado River, and shortly before his diagnosis, spent a month cruising in his RV to Yosemite, Mount Shasta, and various parts of Oregon, playing and partying with friends old and new.
In September, a doctor’s visit led to a diagnosis of stage 4 thyroid cancer. He didn’t give up but began looking wholeheartedly for a way back to health. But then, it finally became clear that wasn’t going to happen.
Dwayne’s final hours in the hospital were lived pretty much like the rest of his life, with clear intention and clarity. After learning that the cancer had spread to his lungs and his final breaths were near, he refused any pain meds that would have clouded his mind. He took time to say goodbyes over the phone to his dearest friends and then spoke to the four friends in the room with him, each one in turn, making sure they knew how much they meant to him. And finally, with his son on the phone with him, he removed his oxygen mask and stepped into the void.
He always kept in touch with his family and attended family functions when he could. He is survived by his son, Cameron DeVries, and Cameron’s mother, Cathy Montandon. Also, his three siblings survive him: Theresa DeVries and her husband, George Flink; Walt DeVries and his wife, Cora; and Joyce DeVries and her husband, Dave Noonan. Dwayne is lovingly remembered by nieces and nephews, as well as great-great-nieces and nephews and a multitude of friends.