William James Oreña King
Los Alamos cattleman William “Bill” King, 81, passed away at home on February 13. A proud sixth-generation Californian, he was born in Los Angeles on December 28, 1940.
Bill’s mother, Consuelo Rickard King, was a member of the de la Guerra and Oreña families, early California settlers from Spain. His father, Captain C. E. King, was a career naval officer whose various deployments moved the family around the country and abroad.
Even at a young age, Bill made lasting impressions. At 13 he was caught smoking on national TV during the first televised presidential inaugural parade for Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. Bill’s mother once received a letter from the principal at Bellermine boys’ prep school in San Jose asking politely that Bill not return as he was accused of putting dynamite caps on the railroad tracks…a charge he always denied. A gifted athlete, in high school Bill played basketball for Honolulu’s Saint Louis School Crusaders who won the Island Territory Championship before Hawaii became a state. Although the King family enjoyed living in different parts of the country, Bill’s best times were summers at his mother’s family’s Cuyama and Los Alamos ranches.
Bill attended Santa Clara University where he continued to play sports and stir up trouble with fellow classmates who also became lifelong friends. After graduating in 1962 Bill attended law school for, in his words “about 10 minutes” while running a few cattle with his brother Chuck. He had reminisced recently that when he watched his first load of cattle come down the loading chute he knew instantly he wouldn’t be a lawyer and King Bros. Cattle Company was born. The brothers leased a rugged ranch in Parkfield and realized their true passion – the cattle business. Bill and Chuck continued to run cattle for the next decade. After the partnership dissolved, Bill ran his own cattle herd and operated the receiving station in Buellton for the Templeton Livestock Market until he retired in 2014. Though the cattle business was tough, Bill always reminisced about the good times trading cattle on the Mexican border, last minute plane rides to cattle auctions, and all the “legends” and great people he met along the way.
Bill’s other passion was singing and playing guitar. He sang the National Anthem at the Salinas and Elks Rodeos as well as at the Fiesta Rodeo in Santa Barbara and other fundraising events. Late night jam sessions with fellow musicians were always a highlight for him on Ranchero Visitadores rides and at the National Cowboy Poetry Gatherings in Elko, Nevada. Bill loved to perform on stage with yodeling cowboy Monte Mills who also facilitated Bill’s long time wish to record his own CD.
In 2005, Bill and his brother Chuck were chosen as Honorary Vaqueros for the Fiesta Rodeo in Santa Barbara. Bill was recognized as Livestock Producer of the Year by the Santa Barbara County Fair in 2007. In 2011, the King brothers were Honored Vaqueros at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum.
Bill was a member of Los Rancheros Visitadores (Los Picadores Camp), the Society of Los Alamos, California Rangeland Trust, California Cattlemen’s Association, Santa Barbara County Cattlemen’s Association, and the Santa Barbara County Range Improvement Association.
For those who wish to remember Bill, donations may be made to the California Rangeland Trust or the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum.
Bill is survived by his devoted wife Saundra; Bill’s children Jenny (husband Luke), Billy (and daughter Margeaux) and Katy (husband Randy); Saundra’s children Britt (and sons Ryan and Blake), Craig (wife Tina and children Zach, Olivia, Mariah and Justin) and Shelli (and sons Grant and Bryce); Bill’s nieces Teri (and daughters Ciera and Sammie), Tina (husband Brian and sons Bryson and Cole a/k/a Quad Tracks), and Caci (husband Shawn).
A Rosary for Bill will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 24 at St. Anthony Church in Los Alamos. The funeral mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m on Friday, February 25 at Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang, with a burial following at the Los Alamos Cemetery. Family and friends are then invited to a reception at the Los Alamos Valley Men’s Club.