Wil­liam DuBois 100, El Cen­tro

Sept. 25, 1916 - Apr. 7, 2017

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE -

Wil­liam Irvin DuBois passed away at his home on the fam­ily ranch Fri­day, April 7th af­ter a brief ill­ness.

He cel­e­brated his 100th birth­day last Septem­ber with many friends and fam­ily mem­bers. He was born in a cabin on the oil­fields out­side Or­cutt, Calif., the son of Is­abelle Frances Oak­ley, a Santa Maria na­tive, and John La­mont DuBois, from New­port, Tenn. “Bill Sr.” came to the fam­ily ranch with his par­ents in 1918 af­ter his grand­fa­ther, Wil­liam Calvin Oak­ley of Santa Maria, had pur­chased land on which to grow cit­rus. The fam­ily lived in a tent on the ranch dur­ing their first year in the Valley, un­til they could build a house for the grow­ing fam­ily.

Bill re­mem­bered trav­el­ing over the Old Plank Road with his fa­ther when he was about four years old. He at­tended Sils­bee el­e­men­tary school where his mother was one of two teach­ers, and grad­u­ated from Cen­tral Union High School in 1934. Nine years later, af­ter ex­plor­ing the US and try­ing out var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties, he grad­u­ated with a de­gree in agri­cul­ture from the Voorhis (San Di­mas) cam­pus of Cal Poly.

With World War II loom­ing, he an­swered the call from his coun­try and en­rolled in the Navy’s Of­fi­cer Can­di­date School. He re­ported to Mid­ship­man School at North­west­ern Univer­sity, and was then as­signed to sub­ma­rine en­gi­neer­ing school in Raleigh, NC. Dur­ing the war he com­manded an LCI (Land­ing Craft for In­fantry), haul­ing troops, first aid, and sup­plies to the Philip­pines and is­lands in the South Pa­cific and South China Sea. He con­tin­ued to serve his coun­try as a mem­ber of the Navy Re­serves for 25 years, re­tir­ing as a Lieu­tenant Com­man­der with 28 years of ser­vice.

Af­ter his re­turn to El Cen­tro fol­low­ing the war, he met the love of his life, Mary Ellen Put­man Burns, and they were mar­ried in 1946 at the Cal Poly Chapel. She pre­de­ceased him in 2012 af­ter 66 years of mar­riage.

He is sur­vived by his brother Andy of Alameda, CA, chil­dren Kathryn Burns of Tuc­son AZ, Is­abelle DuBois (Chuck) Wat­tles of El Cen­tro, Lois DuBois of Clo­vis, CA and Bill DuBois of El Cen­tro; nine grand­chil­dren in­clud­ing Ed, Will, and Is­abelle DuBois of El Cen­tro; and 13 great-grand­chil­dren.

Bill raised hogs and farmed up to 2000 acres of saf­flower, cot­ton, flax, hemp, sugar beets, al­falfa hay, and other crops in part­ner­ship with his brother John L. DuBois Jr. (Jack). He was a long­time mem­ber of the El Cen­tro Ki­wa­nis Club, serv­ing as Pres­i­dent in 1958; the El Cen­tro United Methodist Church, serv­ing on the Board of Trustees for many years; and the Im­pe­rial County Farm Bureau, serv­ing as its Pres­i­dent and long­time board mem­ber.

In 1970 he re­tired from ac­tive farm­ing, leased his farm­land, and joined the Cal­i­for­nia Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion in Sacra­mento as Di­rec­tor of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, rep­re­sent­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s farm­ers be­fore the leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive branches of state gov­ern­ment. While there he was ac­tive in many state wide or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Cal­i­for­nia Ir­ri­ga­tion In­sti­tute (long­time board mem­ber and 1994-95 Pres­i­dent), the State Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Coali­tion, and Cal­i­for­ni­ans Against Waste.

In 2001, Bill and Mary Ellen felt the call to re­turn to Im­pe­rial Valley, their young grand­chil­dren, and their ranch, so they built a new home on the land where Bill grew up. He con­tin­ued to be ac­tive in the com­mu­nity, vol­un­teer­ing for and con­tribut­ing to many or­ga­ni­za­tions through­out the valley in­clud­ing Ki­wa­nis, Farm Bureau, Sal­va­tion Army, Na­tive Sons of the Golden West, and the Im­pe­rial Valley His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. In his last years he en­joyed at­tend­ing the Holtville United Methodist Church.

Bill con­tin­ued to rep­re­sent Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers be­yond his 90th birth­day, pro­vid­ing ad­vice and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tives on state wa­ter laws, the pe­riph­eral canal, Sal­ton Sea, Colorado River is­sues, and 160-acre lim­i­ta­tion. In 2008 he was hon­ored to re­ceive the Im­pe­rial County Farm Bureau’s Farmer of the Year award for his record of lead­er­ship in agri­cul­ture and long­time com­mit­ment to and in­volve­ment in the Im­pe­rial Valley com­mu­nity.

A Cel­e­bra­tion of Life ser­vice will be held Sun­day, April 30th at 2 p.m. at the Brock As­para­gus Pack­ing Shed, 1399 For­rester Rd, El Cen­tro.

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