William DuBois 100, El Centro
Sept. 25, 1916 - Apr. 7, 2017
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.