Richard Guthrie Obituary (1933 – 2022) – Tucson, AZ

Richard Gray “Dick” Guthrie, “the trolley guy,” died peacefully at Casa de la Luz, Tucson, 28 June 2022, at the age of 88. Dick was born 19 November 1933 in Quantico, Virginia to Richard Allen Guthrie, a Naval Officer, and Harriet (Gray) a girl from Hawaii. Richard spent his early years as a Navy dependent in California, where brother John T Guthrie was born, as well as Washington State, and Hawaii, where their maternal grandparents lived. Their father was in command of a destroyer, the USS Montgomery, at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, and for the next four years the family was in wartime conditions in Hawaii, with their father at sea and their mother providing comfort to the families of the crew. Having his grandparents on the island was very important to Dick and John.   After the war, the family relocated to Phoenix where Richard attended elementary school and North Phoenix High School. He attended the University of Arizona, graduating in 1955 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, thus becoming both an engineer and a “Wildcat for Life.”     He joined Arizona Beta chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and in 2011 was honored by having their annual service award named in his honor.   Dick maintained his connection with the UofA as an alumnus, a member of the National Alumni Board and serving as president of the College of Engineering and Mines alumni council.    As a fresh engineer in 1955, Richard entered AT&T’s management training program in Kansas City, learning to string wire on “long lines” poles. By December he was drafted into the US Navy, selected for Officer Candidate School after Boot Camp in San Diego, and graduated ensign and SeaBee (Construction Battalion) in 1956.   His first permanent assignment was in Kodiak, Alaska, where the beach boy/desert rat became the “Snow Removal Officer.” He and his first wife, Helena (Spear) enjoyed two years in Alaska, culminating in a 2,000-mile trip down the primitive, mostly gravel, Alcan highway, with extra fuel aboard, and a large dog, to his next duty station at Camp Pendleton. At the end of his active-duty Navy time, Richard affiliated with the Naval Reserve Construction Battalion –  Seabees – retiring as a Commander in 1982. His NRCBD 11-19, of Phoenix, received the J J Manning Trophy for general excellence in 1966 and 1967.   After his four years active duty, he returned to Phoenix at Mountain Bell in the Engineering department and was sent to the University of Colorado where he completed an electrical engineering program qualifying for his Professional Engineering license in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. His career with the Bell System included assignments at Bell Telephone Laboratories and with Mountain Bell, retiring from AT&T in 1987.   Richard was a Fellow of the National Society of Professional Engineers, holding various offices locally and nationally over several decades.   Richard was privileged to have an additional career as the City of Tucson Electrical Engineer and traffic operations supervisor, known for encouraging the astronomy friendly dark-skies for which Tucson has become known, quoted in the Tucson Daily Star in 1998, “‘The people of Mars already know where Tucson is,’ said Dick Guthrie…‘We don’t have to put up a beacon.'”   Retiring from the City in 2000, Dick’s public service career was followed by a few years as a consultant engineer, mostly for transportation and lighting infrastructure, mentoring the younger engineers.    A lifelong learner, Dick completed an MA Ed. in Adult Education Administration at Arizona State University, where he met and later married Pat Dunford, another educator.   In 1983, as part of the 1985 University of Arizona Centennial, Dick and W Eugene “Gene” Caywood began a ten-year effort to “bring back the streetcar,” which had been a major part of local transportation in Tucson’s early years. Old Pueblo Trolley, Inc., with refurbished and new track as well as restored trolley cars, began service on 4th Avenue and University Boulevard in 1993, later expanding through the 4th Avenue underpass to downtown. The “ding-a-ling project” was a de facto demonstration which in 2011 materially encouraged the development of today’s Modern Streetcar, which followed the same route.   Richard was always concerned about his community, active in the Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary clubs where he lived. The Rotary Club of Tucson’s “Rowdy Table” will miss him. He also offered his knowledge and expertise for various community committees, particularly those that involved education.   A fifty-year member of St Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal church, he was an usher, member of the Vestry, and mentor to the young children over the years.   Dick and Pat became inveterate travelers, taking “any opportunity” to visit around the globe, beginning in March 1982 with a three-week cultural exchange mission to the People’s Republic of China, sponsored by the PRC Ministry of Railways, consisting of train travel from Beijing to Harbin, visits to various railway related infrastructure, roundtable sharing with local officials, and banquets at every opportunity. As the years went by, they enjoyed football and basketball trips with the University of Arizona Wildcats, trips to Europe and Great Britain, Peru, Australia, Japan, and every state except North Dakota. They were delighted to share these trips with various children and grandchildren, particularly the game trips and the annual week in New Orleans.   Richard was pre-deceased by his parents, his former wife Helena (Spear) Guthrie Soderstrom, his former wife Eleanor (Dieterle) Lee, and his bonus son, Julius K Holt. He is survived by his wife Pat Dunford, children Stephanie (Dennis) Irwin, Pamela (John) Kelly, John (Bekah Strong) Guthrie, Katie (Sean) Selff, brother John (Linda Sabo) Guthrie, bonus daughter-in-law Lisa (Mondaca) Holt, thirteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.   Services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday 6 August, at St Philip’s in the Hills Church, 4440 N Campbell Ave., Tucson, AZ 85718. Reception to follow in the Gallery. Remembrances to your favorite charity will be appreciated.

Published by Arizona Daily Star from Jul. 22 to Jul. 24, 2022.

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