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Richard Clair Elkins

Richard Clair Elkins March 6, 1930 ~ December 17, 2019

Richard Clair Elkins, 89, passed away in Reno, NV on December 17th 2019 after a brief illness. He had been visited and lovingly tended to, by a revolving door of family prior to his passing; a fact that brought him great comfort.

He was born in Colusa on March 6, 1930 to Rose (Vedo) and Leonard Clair Elkins. He was Italian on his mother’s side, and was raised to love the Italian traditions his grandparents brought with them from Italy. His father was a troubled youth who ran away from home at age 14, but instilled in Richard the good work ethic that he practiced to the end.

He was a complicated man, as all who loved him will attest. He was at once both gentle and fierce, and if you experienced the latter, you made every effort to avoid it. However, by far his greatest gifts were generosity and love. He cherished his wife and five children, and often crowed he would have had five more kids if he’d had his way. He regaled us with stories and tall tales of his youth… oh, how he could weave a story! He cared for every animal who wandered into his path, and was known to help with veterinary costs when he found an animal in need. He opened his wallet freely (too freely, at times) for he was grateful to be in a position to help others. He loved his children and grandchildren passionately, and was helpless to deny them anything. Indeed, he was worthless at discipling them; a fact that drove his wife Phyllis to the brink!

He was no saint, and this obituary will not paint a lopsided picture of the man. He was coarse and rough around the edges. He made no pretense of being anything other than the son of a hardscrabble alcoholic father, and a sweet homemaker mother. However, he respected his father his entire life, and had great affection for him and the lessons he taught. He used those lessons to carve out a better life for himself and his family. As a boy, he lived a kind of Huck Finn existence: floating on a log down the river while eating dried shrimp… opening barn doors and corrals and letting livestock loose… setting bags of dog poo on fire… sneaking into the church and getting into the sacramental wine… At age 8, he was sent to live with his father’s very strict Seventh Day Adventist family in St. Helena. He said he couldn’t handle it because they didn’t eat meat and begged to come back home, promising to be a good boy!

Richard (Dick to his close friends) worked hard all his life, and retired from Caltrans in the early 90s. He lived in Colusa most of his life, but for the 26 years he worked for Caltrans in Truckee, CA. He also worked for Hoblit Motors, I.G. Zumwalt, the Ash family and many others.

Life in the mountains at Donner Lake (God’s Country, as he called it) was something he loved. He had visited Donner many times as a child when his aunt and uncle owned property there. After retirement, he and Phyllis moved out of the snow, and back to their beloved town along the Sacramento River. They purchased a little acreage just outside of Colusa and spent hours toiling in the yard and fixing up the house to create a Shangri-La where family and friends gathered for many happy celebrations.

Perhaps his life could best be summed up in the words of the song Something Wonderful: “This is a man who thinks with his heart; his heart is not always wise. This is a man who stumbles and falls, but this is a man who tries. This is a man you’ll forgive and forgive, and help and protect as long as you live. He will not always say what you would have him say, but now and then he’ll say something wonderful. The thoughtless things he’ll do will hurt and worry you, then all at once he’ll do something wonderful. He has a thousand dreams that won’t come true. You know that he believes in them, and that’s enough for you. You’ll always go along, defend him when he’s wrong, and tell him when he’s strong, he is wonderful.”

Richard is survived by his wife of 70 years, Phyllis Gordon Elkins; children Rich (Jennifer) of Yuba City, Bob (Karla) of Truckee, Anne Pinkerton (Bob) of Reno, NV, Lisa Wilsey of Rohnert Park, and Marily Elkins of Reno, NV; grandchildren Mike Elkins (Bunny), James Elkins (Meredith), Joey Pinkerton (Sara), Mary Pinkerton (Russell Jones), Gibson Elkins, Christopher Wilsey and Annaka Elkins; great-grandchildren Catlyn, Devin, Jordyn, Mikee, Sam and Eily; great-great-granddaughter Kaylee; brother Jack (Judy) Elkins of Yuba City, and “just like family” Doris Lucchesi. He also leaves many precious cousins, nieces and nephews and their families, but special mention must be made of Linda and Bruce Minton of Sutter, and Kathy and Dave Croyl of Colusa who were always there to help out their “Uncle Richard.”

He was preceded in death by his mother and father, sisters June and Barbara, and son-in-law Michael Wilsey.

Per his wishes there will be no funeral, but a Celebration of Life will take place in the spring. In lieu of gifts, we are sure he would like contributions to be made in his honor to your local animal shelter.

The boy who was born in Colusa and the man who never wanted to leave there, lived life on his own terms, right to the end. Couldn’t be prouder of you, Dad. Sail on.


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