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Ron Depew: a great love for life and Tehachapi

Land of Four Seasons

A fine and memorable man left the Tehachapi Valley recently with the loss of Ronald Wayne Depew, 74, who passed away at his Tehachapi home on October 25 following a brief illness.

Ron was friendly, big-hearted bear of a man with great love for his family, friends, Tehachapi and life in general. He believed you could do a lot of good in this world and still have fun doing it. Ron embodied the Italian phrase "Vivere la dolce vita," which means "Living the sweet life."

Ron spent his career in banking, particularly in the area of lending, and that was where he met his treasured wife Doris, who has been in banking for 41 years. Ron and Doris were married for 38 years, and they moved to Tehachapi 34 years ago, back in 1989.

With his smooth baritone voice, trademark beard and handsome appearance, Ron had a certain gravitas, and he could have played a saloon owner or a riverboat gambler in a Western movie. He was known for his ready smile, encouraging remarks and warm hugs.

One of Ron's incredible contributions to Tehachapi was starting the local Relay for Life program in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. Beginning in 2004 and continuing for 15 years, the annual Tehachapi Relay for Life effort raised an astounding sum – more than $2 million for cancer research and treatment.

The event would be held at Coy Burnett Stadium, and participants would often camp out on the football field as the walk continued throughout the night. It was a thoroughly positive event that brought the community together, and while many, many people worked very hard to make it a success, it was Ron and Doris who started it all in Tehachapi.

Ron was an enthusiastic member of the Baby Boomer generation, having been born in Visalia on May 23, 1949, the son of Jack and Mabel Depew. He attended Mt. Whitney High School and College of the Sequoias.

Ron was active in the Tehachapi community in many different ways. He served as president of the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council, was chairman of the board of the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce, a director of the Golden Hills Community Services District, an affiliate of the Tehachapi Board of Realtors, and a supporter of Kern County Honor Flights for veterans.

Ron worked for years in banking, and later in mortgage lending, most recently for Nation Lending.

He also loved wine, and was a liaison for the Tehachapi Wine Growers Association and one of the supporters of the first Tehachapi wine tasting. He also was a supporter of the various Tehachapi wineries and tasting rooms.

One of Ron and Doris's favorite vacation destinations was the Central Coast, particularly Morro Bay and Avila Beach, and they used to camp right at the beach. They also liked to visit Italy and savor the beauty, history and amazing food and drink there.

Ron also had great respect for American history, and Doris got him interested in Native culture and artifacts. In addition to travel and wine-tasting, he also liked fishing, camping, and hunting.

I could not complete a worthy tribute to Ron without mentioning that he was a bon vivant, and he created a welcoming oasis in his backyard with a propane firepit, elegant shade canopies, comfortable furniture, etc., and he loved to return home after work and relax in this pleasant environment. From this vantage point he could watch Tehachapi wildlife, spend time with Doris and other family and friends, and savor the beautiful life he made for himself in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Ron is survived by Doris; daughters Allison and her husband Chance and Melanie and her husband Brandon; brother Chuck and his wife Donna, and his sister Donna; stepchildren Teddy, Trina and her husband Bob, and Tonya; 10 grandchildren and 3 great-granddaughters. He was predeceased by his parents Jack and Mabel.

A service will be conducted on Nov. 25 at 10 a.m. at the Tehachapi Vineyard Church, and a Celebration of Life will be held next year on his birthday, May 23, 2024, at Dorner Family Vineyard in Cummings Valley.

Ron and some of his friends had a Wednesday tradition of sipping fine whiskey and smoking a good cigar. Ron believed in keeping on savoring life as long as you were on Earth. I and hundreds of other Tehachapi residents will long remember Ron and the way he combined his love for living with working to better the community.

Ron, my friend, we lift our glasses to you with love and respect . . . .

Keeping enjoying the beauty of life in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Jon Hammond is a fourth generation Kern County resident who has photographed and written about the Tehachapi Mountains for 38 years. He lives on a farm his family started in 1921, and is a speaker of Nuwä, the Tehachapi Indian language. He can be reached at [email protected].