Richard Gideon, 91, Vaca arts advocate, school teacher, has died

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Richard Gideon, 91, Vaca arts advocate, school teacher, has died

Richard Gideon, a longtime Vacaville arts advocate, retired school teacher, US Army veteran and congenial friend to many, died Wednesday. He was 91.

The cause and place of his death has not been released by his next of kin.

A Celebration of his life will be at 10 am May 4 in the McCune Garden Chapel, 212 Main St., Vacaville, which is handling the memorial service arrangements. No other details were available at press time.

News of Gideon’s death “was sad to hear,” said Dudley Owens, president of the Vacaville Art League & Gallery, where Gideon once served as president and secretary.

Owens recalled knowing him as a fourth- and fifth-grader at Alamo Elementary School on South Orchard Avenue, where Gideon taught. “He was quite a character back then. He was just a sweet guy,” he added.

Owens, a photographer, noted Gideon’s organizing of the East Monte Vista gallery’s annual Student Art Show for many years, characterizing it as “a huge event,” with student art hung on the walls “from floor to ceiling.”

Over the years, Vacaville residents turned out to honor Gideon and wife Pat, notably in October 2007, when they received recognition during a dinner at the Saturday Club for being tireless advocates for the arts in Vacaville and Solano County.

In a Reporter interview then, Lori Hartley, the former manager of the Vacaville gallery at the time, said the Gideons would be remembered as “devoted and consistent” in their caring for the arts and the people who make it happen in Solano County.

“They’re behind-the-scenes workhorses — both of them,” said Hartley. “Richard is a gentle soul and yet he is quite productive.”

She said Gideon, 75 in 2007, was not only the longtime Vaca Arts Council president, an umbrella group for nearly two dozen arts groups, but, as Owens noted, also was the prime mover behind the gallery’s annual Student Art Show in the spring, a huge undertaking for the diminutive, gray-haired man with a cheerful face and bulbous nose.

“He hung the work, he created identification labels—it was his baby,” said Hartley, who worked nearly eight years at the gallery. “That was the whole thing. He just followed through from the beginning to the end. He put on a great exhibition every year. And that quiet presence he has… he was very efficient. I appreciate him.

Also interviewed for The Reporter story, Shawn Lum, the director of the Vacaville Museum in 2007, said, “Both of them have been pretty much synonymous with the development of the arts in this community.”

She called Richard Gideon “the face we see in the arts community, both visual and musical,” and credited Pat Gideon, a member of the Housing and Redevelopment Commission at the time, for encouraging the purchase of public art for the community. “Those are legacies that they are easily identified with and will certainly last around our town,” she added.

Interviewed at their Birch Street home, the Gideons fielded questions about their lives and love for the arts.

Richard said that he was particularly chagrined about not being able to convince city leaders to set aside 5% of the Transit Occupancy Tax (hotel and motel “bed tax”) for the arts.

“That’s fighting city government,” he lamented, his jowly cheeks sagging a little more than usual. “It’s not a tax on the people — it’s a tax on the visitors.”

To the inevitable question—how do you think you’ll be remembered? — he quipped, “That I”m still alive. Longevity is my greatest accomplishment—and having a career” in teaching.

In 1992, after retiring from teaching in area elementary (Alamo and Elm) and middle schools (Willis Jepson) for more than 30 years, he said that he discovered “an entire world of adults that I knew nothing about.”

And he said he had “no idea” what his greatest contribution to the county’s arts scene was.

Ever a team when it came to the arts, Pat Gideon, who for nearly 30 years works for the Travis Unified School District, served as president of the Past Presidents Club of the Saturday Club, was a member of the Vacaville Concert Society, and served as a vice president of the North Bay Opera Guild and North Bay Opera.

Pat Gideon preceded her husband in death on July 17, 2018. She was 85.

Richard Gideon graduated from Sidney, Nebraska, High School in 1950 and entered Colorado State College of Education in Greeley, Colo., later that year. After a stint in the Army, he eventually graduated from Colorado State. He and Pat married in 1956 and moved to Vacaville in 1957 and he began teaching at Alamo Elementary.

Besides being president of the Vacaville Arts Council, he was, for a time, a member of the city’s Arts Advisory Committee; a member of the Gaslighters melodrama group and a charter member of the Vacaville chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, among many others.

He performed with the Leisure Town Singers. He painted watercolors and was an avid collector of Disney memorabilia, something his curio cabinet was stocked with.

Gideon was a Walt Disney fan beginning at age 5, when he saw “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and promptly fell in love with Snow White, he said. “Mickey Mouse is my hero and I can always be seen wearing something Mickey.”

Debbie Hayward, president of the Solano Community Symphony, said in 2007 that the Gideons were “always there, always consistently supportive of the arts and value the arts.”

“They helped nurture the arts and the quality of life here,” she said, adding that the arts were “a real passion for both of them.”

As a final thought, Owens called Richard Gideon “a true and gentle person.”

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