The Dana Point Historical Society’s Founders Day Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the history of Dana Point, and this year’s honorees, Geody and Richard Deffenbaugh (below), have also contributed to the Society directly.
Both grew up in California — Richard Deffenbaugh in Anaheim and Geody in La Mirada. Richard’s first experience with Dana Point was in 1962 as a teenager when he came here to surf. They met at a party and married on July 7, 1969 (below). Richard’s father worked for the Richfield Oil Company, and when a job opening came up at the Richfield Beacon Gas Station in Dana Point, Richard and Geody began their business lives in the area. Their first home was in one of the historic apartments close to the business on Pacific Coast Highway.
When they arrived in town in 1969, the population of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and San Juan Capistrano combined was 4,000 inhabitants. The Deffenbaughs remember the era: All stores were closed on Sunday except for gas stations; El Toro was strictly Leisure World and a Marine Base; Mission Viejo was only in the planning stage and the area surrounding Dana Point was largely farmland and orange groves. There was no harbor, though dredging had begun. The entrance to Doheny State Park was across the street from their gas station. Greyhound buses, a popular means of transportation then, stopped right outside their station. The Richfield Tower was a landmark for planes and ships. The family doctor (Dr. Pine) made house calls, and you could buy a home on Beach Road for $60,000. A phone call to South Laguna was considered long distance, and when the all-volunteer fire department sounded an alarm, you might see men running out of Vic’s Market or Mac’s Coffee shop as they made their way to the call.
Richfield Oil Company became the Atlantic Richfield Company (better known as ARCO) and by 1985 the company was changing the way its gas stations were to be operated. Auto repair gave way to convenience stores and Geody and Richard’s business was one of the first ten to be changed over. Business sharply declined since no one understood what a convenience gas station was. Richard responded by opening an auto repair shop next door (pictured below) and persuaded Geody to help run the AM/PM market “only for six months.” Geody ended up running the AM/PM for 27 years until they sold it in 2009.
Geody and Richard raised two children. Son Darren and daughter Janae (pictured below) attended local schools and went to college at UCLA. Darren and his family live in North Carolina and Janae and family in Boca Raton, Florida. While raising their children, Geody was on the PTA Board and a Room Mother at Del Obispo Elementary school. She helped raise funds for many field trips the school district did not cover. Geody was also involved at South Coast Laguna Beach Hospital Auxiliary as President of the OB and Pediatric section. She helped organize many fashion shows to raise funds for the support of young mothers.
Geody was always a “Team Mom” and score keeper for the children’s many sports activities, raising funds for trips as far away as Hawaii for tournaments. Richard was a board member of Del Obispo Boys Baseball, Capo Valley Girls Softball and Capo Valley Boys & Girls Soccer, where he also served as coach and sponsor. The couple were able to persuade SDG&E to put up lights at the Del Obispo baseball fields and, after a lengthy battle, to cajole Pacific Bell to place a telephone booth at the field. Prior to the installation of the telephone, if a child was injured, it was necessary to drive to the gas station to call an ambulance or drive directly to South Coast Hospital.
Richard has been a member of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce Board since 1971 — 49 years — and is the longest-standing member of the Chamber. He has served on the Board since 2013 and has participated on the Ambassador, Membership and Education Committees. In 2013, the Chamber named the Deffenbaughs’ Dana Point Auto Service as Business of the Year.
Richard is an invaluable member of the Chamber’s Education Committee, personally championing the funds raised for Dana Hills High School and increasing the scholarships awarded to deserving students. In 2019, the Chamber Board voted to rename its annual student award to the Richard Deffenbaugh Scholarship. Richard also served on the Dana Point Optimist Club for ten years, serving as Secretary and Vice President.
In 2014, Richard was the guest speaker for the Dana Point Historical Society when he presented the Richfield Tower Beacon on a custom-designed stand (below). The iconic beacon in Dana Point was first erected in 1928 as part of a chain of 36 towers on the West Coast (it was dismantled in 1971). The beacon stands in our museum today.
As members of the Dana Point community, both Geody and Richard Deffenbaugh have illustrated a life-long commitment to our area while pleasantly amassing many stories of local characters as well as well-known legends. Richard knew Hobie Alter and all the watermen and women who frequented the beach and shoreline, in addition to such celebrities as Esther Williams and Fernando Lamas, who stopped at the station to gas up halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.
The Dana Point Historical Society is proud to honor the Deffenbaughs in 2020. We look forward to hosting an event in the future to publicly thank them and recognize their years of service and commitment to the Dana Point area.