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Prada: His life was about doing the right thing

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POSTED June 12, 2010 2:59 a.m.
Life - as Dick Prada lived it - is about doing the right thing.

Prada, 89, passed away this week. He’d tell you that there was nothing special about him but in reality there is something special about most of his generation. Prada was no exception.

Born on June 27, 1920 in San Francisco when it was still the city of the working class, Prada came of age in the midst of The Great Depression. He went to work as age 17 as a bank messenger for American Trust Co. traveling a route that took him to Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco twice a day along with a guard. Eager to improve his lot in life, Prada then went to work in the Oakland ship yards where he picked up the electrical trade. He married Vel - the true love of his life - on June 21, 1940. When World War II broke out, the Navy ended up using his electrical skills on the USS Aristas.

Like many who went to war to defend their country and free millions from the clutches of tyranny, Prada returned home and proceeded to help build America into a super power both in terms of economic prowess and military strength. His business was real estate development and construction but his forte and passion was community service.

Much of the service he did was through the Manteca Kiwanis but arguably the most selfless thing he did was help found Manteca Community Action Programs for mentally handicapped adults and then stick with it for over three decades that include three stints as president.

Unlike others involved in forming CAPS, Prada did not have an adult child that needed help. He just saw it is a pressing need and the right thing to do.

It is those two concepts - meeting a pressing need and doing what is right - that guided much of The Greatest Generation. They developed a keen sense of community and commitment to others. The seeds were planted during an economic malaise that makes what we’re going through today seem robust in comparison. The drive was sharpened by the dark days of World War II when the very survival of the concept of free men was on the line.

“Family value” was more than buzz words to men like Prada. Thos words were a way of life.

They took their role as Americans seriously and made sure it included extending a helping hand to those who are less fortunate.

A sense of fair play and being a true gentleman also describes many of Prada’s generation including himself.

Prada wasn’t without flaws. We all have them.  But instead of being in self-denial about his shortcomings he worked at improving on them and never missed an opportunity to encourage someone with a positive word whether they were young or old.

Prada embraced Kiwanis as much for the community service as he did for the fellowship. It is an organization that reflected his personal views of the world that positive words and actions are the best way to change the world even if it is one deed - or one comment - at a time.

Prada - and endless scores of men and women just like him - are responsible for writing what has been called “the history of good.”

While the ominous shadow of evil casts itself over generations rarely do we stop and contemplate the truth - there is substantially more good in the world than there ever has been evil.

Hitler’s atrocities are forever imprinted on human history but millions of selfish acts and sacrifices by others to free those under his tyranny have gone largely undocumented and absent on the pages of history.

Perhaps that is the way it has to be as it is the small acts of individuals and not leaders that carry the weight in changing the world.

Manteca was blessed by Prada’s decision to move here in 1970.

Countless thousands have benefitted from Prada’s upbeat optimism and numerous acts of kindness.

As for Prada, he never hesitated to tell people that one of the smartest things he ever did was move to Manteca.

Rest assured that Prada is looking down today through the sunshine that caresses Manteca.

For it is men and women like Prada who strive to do the right thing that provide the light to guide future generations as we travel through the wilderness.
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