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Dick Prada: Service was his middle name to many
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Dick Prada - a man who defined community service - has passed away.

Prada was described years ago as “The Marathon Man” with the middle name of “service” – seen as generous, optimistic and humorous with an undying spirit.  Although he had a tough childhood, every challenge he faced was a lesson to learn and he learned them well.

Prada continued to display that innate sense of humor from his hospital bed less than two hours before his death – making his passing somewhat easier on his family around him.

Prada died Thursday some 17 days shy of his 90th birthday.  A memorial service is scheduled to be held at A Place of Refuge Church on Button Avenue at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 19.

Born in San Francisco in 1920, Prada and his wife Vel moved to Manteca in 1970 when Manteca still had only one traffic signal and was a community he regarded as “a beautiful small town and real relaxed.”

While he busied himself with building Lincoln Center on West Yosemite Avenue  and several apartment complexes, as well as founding the Century 21 All Pro Realty and Ability Mortgage companies, he continued with a kind and optimistic outlook on life.

Daughters Sondra Sullivan and Sherre Bernardo were at his Manteca home on Friday feeling they were engulfed with his spirit as they poured through the many awards and trophies that were presented to him in his lifetime.  A wall 10 feet high and 20 feet wide was somewhat representative of what he had done for others.  Being inducted into Manteca’s Hall of Fame in 2005 was just one of those awards that were well deserved.

“You just had to look at all of this and take a deep breath,” Bernardo said of her dad’s achievements.  Every direction they turned they could feel and almost visualize their mom and dad – a couple with a love that had lasted for 70 years.

“He was truly an extraordinary man with his story of dedication to Vel, his family and then to Manteca.  This all happened so fast – we just wanted to bring him home and make him well,” she said.

Determined to make a difference
It was through Prada’s determination and vision that Manteca CAPS was created within the community some 33 years ago to help those developmentally handicapped living in and around Manteca  to lead a more complete and productive life.

His efforts made it possible for those individuals attending the CAPS program – through the help of Manteca Kiwanis – to have the opportunity to reach their full potential and beyond while maximizing their quality of life through their individual choices.

And,  as his daughter remembers,  he was always lobbying in his own way to build service in the community through Kiwanis where he served as the youth District Governor and later the Lieutenant Governor of California, Nevada and Hawaii.

When in the hospital awaiting surgery a couple weeks ago, he saw another chance to sell the values of his service club when a teen volunteer came into his room to replace his water.  Asking him where he went to high school, was followed by his urging to look up a Kiwanis Key Club at his school – it’s the best and will be of help to you, he said.

Prada was raised by an uncle who was described an extraordinary, optimistic and kind man – much like himself – who served as his role model to him in his life.  His daughter noted that the key to her dad’s life was that he believed you had to work hard, you had to save a lot and you had to give a lot to your fellow man.

The passion he had for the CAPS program was unwavering, said former CAPS’ executive director Emmanuel Serriere.  He said that Prada’s “probing and pushing” for the good of those individuals in the program never let up.

“Dick was tiring me in a creative way of ‘no limits.’  He wanted a Tracy CAPS, a Stockton CAPS, a residential CAPS.  He wanted to serve all and questioned the fact as to why we just limited ourselves to the existing five programs,” Serriere said.

Members of Manteca’s noon Kiwanis Club will miss the “godfather” of their group as they warmly called him.  When any member was hospitalized for illness or accident, Prada was always the first one at their bedside – making an extra effort to be there for them.

Juli Rhodes, who has served 10 years on the Kiwanis board with Prada, has always referred to him with the utmost respect as “Mr. Prada.”  A bank manager in her own right, she said that his passing was something that has really upset her. When she had surgery the first get well note she received was from Dick Prada.

“With a club as small as ours it was important that everyone be there – he would always show up, always early,” she said. “He would always order the same thing: a tuna melt, cottage cheese, pineapple and coffee.”

Rhodes said she saw him as a positive father figure who was very firm in what he believed – when you had a political conversation with him, he would make Rush Limbaugh look liberal, she chuckled.

He would never raise his voice
“When discussing his beliefs, he would never raise his voice.  He would grab your hand, give you the squint of one eye, and get you to do anything he asked,” she said.  

People would continue to hold him in high respect even when they didn’t agree with him, she added.  One incident involved the Kiwanis CAPS program funding where a certain amount was budgeted and when the board was ready to adopt their final budget for the year, Prada urged them to give the rehabilitation program more money – more than they had.   The club went with his wishes finding the CAPS’ funds elsewhere.

She said he loved cheese cake and when she baked one he would get half with strawberries and hospitalized firefighter Marvin Mears would get the other half.  Rhodes said he would make a special effort to drive by her bank to get that dessert he felt to be so special. And that firefighter will never forget who was at his bedside after his near fatal boating accident.

Rhodes recalled that the Kiwanians continued to witness the ever present love Prada had for his wife after her death.  He always talked about her in the present tense and never removed his wedding ring with any thought of moving on in his life.

This year’s Kiwanis President David Soeth said of Prada, “People believe children are our future, but he believed that they are our present as well, and both of those things need to be addressed.”

Soeth added that if he thought you were wrong he would tell you, and if he felt he was wrong he would admit that to you too.  “I think he was a man of great value and he was willing to fight for those values,” he said.

The Kiwanis leader explained that his friend of many years accepted people for who they were, and then gently persuaded them to use their strengths for themselves as well as for friends, family and the community.  If you were his friend, you were his friend period, he noted.

“I know he did a lot of things for people that he never talked about, because that was the kind of person he was,” Soeth said.

In addition to his two daughters, Prada is survived by three grandchildren and four great-grand-children along with two “wonderful” and supportive sons-in-law.

“Mr. Prada” will be laid to rest next to his wife, and the girls’ mom, at Oakmont in Pleasant Hill on the date that would have been their 70th wedding anniversary