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Sonoma veteran Rick Schreuder dies at 39

Friday, June 15th, 2012 | Posted by

When Sonoma city councilwoman Laurie Gallian first met Rick Schreuder, she was working at an event to benefit city residents serving

Rick Schreuder

overseas in the military. He immediately offered to help her out.

“He just had a great grin and was dressed in his military khakis,” said Gallian.

Schreuder, who died at home in Sonoma Sunday at age 39 of esophageal cancer, made something of a science out of helping out.

During her 2011 tenure as mayor, Gallian would receive music CDs made by Schreuder — “He said, ‘The mayor has to have her tunes.’” He also regularly drove her to events and made himself available for whatever community projects needed him, she said.

“It was in an instant, just great community relationship; he was a wonderful facilitator for getting things done,” she said.

Richard Frederick “Rick” Schreuder was born Oct. 5, 1972 in Honolulu, where he lived for his first four years. In 1976, he and his parents, Donald and Gail Schreuder, moved to Novato where he graduated from high school in 1991.

He was this sort of youth: while working as a teenager at a hardware store he decided more handicapped parking spaces were needed and painted all the parking spot curbs blue. “The owner didn’t like that too much and he ended up out of a job,” his father said.

After high school, Schreuder joined the Army Reserve. Hampered by a learning disability, he had to go through boot camp twice, but made it.

He belonged to the Petaluma-based 579th Engineer Battalion and was activated for duty in Afghanistan twice, first in 2005. But medical problems kept him from going and forced his eventual discharge.

He maintained his military ties, joining the American Legion, Post 489 in Sonoma, where he moved to 10 years ago from Santa Rosa.

“He was a true patriot,” said Post Commander Gary Magnani. “He really cared about trying to help his fellow vets and supporting the troops. He was the first guy to volunteer….The ultimate member.”

Schreuder also received special dispensation to join the Native Sons of the Golden West, an organization for the California-born.

“He really wanted to be a part of the community,” his father said. “He was so proud when they accepted him.”

Over the course of his life, Schreuder worked primarily as a driver for bus companies, sometimes long-hauling to Canada. But having bosses wasn’t his strongest suit, his father said: “He never really liked working for anybody else — because he did things a little differently.”

To address that, Schreuder started a company in Sonoma, Big Valley Wine Tours and Excursions, running tourists around in a 15-seater van and putting to good use his social skills and friendly nature.

“He knew almost everybody he ever met,” his father said. “He never forget anybody.”

For the past seven years Schreuder had pursued, on and off, his dream of earning an auto mechanic certificate from Santa Rosa Junior College.

With his cancer diagnosis last July he became that much more determined to complete his coursework. In May he achieved his goal, receiving his certificate while in a wheelchair, along with a special award for his work as a tutor and teacher’s assistant and all-around volunteer.

“It was hard. It took him a long time, but he was so determined to do that before he died, and he did,” said Donald Schreuder.

In addition to his parents, Schreuder is survived by his sister Sherri North of New York, and his aunt and uncle, Joyce and Gary McCown of Modesto.

Services with military honors are planned for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Veteran’s Memorial Park, 90 First Street West, Sonoma.

—Jeremy Hay

Writer Spotlight

Dianne Reber Hart is our Sonoma correspondent.

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