Richard Ellsworth Akin ’54 was born on Oct. 17, 1932, in Placerville, California. He was the firstborn of Leo and Gladys Akin, with brother Ed following 18 months later. Born of pioneer stock, Dick was the fourth generation to make Placerville his home; three of his great-grandparents settled in the new state of California just after the gold rush. The Akin ranches in the Gold Hill area have been home for the family ever since, and have been continuously farmed by the family for over 160 years. Growing up on a producing pear ranch meant a lot of hard work for brothers Dick and Ed, and both learned a strong work ethic. Summers on the ranch as teenagers meant long days, especially during the summer harvest season. Ed and Dick took turns delivering the precious Akin pears and peaches to the Fruit House in town for further delivery to destinations unknown. Even amongst the hard work, there was always time to travel and for exploration of the country. As a young man, Dick enjoyed travel in the family car seeing many of our country’s sights along the way. This travel spurred his wanderlust at an early age. After graduating from El Dorado High School, Dick went on to SCU, receiving a Jesuit education and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology. While attending college, Dick developed a yearning to spread his wings, and his lifelong passion for aviation was born, which he shared with his children, and later his grandchildren. After graduating from college, Dick joined the Army and served eight years as a pilot. He flew both the Bell H-47 helicopter and the L-19 birddog aircraft, flying patrol along the border between southern Germany and Czechoslovakia. While posted in Regensburg Germany, he fell in love with a beautiful German girl, Erika, who would become his wife for 58 years. After leaving the Army, he signed on at TWA in 1963 as a flight engineer on the Lockheed Constellation in the golden age of aviation. Dick went on to fly the Boeing 707 and 747, and when he retired after 28 years of international travel, he was flying the Lockheed L1011, his favorite airplane. He continued flying small airplanes after retirement and loved to give rides to his friends, showing off his beloved county. Dick always had a very creative mind with a bent toward engineering. He loved to tinker with energy conservation and creation. This became most evident during the gas crisis in the 70s as he installed diesel engines in his Chevy El Camino, in his Jeep and in several of his kids’ Chevy Vegas. He loved the ability to make things work more efficiently. In 1978, he began working on his own hydroelectric power plant, using the power of the water at Hangtown Falls in the Cold Springs area. In 1981, the power plant spun to life and produced 130 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power about 30 homes. Close behind his love for airplanes, farming, and hydroelectricity was his love for all things water. His father, Leo Akin, and grandfather Daniel Akin both served on the board of directors for EID, and Dick followed suit, serving from 1994 to 2003. He often said that it was the development of water supply that has always made the foothills location the success that it is. He learned more about the EID watershed than most any other person and regularly flew friends, family, and other EID members over the watershed, showing them the lifeblood of these water sources. During his tenure on the EID board, he was instrumental in securing the Project 184 water system and hydroelectric plant, which is now named in honor of the family. In 1994, Dick felt that growing wine grapes was something for which the family ranch was particularly well suited, and he planted 20 acres of cabernet and merlot grapevines. He worked tirelessly in the vineyard in his “retirement” years, producing about 100 tons annually of some of El Dorado County’s finest grapes. But above all of his varied interests and pursuits was his love for his family and his heritage. On Jan. 3, 2018, Richard Ellsworth Akin passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his family. He lived a very full 85 years. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Jenny (Jeanne) Akin Leineke; and is survived by his wife of 58 years, Erika Akin, three children, Robert (Bob), Elizabeth, and Patricia (Trish), 11 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

08 Nov 2018