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The passing of 84-year-old Walter “Bud” Hartman ’54 on June 15, 2017, was a huge loss, but it was certainly heaven’s gain. He had a deep love for his wife, Sally, and his children, and was steadfast in his dedication to his faith, family, work, and country. Bud truly relished each day of his life as a gift, and his enthusiasm was infectious. He packed more activities and production into each day than most plan to do in a year. Few people could keep up with him, but many enjoyed trying. He lived a life of integrity, generosity, and unparalleled adventure that inspired and blessed all of those who knew him.
Bud’s family had a long history in Ventura County. His grandfather, Fridolin Hartman, emigrated from Germany and settled in San Buenaventura in 1873. Fridolin Hartman married Katherine Kaufman, a native of Minnesota, in 1874. Together they had 16 children, the youngest being Bud’s father, Walter Edward Hartman Sr. Fridolin supported his large family through many business endeavors, including the Hartman Brewery, the Anacapa Hotel in Downtown Ventura, and farming and ranching ventures throughout the county. Walter Edward Hartman Sr., a rancher, married Dorothy Crewe Cox and built a home on Evergreen Drive in Ventura, where they raised two children, Joanne and Walter Edward Jr. Dorothy and her sisters thought baby Walter’s cheeks looked like rosebuds and nicknamed him “Bud,” which was the name he preferred all his life. Bud attended Villanova Preparatory School, and at the age of 16, met the love of his life, Sally Jean Weidenfeller, then 15, when he saw her and a friend walking home from school, offering them a ride. This was the beginning of his and Sally’s 65-year-long love story. A few years later when he left for college to study business administration at Santa Clara University, Sally followed him to nearby San Jose State to be close to him. He joined ROTC while in college, and he credited his time in the service for instilling in him a decades-long love of flying and the discipline that served him well throughout his life. After graduating from Santa Clara University, Bud and Sally got married in Ventura on Oct. 30, 1954, after which he reported to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Officer Training School. There, he and Sally welcomed their first child, Theresa, followed by Debbie, who was born in Colorado during Bud’s flight training. Ultimately stationed in Germany, Bud flew L19 Bird Dogs and the de Havilland Beaver, transporting generals throughout western Europe. It was in 1957 in Germany where Bud and Sally welcomed their third child, Glenn, to the family. In 1958, at the rank of captain, Bud left the Army to return home, where he remained a Reserve officer for two more years. Life abroad expanded Bud’s worldview and fueled his insatiable appetite for travel and learning about new places. Bud and Sally returned to civilian life back home in Ventura, where he began his career selling electrical supplies for Valley Electric Co. When their second son, David, was born, Bud sent Sally a bouquet with a hopeful note reading “Family complete!”—but it was not to be. Patricia was born about a year later, followed by Julie and Eileen. Lesser men might have buckled under the pressure of having such a large family before the tender age of 30, however, Bud credited Sally and their seven children as his motivation for success. Bud was given the opportunity to buy into the John Taft Electric Company in Ventura; he eventually acquired full ownership and changed the name to Taft Electric Company. During Bud’s 52-year tenure, Taft grew from 40 employees to over 300, with satellite offices in Thousand Oaks, Buellton, and Los Angeles, in addition to a prefabrication facility in Ventura. In the 1970’s, he expanded operations to Mammoth Lakes, California. His entrepreneurial spirit, penchant for contrarian thinking, and risk-taking ability led him to start many other business ventures, including Century Construction, Taft Cellular, Everything Electric, and Jaeger Hunting Supply, to name a few. He also was a founding member of Ventura County National Bank and The Tower Club. Nothing gave Bud more joy than mentoring employees, vendors, and subcontractors in all aspects of their lives. He encouraged a team and family atmosphere at Taft and was proud of the many long-term employees who shared his success. As a testament to his commitment to the people he worked with, Bud sold Taft to his employees earlier this year. Bud maintained and expanded his circle of friends through all the stages of his life. He was generous with his interest and time. He served as the president of Ventura County Game Preserve and the Aviation Country Club and was a lifetime member of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Throughout his life, Bud pursued his passions of flying, hunting, fishing, as well as running, and reveled in sharing these with his family and friends alike. He encouraged many of his children, grandchildren, and friends to become accomplished pilots as he saw it as a ticket to freedom and adventure. He also taught his children, 15 grandchildren, and countless friends to water ski and snow ski, showing remarkable patience as a teacher because he got so much joy out of helping someone learn a new skill. A dedicated outdoorsman, he loved spending time at his family’s ranch above the Ojai Valley and spent many happy days there. He was also a voracious reader and would often finish a book in a day, as well as many newspapers and magazines, which not only kept him up-to-date but also well-informed in many subjects. One of his favorite quotes, “You’re either ripe and rotting or green and growing,” was how he always encouraged his family, friends, and coworkers to keep learning new things. He led a rich and full life that was guided by his deep Catholic faith. The legacy he leaves, one infused with passion, generosity, and insatiable curiosity, will continue to serve as a lodestar in his family member’s lives. Bud was predeceased by his beloved Sally in 2013, daughter Eileen in 1965, and son David in 2011. He is survived by his five remaining children, Theresa (Tom Ryan), Debbie (Richard Duggan), Glenn (Colette Hartman), Patricia (David Cortina), and Julie (Mark Monro), sister Joanne Hartman Newman, cousin Ann Hartman Donlon, 15 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and personal assistant Paula Miller who, for 42 years, cheerfully kept the massive undertaking of organizing Bud’s many business, family, and travel adventures running smoothly.