Cover photo for Maj. Richard  Roy (Dick) Dawson's Obituary
Maj. Richard  Roy (Dick) Dawson Profile Photo
1938 Maj. Richard 2022

Maj. Richard Roy (Dick) Dawson

January 7, 1938 — January 19, 2022

January 7, 1938 – January 19, 2022
Maj. Richard Roy (Dick) Dawson (USAF ret.), a 46-year Redlands resident, passed away Wednesday, Jan. 19 following a brief illness. He was 84.

Dick was born January 7, 1938 in Long Beach and graduated from Torrance High School in 1956. He and three classmates formed The Tears rock-n-roll group and achieved local renown by charting a Southern California top 10 hit. A highlight of subsequent THS “Class of ‘56” reunions was the group reuniting to entertain classmates. Today, two of The Tears survive.
At 21, the third-year college chemical engineering student tagged along with a friend to witness his buddy’s induction into the United States Air Force. His friend backed out – but Dick felt the call, and signed up on the spot. His first order was to catch a train 2 hours later to Harlingen, TX to begin intensive aviation cadet training. He went home, told his astonished parents his decision, packed a bag, and was off in what turned out to be a 23-year adventure that took him around the world. He often would say, “I have been on every continent, except the South Pole!”

He received many decorations and commendations during his USAF career that included serving as a navigator-bombardier on the medium range B-47 bomber; achieving Master Navigator status at Governor’s Island in New York; completing water survival training; completing jungle survival training in preparation for C-130 missions over Vietnam; and serving with the 14th Military Airlift Squadron at Norton AFB, flying C-141 cargo jets around the globe.

During the Vietnam conflict, Dick and his crew saved many lives, pinpointing downed soldiers in the jungles of Southeast Asia and coordinating rescue efforts. But, whenever recounting the experience, he would downplay his role while sadly lament the occasions the crew knew where soldiers were, but couldn’t reach them.

While stationed in Bermuda, his C-130 crew was selected for the Apollo 11 Launch Abort Mission, tracking the flight and patrolling the Atlantic for the returning capsule following the first successful moon landing.

When their Dad returned home, whether it be from two time zones or half a world away, his daughters reveled in rifling through his many flight suit pockets for “their” gifts from his most recent assignment. The toys, trinkets and souvenirs are unimportant and long forgotten; what the girls forever will value is their anticipation, the ritual, and the knowledge they were always in his heart.

Upon returning to Southern California for good, Dick accepted the position of Executive Vice President for the Colton Chamber of Commerce. For 19 years he worked closely with the City of Colton Economic Development Dept. to help attract a number of manufacturing and trucking companies to relocate to the community, increasing tax revenues and providing employment opportunities.

He was instrumental in originating “Discover Colton Night” with his wife Donna, who at the time worked in marketing for The Sun in San Bernardino. This event was soon mimicked by nearby cities. He also helped create the Colton History Museum – from first-shovel ceremony to completion.

Dick’s engaging personality, quick wit and never-ending desire to assist others also led to leadership roles in a host of local nonprofit organizations, including the Lopers Club, Redlands Racquet Club, Yucaipa Animal Placement Society (YAPS), and Walk Yourself Fit.

Not one for confinement, Dick relished outdoor pursuits. He and his wife Donna completed (at a brisk walk) 11 marathons and dozens of half marathons, 15K, 10K and 5K races. He loved camping with his family and could frequently be found on the tennis court, where he was a ferocious, though good-natured, competitor.

His concept of camping was not for the faint of heart. Use and availability of campers and tents, toiletries and running water failed the test of “real” camping. Today, none of his family regret accepting the challenge and pushing through those interludes of living outside their comfort zones.

Dick extended his compassionate nature to Man’s Best Friend by earning AKC Canine Good Citizen and AKC Star Puppy Trainer certifications. He worked with canine “stars” on film sets with trainer and TV dog handler Tina Lamey, including “CSI Las Vegas,” “Mr. Sunshine” and “90210.” His on-set duties included reassuring sometimes dog-timid actors, and providing them a formula for successful “dog kisses” – a strategically placed dab of peanut butter or hotdog. No actors were ever harmed or injured by Dick’s dogs during filming.

But his greater satisfaction came from forming bonds with dogs thought to be aggressive and unfit for human contact into eventual placement into loving, forever homes. Some of his first pupils were adopted by family members, and no one ever regretted the decision.

While hospitalized and in one of his final conversations with Donna, the major ordered her to contact YAPS and explain his absence from the day’s training session.

He encouraged his daughters to follow their dreams, urged them to accept people for who they are, and advised them to not hold grudges. The girls summarize his mentorship as “living love forward.”

Dick is survived by Donna, his loving wife of 40 years; twin daughters Karen McClain (Tom) and Kim Dawson, both of Yucaipa; daughter Kelly Brady (Ken), Santa Cruz; brother James, Durham, NC; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The public is invited to a Celebration of Life for Dick including full military honors, Saturday, Feb. 26 at 11 a.m. at Emmerson-Bartlett Mortuary, Redlands. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, his family encourages donations be made in Dick’s name to YAPS (; Lopers Club (; Ride Yourself Fit ( or Redlands Racquet Club (

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Maj. Richard Roy (Dick) Dawson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Pacific time)

Emmerson-Bartlett Memorial Chapel - Redlands

703 Brookside Avenue, Redlands, CA 92373

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