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Remembering Petaluma dairyman Ralph Bettinelli

Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.

Friends and family are invited to attend a funeral mass for well-known Petaluma dairyman Ralph Bettinelli at 11 a.m. Monday, July 15 at St. James Catholic Church, 125 Sonoma Mountain Parkway.

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Ralph Bettinelli

John O'Hara

Mr. Bettinelli died while traveling in Scotland on June 28, 2013 with his companion Kathleen Doyle by his side. He was 75.

According to his daughter, Kim Jones, he died after surgery to fix a torn aorta in his heart.

Born in Petaluma, Mr. Bettinelli was raised on the family dairy in east Petaluma, which he eventually bought and returned to. In the early 1960s, he and his wife, Connie, started their dairy on Wilfred Avenue in Santa Rosa, eventually buying and returning to the home ranch in Petaluma in 1972. They raised five children that all participated in 4-H and Future Farmers of America events that spanned many years.

The doors of their home were always open to their friends, their children's friends, family members and often an occasional perfect stranger.

“He was very outgoing and treated people the way he wanted to be treated,” said Jones. “He treated everyone with respect and liked to talk to people. He was never afraid to talk to anybody and treated everybody the same no matter what.”

After Connie's death Mr. Bettinelli continued in the dairy business with daughter Roxanne as a partner. He recently retired, and today Roxanne operates an organic dairy on the home ranch.

“He was always doing stuff with the kids and grandkids,” added Jones.

Mr. Bettinelli was an active member of the Petaluma Elks Lodge 901, Petaluma Rotary, and the Swiss Club.

He also won the Petaluma Whiskerino Contest back when it was held at the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park.

He served on the Sonoma County Fair board (where he was also a past president). He was a member of the Sonoma County Trail Blazers, and a member of the Druids.

He was a fixture at the Sonoma County 4-H replacement heifer sale at the Sonoma-Marin Fair, where his winning personality and tapping cane would always manage to fetch the highest bid for the kids. Then it would be on to Sonoma County fair as a solicitor and supporter for 4-H and FFA market sale.

An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Bettinelli enjoyed sharing the outdoors with his family and friends. A simple hunting trip or abalone excursion often turned into a great story.

“He worked hard, but he wasn't afraid to have a good time,” said Jones. “He balanced work with fun.”

When he wasn't on one of his many adventures, he could be found every morning at Ernie's Tin Barn, enjoying conversation, giving or taking advice and of course shaking dice for coffee.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests contributions to the Ralph and Connie Bettinelli Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Exchange Bank, 2 E. Washington St. Petaluma, 94952 or to a favorite organization.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 37 years, Connie (Moreda) Bettinelli; his siblings Eleanor Corda, Dorothy McDonald, and Stephen Bettinelli.

He is survived by his children, Kim Jones, Roxanne Bettinelli, and Dawn Bettinelli Sullivan, all of Petaluma, Rochelle Beeson of Potter Valley, and Egidio Bettinelli of Penngrove; grandchildren; step grandchildren; step great-grandchildren; and his companion of many years Kathleen Doyle.

In addition to the funeral mass on Monday, July 15, a visition will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 14 at Parent-Sorensen Mortuary & Crematory, 850 Keokuk St. A vigil service will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 14 at St. James Catholic Church.

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