Col. Bob Dingeman (photo by John Gregory)
Celebration of Life for Bob Dingeman
New location: The public is invited to join the Dingeman family for a Celebration of Life for Col. Bob Dingeman on Sunday, May 26 at 3 p.m. The location has been changed from Hoyt Park to the Scripps Ranch High School gym.
The event will include music, tributes and special memories, according to the Scripps Ranch Civic Association. Residents are encouraged bring cards or photos to give to the Dingeman family.
Those wishing to attend should register at https://conta.cc/2Jz4Mnk
Robert ‘Bob’ Edward Dingeman
Mr. Scripps Ranch: 1922-2019
By John Gregory
Bob Dingeman, known as Mr. Scripps Ranch because of his extensive activities as a civic leader in this community, passed away May 4.
Bob Dingeman was born in 1922 on the Philippine Islands where his father was assigned to the Coast Artillery. Dingeman’s father, Ray Dingeman, was an Army captain at the time, commanding the island fortress called Fort Drum.
Later in life, Dingeman began attending the University of Hawaii, joining the school’s ROTC program. He was present when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Dingeman had a desire to attend West Point and competed for an appointment. When the legendary Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during WWII, learned that Dingeman scored the highest when applying, he helped him get accepted to the academy.
“I think the thing that impressed me most about West Point was the very high sense of duty, honor, country,” Dingeman once stated.
Dingeman was dating his future wife, Gaye, while he attended West Point. The couple got married the day after he graduated in 1945.
Dingeman served in the U.S. Army in WWII, fought in the Korean War and in Vietnam. He commanded large artillery units in combat. He oversaw nuclear weapons. He survived several helicopter crashes in Vietnam. He served many times as a valuable staff officer, assisting with historic efforts during times of occupation, rebuilding, ending conflicts and deterring war.
He said that he didn’t like to dwell on the horrible things about his experiences in war. Instead, he chose to think of the good things. “I think of the American soldiers,” he said. “They’re wonderful.”
He retired from the Army as a colonel, having earned most of the military’s highest medals for service, heroism, sacrifice and accomplishments.
Upon retirement, Dingeman was offered a job as vice president with a large defense contractor. He turned it down because he didn’t agree with the company’s ethics when dealing with U.S. defense contracts, he said.
Instead, he and Gaye toured the U.S. and Canada in a motor home. They visited San Diego and eventually decided to settle down in Scripps Ranch. As a civilian, Dingeman put his advanced education to work (he earned four master’s degrees), and taught classes at Miramar College.
He soon put his energy into serving on local committees in San Diego and became involved in developing the Scripps Ranch Civic Association. Today, there is little in Scripps Ranch that he wasn’t involved with in some way. He has done an enormous amount of volunteer work in the community, starting from a time when few homes stood anywhere near his own. His home was filled with mementos, news clippings and awards from his civic activism, as well as ribbons, medals, photos and displays from his time in the Army. However, his civilian commendations are so numerous that it’s impossible to list them all. So great are his contributions to this area that Dingeman Elementary School bears his name.
The San Diego City Council honored him by declaring a “Bob Dingeman Day” on nine occasions. He was voted Scripps Ranch Citizen of the Year at least six times. A scholarship program is named in his honor. The SRCA designated him President Emeritus for Life.
He served on more than 20 boards, foundations and committees. He held every board position on the SRCA at least once. He served on both planning groups in Scripps Ranch and helped author award-winning community plans.
“There’s nothing I’m not involved in,” he said back in 1989. “There were so many things I’d felt needed to be done … I’ve devoted at least 40 hours of every week to doing community activities.”
Yet, not all his dealings with the residents were rosy. There were those who didn’t agree with him, and he sometimes struggled to gain enough volunteers for community projects and events. He once wrote: “I found that Scripps Ranch was composed of many self-reliant people, none of whom really wanted to work with others despite the need.”
Nevertheless, he worked tirelessly to help get infrastructure secured for the community as it grew. He stressed patience to new SRCA officers and wrote that the most important goal is “getting things done for the Ranch.”
He urged Scripps Ranch residents to get involved instead of complaining about something that had already been discussed and decided upon. He referred to a saying: “A very small clique runs Scripps Ranch. This very small clique is spelled v-o-l-u-n-t-e-e-r.”
Some little-known facts:
Dingeman was co-founder of the San Diego Christmas Tree Recycling Program. He helped found and served as treasurer and fundraiser of the San Diego Friends of Park and Recreation Foundation. While a history instructor at Miramar College, Dingeman taught a complete generation of new citizens attending his classes to qualify for U.S. citizenship. Dingeman had one vice – he liked to sip a can of Coke once each day.
During an interview in 1989, Dingeman offered some advice regarding young people, a view that carries as much meaning today as it did then: “Don’t try and curb all their natural instincts … I think we make too much of the kids who get in trouble and not enough of those who don’t. They live in a very confusing world.”
He obviously delighted in his role as a community leader: “It’s been a blast,” Dingeman once said.
Col. Bob Dingeman is survived by Gaye Dingeman, his beloved wife of 74 years; son Dr. Robert D. Dingeman; daughter Susan C. Dingeman; as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Editor’s note: The preceding was compiled from past conversations and interviews I had with Bob Dingeman, as well as from documents he placed in his old brown satchel and once allowed me to borrow.
Here are links to a three-part series about Col. Bob Dingeman’s military career: