Long-time Hesperia Recreation and Park District board member Richard Lupton died Monday afternoon at the age of 63.
Lupton, who was first elected to the board in 1994, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive, normally irreversible restriction of air into the lungs. Despite the diagnosis, he remained an active part of Hesperia's political life, and he and his oxygen tank were a common sight at community events.
In December 2008, Lupton received a lung transplant at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Although the transplant allowed him to celebrate a final Christmas at home with his family, Lupton contracted an infection during his surgery and soon returned to the hospital, and he moved between there and a related rehabilitation center until his death.
"He was still doing stuff from his hospital bed," Lupton's daughter, Shawna Irish, said Monday. "[The doctors] were surprised how well he fought all of this. They said he wasn't a textbook case."
Despite being in the hospital and rehabilitation center, Lupton continued his work on the park board.
"He was on speakerphone with us, and he did fine with us until a couple of months ago," said park board president Bob Chandler. "Richard just loved that stuff, and I mean to the max."
Lupton grew up in Grand Terrace, and graduated from Colton High School and San Bernardino Valley College. He moved to Hesperia in 1976, where he worked as a firefighter -- even being named Hesperia Firefighter of the Year in the late 1980s -- before rheumatoid arthritis forced him into an early retirement in 1996. As an outlet for what he describes as his desire to be involved in public service, he turned to the park district.
A member of the Hesperia Kiwanis since 1996 and a former president, he was named Hesperian of the Year by the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce in January 2007.
"He said 'I might not be able to go as fast today, because I don't have a lot of wind,' but he kept going," said Becky Otwell, who worked with Lupton in the Kiwanis. "He never let anything stop him."
"Richard was always kind of a straight-shooter," said Chandler. "He wasn't a complicated person. He was very down to earth. He was a good problem-solver. He liked to get into issues and solve them and not get side-tracked into a bunch of things that would just complicate things."
"Hesperia has lost a man that was truly dedicated to helping the community," Hesperia Recreation and Park District General Manager Cal Camara said in a statement released Monday. "There is no question that when Richard woke up every morning, his first thought was what he could do that day to help Hesperia. The citizens of Hesperia and all of us at Hesperia Recreation and Park District will miss him greatly."
"He was one of my best friends and he did everything in Kiwanis and the park [district] and I don't think you'll find a better volunteer and friend," said Otwell. "You could depend on him about everything. He never had a bad word about anybody."
Lupton is survived by his wife, Kathy, their two daughters and four grandchildren.
His funeral will take place on Monday at 1 p.m. at Montecito Memorial Park & Mortuary, 24145 Barton Road in Loma Linda. A reception will follow after from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Percy Bakker Center, 9333 E Avenue in Hesperia.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.