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Brentwood News

Published Friday, March 23, 2001

Knightsen resident Somerhalder dies

By Heidi M. Ortmann

NIGHTSEN -- Knightsen lost one of its founding fathers when Arthur Somerhalder passed away March 12.

The long-time Knightsen resident, 96, died peacefully at Sutter Delta Medical Center.

"He lived a long, happy life," said his daughter, Helena Ward. "My father survived longer than the doctors said he would. He was very strong."

Somerhalder became a charter member of the Knightsen volunteer fire department in 1952. He was instrumental in obtaining the department's first fire engine that year. He left the department in 1973.

He also served as director of the Contra Costa County Irrigation District.

In appreciation for his work, the Knightsen volunteer fire department brought the original fire truck and newest trucks to Somerhalder's memorial service Friday to pay respects.

"It was a lovely thing to do. He's worked hard his entire life and gave a lot to this community," Ward said.

Born in Guide Rock, Neb., in 1905, the Somerhalder family relocated to Knightsen in 1912 to start a family almond farm.

"He and his family really founded Knightsen," Ward said. "Our family has been a part of this community for many years."

Ward said her father built an almond warehouse in Knightsen that the family no longer owns. Today it processes walnuts.

Somerhalder, an almond and walnut farmer, retired in 1981 before moving to Antioch, where he resided with his second wife, 98-year-old Marie.

"She is doing fairly well," Ward said of her mother. "But she keeps talking about wanting to go on and join him. We keep telling her it's up to God."

Faith has played an important role in Somerhalder's life. A devout member of the Baha'i faith, Somerhalder converted in 1924 at age 19. He had been active in his faith ever since.

"He was happy until his last day," Ward said. "Even though we were prepared, we still miss him."

Besides his wife, Marie, of Antioch and daughter Helena of Little Rock, Ark., he is also survived by his son Gilbert Somerhalder of Knightsen, stepson Irvin McQuade of Stockton and three grandchildren.

©Copyright 2001, Contra Costa Times

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