Chester W. St. Clair

Chester W. St. Clair Chester W. St. Clair died Aug. 15, 2012, at Loma Linda, Calif. He was 72.

Visitation will be on Wednesday, Aug. 22, from 5-8 p.m. at the H.K. Holland Memorial Chapel. Funeral services will be held Thursday, Aug. 23, 9:30 a.m. at Calvary Chapel, 210 Springer St. Services will be officiated by Terry Morrison. Burial will follow at Desert Memorial Park.

Chester was born May 26, 1940, in San Ardo, Calif., to William R. St. Clair and Gladys Chloe Pryor St. Clair. Chester and his mother moved to Arkansas in 1951, after the death of his father. They lived with his grandparents. His grandfather farmed with a mule team. There Chet learned to harness and drive horses, mules or whatever was available.

In high school, he was involved with wrestling, boxing and the Future Farmers of America. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1957. He was stationed in San Diego, then transferred to a military transport ship, the USS General J. C. Breckinridge, AP 176, making 33 trips across the Pacific.

In 1958 he met Pat Hildreth in San Diego, They fell in love and were married in November 1959. The couple lived in Oakland until Chester was discharged in 1961. He went to work at Owens Illinois Glass in Oakland. They settled in Pleasanton, Calif., where son Raymond was born on Nov. 25, 1962.

After numerous calls from his father-in-law, Bob Hildreth, wanting him to come take over the family business, they moved to Ridgecrest on Aug. 1, 1963. Chester operated tow trucks and the wrecking yard during the day and changed into a white shirt in the evening to learn to sell cars. Bob was killed in an auto accident in September 1964. At the age of 24, the great responsibility was placed on Chester to continue operating Hildreth Motors, which included a Dodge dealership, AAA Towing, 24 employees and a working relationship with Bank of America.

In 1966 daughter Theresa was born, and son Thomas was born in 1969.

In 1985, the dealership was sold. The business name was changed to St. Clair Automotive and retained the towing, used car license, and auto body shop.

In 1988, son Thomas, 19, was killed in a car accident.

In 1990 Chester went on a Death Valley wagon drive as an outrider. He came home excited, saying he was going to build a wagon so his family could go together. He trained a team of mules to pull his wagon, and the family started going on the annual Death Valley ’49ers drive in November 1991. He didn’t miss a year through 2011. He was the wagon master for nine years.

Chester was also involved with the California Sesquicentennial in 1999. Ten California wagon masters joined and enjoyed a 100-mile drive into Stockton. All original wagons were quite a sight. It was a year in the planning stages.

Chester raised seven of his own mules, treating his animals with kindness. He hauled the Desert Empire Fair directors in the “old wagon” in the annual DEF Parade the last few years. Then Santa needed a new way to ride in the Christmas Parade. Chester loved seeing the kids react to Santa.

First and foremost, he loved driving a tow truck. The business had a 64-year association with the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Chester is survived by his wife of 52 years, Pat, son Raymond St. Clair, daughter Theresa Knight, all of Ridgecrest; seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Gladys St. Clair, and son Thomas St. Clair.

Flowers will be accepted, but contributions may be made in his name to the charity of your choice.

Submitted by the family of Chester W. St. Clair

Story First Published: 2012-08-22