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The Dana Point Historical Society’s Founders Day Award—an honor that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the history of Dana Point—will go to Geody and Richard Deffenbaugh this year.

Both grew up in California — Richard Deffenbaugh in Anaheim and Geody in La Mirada. Richard’s first experience with Dana Point was in 1962, when he came here to surf as a teenager. They met at a party and married on July 7, 1969.

Richard’s father worked for the Richfield Oil Company, and when a job opening came up at the Richfield Beacon Gas Station in Dana Point, Richard and Geody began their business and lives in the area. Their first home was in one of the historic apartments close to the business on Pacific Coast Highway.

Geody and Richard Deffenbaugh are this year’s Dana Point Historical Society honorees. Photo: Courtesy of DPHS

When they arrived in town in 1969, the population of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and San Juan Capistrano combined was 4,000 inhabitants.

“The Deffenbaughs remember the era: All stores were closed on Sunday except for gas stations; El Toro was strictly Leisure World and a Marine Base; Mission Viejo was only in the planning stage, and the area surrounding Dana Point was largely farmland and orange groves,” according to the Historical Society. “There was no harbor, though dredging had begun. The entrance to Doheny State Park was across the street from their gas station.”

Greyhound buses, a popular means of transportation then, stopped right outside their station. The Richfield Tower was a landmark for planes and ships.

Richfield Oil Company became the Atlantic Richfield Company (better known as ARCO), and by 1985 the company was changing the way its gas stations were to be operated.  Auto repair gave way to convenience stores, and the Deffenbaughs’ business was one of the first 10 to be changed over.  Business sharply declined since no one understood what a convenience gas station was at the time.

Richard responded by opening an auto repair shop next door and persuaded Geody to help run the AM/PM market “only for six months.” Geody ended up running the AM/PM for 27 years, until they sold it in 2009.

Geody and Richard raised two children, Darren and Janae, who attended local schools and went to college at UCLA.

Richard has been a member of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce Board for nearly 50 years and is the longest-standing member of the Chamber. In 2013, the Chamber named the Deffenbaughs’ Dana Point Auto Service as Business of the Year.

In 2014, Richard was the guest speaker for the Dana Point Historical Society, when he presented the Richfield Tower Beacon on a custom-designed stand. The iconic beacon in Dana Point was first erected in 1928 as part of a chain of 36 towers on the West Coast (it was dismantled in 1971). The beacon stands in the DPHS museum today.

“As members of the Dana Point community, both Geody and Richard Deffenbaugh have illustrated a lifelong commitment to our area while pleasantly amassing many stories of local characters as well as well-known legends,” a DPHS news release states. “The Dana Point Historical Society is proud to honor the Deffenbaughs in 2020.  We look forward to hosting an event in the future to publicly thank them and recognize their years of service and commitment to the Dana Point area.”

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