Billy Bathgate; Farmer, S. County Civic Leader


William "Billy" Bathgate III, a farmer who helped San Juan Capistrano become a city in 1961 and was its second mayor, has died. He was 76.

Bathgate passed away in his San Juan Capistrano home Monday after years of battling diabetes and high blood pressure and suffering several strokes.

"He was a very honest man with great integrity, and he loved to share his knowledge of things," said his daughter Diane Bathgate, a San Juan Capistrano city councilwoman.

Bathgate was born in Anaheim, but he was reared on the family's ranch in San Juan Capistrano, and farming became his life. He was drafted into the Army Air Corps while still a student at Capistrano Union High School but returned to graduate as valedictorian in 1941.

Lawrence Buchheim, 75, said he was on the school's football and basketball teams with Bathgate.

"If someone needed help to fix a tractor, he'd be available for you," said Buchheim, whose brother Carl served as the city's first mayor.

Diane Bathgate said her father loved to fix things and usually worked seven days a week. Still, he found time to take his children and local high school students on camping trips to Yosemite. He may not have had much money to contribute, family members said, but he helped in other ways.

"As a farmer, he was ready to donate oranges, avocados, persimmons, firewood and Christmas trees to causes," said daughter Susanne Bathgate.

Bathgate earned a degree in mechanical engineering from USC in 1950 and in 1957 married Patricia Millsap.

He served as a Boy Scout trooper leader for 12 years, and he and his wife were frequent community volunteers. In 1997, they were named grand marshals of the city's Swallows Day Parade. An elementary school in Mission Viejo is named for them.

Last year, about 60 people responded to requests for blood donations for Bathgate. He used 34 of the 54 units collected, which "bought him an extra year of life," his wife said. "He laughed until his last moment," Patricia Bathgate said. "He was kind and thoughtful and was very special."

He is survived by wife Patricia; children Susanne, Diane, William and Colleen; and one granddaughter.

Memorial services will be held at noon Saturday at the Community Presbyterian Church, 32202 Del Obispo St. The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made "in memory of Billy Bathgate" to the Rotary Club on behalf of the Boy Scout program. The address is P.O. Box 684, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693.

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