Poverty law advocate Rudolph Basile, 86, dies

Rudolph John Basile was known for his infectious smile and hearty laugh.

Basile died Aug. 29 at his home in Laguna Beach at age 86 after a brief bout with cancer, his daughter, Katy, wrote in an email.

Basile had lived in Laguna since 1971 and practiced law at an office on North Coast Highway. Both of his children, Katy and George Basile, graduated from Laguna Beach High School and UC Irvine.

His wife, Phillis, taught economics at Orange Coast College and was vice chancellor of human resources for the Coast Community College District until she retired in 1988, Katy wrote.

Basile was born March 10, 1927, in New York City to John and Maria (Raia) Basile. He was one of four children and a first-generation American, Katy wrote.

Serving in the military during World War II taught Basile the importance of compassion and enjoying every day, according to Katy.

Basile attended Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and St. John's University in New York, where he majored in philosophy and received a juris doctorate.

The combination of disciplines reflected his ability to appreciate everything from history to science, Katy wrote.

"As the adventurer in the family, he moved from New York to California in the early '50s, there meeting his wife, Phillis, a future OCC professor, union leader and vice chancellor for the Coast Community College District — a 'true genius,' as he always said of her," according to Katy's description.

Phillis and Rudolph, or R. John, as he was known, were married for 55 years.

As an attorney, Basile participated in one of the first poverty law programs, in Indio, and for many years maintained a law practice in Orange and Modoc counties, making sure that his clients were given an fair opportunity to be heard in court. 

Later, from the late 1970s to late '80s, he owned and ran, along with Robert Domengine, the Clamdigger Restaurant in Birch Bay, Wash., Katy said.

Katy described her father as an independent thinker who helped others enjoy life and as a nurturing, supportive and loving father, husband and grandfather.

In addition to his wife, Phillis, and two children, he is survived by his older brother, Matthew; son-in-law, Michael Fero; daughter-in-law, Christina (Faris); and six grandchildren: Kelly, Allie, Shelby, Mostyn, Connor and Delaney.

A public remembrance will be held at noon Saturday at 276 Fairview St. in Laguna Beach, Katy said.

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