Temperatures at the River Course at The Alisal in Solvang were 30 degrees warmer than the 65 degrees in Santa Barbara last week. The hot weather did not deter more than 80 golfers at the 20th Annual Don Whittier Memorial Golf Tournament, however. They hit the greens to raise funds for scholarships to Camp Whittier, the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County facility in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The tournament honors the late Don Whittier, the first board chairman of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County. Whittier, who died in 1983, was devoted to supporting youth and was instrumental in the founding of Camp Whittier at 2400 Highway 154 across from Lake Cachuma. The camp was named in his memory in 1988.
Helping to carry on the legacy were tournament committee members Ed Bertling, John Escalera, chairman Richard Hollis, Dave Mead, Sal Rodriguez and John Stoney, assisted by United Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Mike Rattray, Camp Whittier director Debi Hite and camp assistant director Christine Beers.
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Title sponsors were the Ann Jackson Family Foundation and Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Sunrise. Other supporters included Hole in one Sponsor Toyota of Santa Barbara along with tee sponsors Amy Beiler, Anderson Systems, Barbara Gutman, Bill Muncaster, Clark Motors, Giorgi family, Don Jessop, Betty Malone, Kathy and John Muncaster, Pam and John Stoney, Jordano’s, Rich Hollis, Smarden Hatcher, Santa Barbara Elks Lodge #613, Prestigious Auto Body, Gloria Jones, and Pat and Kenneth Kruger.
Now in its 20th year, this year’s tournament was special because it lauded the extraordinary contributions of William L. “Bill” Muncaster, who helped to establish the tournament two decades ago. Hollis and Rattray presented Muncaster with a congratulatory plaque following the golf play and buffet dinner on the Alisal patio.
“In 1933, I was a junior in high school,” Muncaster said. “The YMCA director asked me, ‘Willie, do you think you will ever amount to anything?’ I replied, ‘It will take a long time, but I think someday I will.’ The director paused, then he said, ‘I think maybe you are right.’
“Well, it has been 20 years that I have been helping Camp Whittier,” he continued. “I figure that I have raised camp scholarships for 1,200 kids a year for 20 years, or 24,000 total. Maybe it took a long time, but 80 years later I may have ‘amounted to something.’ Thank you for the many years of friendship that helped me accomplish these works.”
Muncaster has a long history in Santa Barbara. Now 97, he took a temporary position with the U.S. Postal Service in 1952, becoming the first “walking mailman” in Goleta.
“The town was so small I could deliver all the mail myself up to 1957,” he recalled. “There were only 73 houses between Storke Road and Isla Vista. Mailmen were expected to know the names and addresses in all the houses on their route. It took the postal service over two years to requisition a mail truck to help deliver to our rapidly expanding population. So I ended up renting trucks to the government for the next 17 years!”
This entrepreneurial spirit was in evidence over the years as Muncaster got involved in the making of many Goleta institutions.
“It all took place on the golf course,” he reflected.
Muncaster was an avid golfer for most of his life and played well into his 90s.
“I gave up my membership seven years ago at Alisal Ranch because I just couldn’t hit the long drives anymore,” he said.
It was on the golf course where Muncaster gathered start-up money for Spectrum Technology (an electronics firm that developed the first color camera to take photos on the moon) and Collimated Holes (a developer of fiber optics that helps dentists use cameras in the mouth). His golf buddies also funded Goleta Entrepreneurial Funding, which helped to start Goleta National Bank, which is now Community West Bank.
“My second wife, Becky (Hellerman), was the first customer to go up to the counter and open the first account in 1987,” he said proudly.
In 1954, Muncaster guaranteed the funds to pay for plumbing at the first Goleta library, which was located in Old Town Goleta on Hollister and Tecolote avenues. He and wife Becky founded the Goleta American Veterans, which started the first child-care center on the old Goleta Union School District property.
“One day I came home and there was a Presbyterian minister in my living room,” he said. “My wife told me that he wanted to start a church in Goleta and that we were going to help. This led to the establishment of the Goleta Presbyterian Church, which I still attend today.”
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1915, Muncaster and his two brothers were raised in Pittsburgh. He joined Army officer training in 1941 and married his first wife, Cornelia Hunter. His daughter was born at the start of World War II.
“She was born on a Monday, baptized on Tuesday, and I was shipped overseas on Wednesday,” he said.
Muncaster served in the 99th Infantry Division as acting commander of 1,200 men. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, holding off the Germans at the German/Belgium border, which engaged more than 1 million U.S. and German troops, killing 81,000 Americans and 100,000 Germans, the worst battle for casualties of WWII. During the “coldest, snowiest weather in memory,” Muncaster’s feet froze, and he lost part of his feet during 10 days of combat.
Ultimately, that injury brought him to the warm climate of Santa Barbara in 1950. He built a 2,200-square-foot home with his brother, Robert, an architect, on Via Reposa off Patterson Avenue. After the death of his first wife, Muncaster was raising two daughters, ages 7 and 3, when he married Rebecca. Bill and Becky loved to go to military balls and always supported veterans’ causes. Since Becky’s death in 1996, Bill has kept busy playing golf, helping the Boys & Girls Clubs, and participating with the Elks.
Camp Whittier serves all four United Boys & Girls Clubs in Santa Barbara County — Carpinteria, Goleta, Lompoc and Santa Barbara West — as well as numerous other youth organizations in which boys and girls are treated to the positive outdoor experiences of hiking, archery, swimming, fishing, ropes course and nature lore.
The United Boys & Girls Clubs has two upcoming events:
» Giddy Up to Camp Whittier will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. June 16. The event includes dancing to the music of the Tim Buley Band until sunset, wine tasting by Santa Barbara Winery and beer by Firestone Walker Brewing Co.. A gourmet dinner will be prepared by Camp Whittier chef Fabio Hidrobo. Call 805.962.6776 for more information.
Click here for more information on the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, or call 805.681.1315. Click here to make an online donation to help the clubs meet their goal of raising $300,000 in 60 days.
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