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Posted on February 15, 2012 | 1:08 a.m.

Rathburn Wiley Shelton, 1923-2012

Longtime Westmont College ambassador was a lifelong musician

Source: Shelton Family

Rathburn Wiley Shelton died February 1, 2012, of complications from pneumonia. He was 88.

Rath Shelton was a founder of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and Westmont's alumni association.
Rath Shelton was a founder of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and Westmont’s alumni association. (Shelton family photo)

A longtime resident of Santa Barbara, Rath was born on October 4, 1923, in Taft, Calif., to Alice Rachel Braden and James Orto Shelton, who had moved from Texas in the early 1920s. After graduating from Taft High School, Rath moved to Santa Barbara to study music at Santa Barbara State College (now UCSB).

In 1943, he married the love of his life, Peggy Emmens, (1924-1984). He soon joined the Army, becoming part of the Big Band under Ray Ellis, and was lead trumpet, playing for the troops in London until the end of World War II. He returned to Santa Barbara to attend Westmont College. After graduating in sociology in 1950, he began a 30-year career with the college as director of Public Relations and later the Westmont Alumni Association, which he founded. A good athlete, especially in baseball, Rath also coached the Westmont team in the 1950s.

Rath was the face of Westmont for the community at large, interacting with the media here and in Los Angeles, the Ad Club and the summer youth baseball programs. He was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table. He and Peggy owned and operated Camp Lorr from 1972 to 1985.

A musician from a very young age, Rath kept music a part of his life to the end, always playing the trumpet or piano, often with other musicians who inevitably dropped by.

He is survived by his brother, Jim and Ann Klein Shelton, of Santa Barbara; sister-in-law Joan and Don Law of Los Gatos; brother-in-law Bill and Sylvia Emmens of Orcas, Wash; four sons, Ron Shelton and Lolita Davidovich of Los Angeles, and David Shelton and Rachel Solomon, Steve and Ruby-Jeanne Shelton, Jeff and Karin Freud Shelton, of Santa Barbara; 12 grandchildren, Stephanie, Gabrielle, Nina, Joe, Ben, Josh, Eli, Matt, Elena, Mattie, Valentina and Anton; and seven great-grandchildren, Oakley, Loring, Owen, Ellery, Cleo, Ulysses and Leo.

A memorial celebration will held at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 19, 2012, at 801 Cold Spring Road in Montecito.


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