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Tom Stetson, My Grandfather

April 27th, 2011

Thomas M. Stetson
February 13, 1920 – April 14, 2011

Thomas (Tom) Michael Stetson passed away April 14, 2011 at his home in San Juan Capistrano, California. Tom was born on a dairy farm in Stonyford, Colusa County, California February 13, 1920. He was the youngest of five brothers and also had a younger sister. He attended Sierra Grammar School in Sacramento, where his family moved in 1925. In 1934, Tom graduated from 8th grade at Immaculate Conception Catholic School and graduated from Sacramento High School in 1937. He attended the University of California at Davis from 1938 to 1939 and the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo from 1939 to 1940. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1941 and served in the Pacific during World War II. He was discharged as a Chief Petty Officer in 1945. Tom met his first wife, Pat Logan, in 1943 and they were married in Alameda. They had three children and moved several times before settling in Fullerton, California. Tom and Pat enjoyed car trips with the kids and Tom particularly liked searching for the next new house for his family, moving every two years throughout the 1950′s.

After the war, Tom found employment with the California State Division of Forestry as a Junior Engineer and in 1950 was transferred to the Division of Water Resources (later known as the Department of Water Resources). He worked for the Colorado River Board in 1956. As a consulting engineer, Tom was a valuable consultant to the State of California in the landmark water case of Arizona v. California. In 1957, he began a private practice called Stetson, Strauss, and Dresselhaus, Civil Engineers. The firm, with offices in Los Angeles, Porterville, and Carlsbad, was involved in water rights and water resources planning. Later the firm became Stetson Engineers, Inc., which today has been in operation for over five decades.

Pat succumbed to cancer in 1963 and Tom took on the challenge of raising three teenagers single-handedly. In 1966 he married Kay Taylor and moved again to Northern California. The two enjoyed outings on the bay in their boat and regular ski trips to Lake Tahoe. They returned to Orange County in the 1980′s, finally settling in San Juan Capistrano.

At various times, Tom’s engineering firm had branches in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, West Covina, San Clemente, San Francisco, and San Rafael. Stetson Engineers Inc. continues to provide water management consulting, including legal and environmental services. In recognition of Tom’s life-long contributions to solving water resource conflicts and developing sustainable water management methods in the Western United States, the firm provides an endowment to the The American Groundwater Trust called the Thomas M. Stetson Scholarship. This award aids students planning to pursue a career in a ground water-related field.