By Karen Jones


More than 100 people turned out for the funeral of Dick Atkinson, a longtime Santa Ynez Valley resident who had volunteered at the Santa Ynez Valley Opportunity Shop for more than 25 years.

The crowd spilled into the overflow room at Loper Funeral Chapel on Nov. 30 as friends and family came to say good-bye.

The Opportunity Shop at 3630 Sagunto St. was closed for the day so the many volunteer employees and regular customers could attend the service,including a graveside ceremony at Oak Hill Cemetery, where Atkinson was laid to rest with full military honors. The ceremony included the playing of taps before folding and presenting the American flag that was draped across Atkinson’s casket to his wife of 57 years, Katy Atkinson.

She was surrounded by son Richard Atkinson, his wife Agnes,grandchildren Kyle and Cameron Atkinson, Mitchell and Alicia Yaden, and nephew Gene Margheim and wife Colleen of Lompoc.

After the ceremony, a reception was held at the Grange Hall in Los Olivos to pay respect to a man who inspired so many others to serve their community.

Atkinson was fondly known as “The Music Man” by customers of The Opportunity Shop, where he served as a volunteer for more than 25 years at three different locations.

He died of a heart attack Nov. 21 in his home. He had worked at the Opportunity Shop the day before his death.

As he did four days a week, including every Saturday and Sunday,he spent his final shift dispensing jokes and wisdom with carefully selected top-notch music creating the atmosphere as he worked at his familiar desk by the door.

Upon hearing of his death, Opportunity Shop volunteers offered to cover his regular shifts. The shop relies completely on volunteers and on donations of gently used goods to re-sell in order to raise money to help veterans and other worthy local causes. Atkinson and the other employees have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Dick Atkinson was the face of the Opportunity Shop,sitting at the front desk with a smile and a story while his wife Katy sorted and artfully displayed the wares – all proceeds of which go to benefit our local community. Prior to his volunteer work at the opportunity shop, Dick worked as a teacher and principal at Los Prietos Boys Camp, where he was much beloved. His life embodied service to others,” said 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann.

“Dick and Katy Atkinson are a legend in Santa Ynez Valley’s thrift shop community. Attending the overflowing funeral and celebration of his life at the Grange brought old friends of many decades together again in memory of Dick, the man at the desk who always played the coolest music on his classic cassette/CD player,” said longtime Opportunity Shop volunteer Terri Kaslow.

Kara Scott attended the ceremony with her two daughters, Harper Scott, 4, and Paige Scott, seven weeks old. Scott met Atkinson more than 20 years ago at the original Opportunity Shop at Sagunto and Edison Streets, around the corner from her childhood home.

“Dick was always there, manning the front desk, cranking out classic country tunes, quick with a joke and hooking it up with Jolly Ranchers.Dick and Katy Atkinson were my friends who became like grandparents to me,”Scott said.

“Now 23 years later I frequently take my children to the thrift shop for that same experience. Harper loves to go to the shop for the 10-cent toys, but the best part for Harper was being recognized by Dick. He knew who we were and always asked about our family. We knew Dick cared about us.”