Obituary of Richard Bertolucci (1929 – 2021) – Sacramento, CA

Richard Mario Bertolucci
February 20, 1929 – October 12, 2021
Sacramento, California – Richard Mario (“Dick”) Bertolucci was born on February 20, 1929 in Sacramento, California. He was the only child of loving parents Mario and Mary Bertolucci, and he was the center of their world.
His father was an auto mechanic and shared his passion for mechanics with Dick from an early age. Dick spent his childhood building model airplanes and competing in flying competitions. He gained additional knowledge in model airplanes during his first job at the age of 12, working at a model airplane shop on K Street, where he rode a bicycle every day after the ‘school.
Dick saved almost every penny of this work, tossing his paycheck in his dresser drawer in his room shared with his northern Italian grandmother, Nonna Angelina. At the age of thirteen, with his father’s permission, he bought his first car, a 1933 Chevy roadster that he spotted in a used parking lot in downtown Sacramento for $ 125. The first thing he and his father did was change the engine to something bigger, kicking off his passion for drag racing. It was the first of many automotive projects Dick would undertake during his lifetime.
Dick attended Sacramento High School where he graduated in 1947. The following year, August 8, 1948, Dick married the love of his life Beverly June Osborne (Bev) at St. Joseph Catholic Church in North Sacramento. Although Bev was only 17 and he was 19 at the time, together they shared nearly 72 years of marriage, until Bev passed away in 2020.
Dick was very proud of his country, always calling America “the best country in the world”. He enlisted in the US Navy Reserves after graduating from Sac High. He served for almost six years, spending his weekends training other young men in his welding expertise, a skill rare at the time. He served in the US Navy Reserve Training Facility near the Sacramento River and Broadway in the early 1950s.
Dick and Bev started their future large family in 1953 and quickly became the proud parents of five daughters and one son. He enjoyed family time in the pool, Easter egg hunts at the Dante Club, Little League training, hill climb motorcycle building and racing, racing boats and water skiing with the family on Lake Tahoe and Lake Folsom in the boat he built, the ‘Oh Boy!’. He was very active for years with the Sacramento Valley area of ​​the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America and enjoyed traveling the country showing off his cars, often winning “Best of Show” and “People’s Choice” awards with his classic beauty. the most recently restored. In 1980, Dick returned to the vintage drag racing circuit in the 1980s with his custom built vintage dragster, the “X-100”. He set himself the goal of holding the world record in the class he loved the most – the inline six. He ran well until he was 80, always wanting to go faster.
The foundation of Bertolucci’s Body & Fender boutique
In 1948, when Dick and Bev returned from their honeymoon, they found a friend’s 1941 Chevrolet in their driveway, who offered him $ 75 to do a full custom job on his car. And that’s how it started! Dick began customizing cars for his friends in his parents’ garage on U Street in Sacramento. After the first six months of construction, neighbors began to complain about the noise and activity, so he rented a 2-car garage at 21st and Broadway. He worked there for 2.5 years doing customization and specialty painting. It was there that he built the car that launched his notoriety in the world of custom cars – the 1940 Bud Ohanesian Mercury, known to be one of the finest customs in the world.
Due to Dick’s growing reputation for exceptional quality work, the company quickly overtook location. He then moved to a 4 car garage at 65th and Folsom. Here his reputation and demand for his customization and paint quality business grew further and he hired his first employee. It wasn’t long before demand for his business exceeded this location again. It was around this time that Dick moved his business to the more formal body shop location on 34th Street where the business began to transform into auto repair. In 1957 Dick purchased the site and in 1959 added a 4,800 square foot tilting paint shop. Although he mainly does collision repairs, Dick continued to customize cars for the California Autorama. By this time, Bertolucci’s Body & Fender Shop had gained a reputation as the best store in Sacramento for a custom paint job.
In 1971, Dick purchased the 2 acre block on the corner of the street at 33rd and Stockton Boulevard. It was here that in 1979, Dick opened the high-capacity store known today to residents of the greater Sacramento area, continuing to use the old 34th Street location for bodywork and additional paint as needed. Today, over 73 years later, the Bertolucci family continues to employ the finest paint and body technicians, continuing Dick’s dream.
Throughout his life, Dick was regularly honored for his contribution to the world of automotive manufacturing. And over the past few decades, Dick Bertolucci has become legendary in custom car circles. He was a founding member of the Capitol Auto Club (now known as Thunderbolts Capital Auto Club), which is recognized as the oldest street rod club in the country. Dick, along with the other Capital Auto Club, started what became the Sacramento Autorama in 1950. The Sacramento Autorama is the second oldest indoor auto show in the world and features the best hot rods, custom cars and motorcycles ever.
In late 1999, the Sacramento Autorama named a new award, the “Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellence” award, to any participant of a 1972 or older hot rod or custom car that meets Dick’s personal criteria in assembly, fit, finish and detail. The first recipient was named in 2000, and this annual Autorama award continues to this day. On February 6, 2000, Dick was inducted into the Sacramento Autorama Legends Hall of Fame. Dick also received the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Builder of the Year award. And in 2020, Dick received the honor of being named “Builder of the Decade” at the annual Sacramento Autorama.
Dick was also honored as a “Hot Rod Hero” at the Good-Guys Rod & Custom Association Southwest Nationals event held at the famous Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. In May 2005. Dick also was inducted into the Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) Hall of Fame in Pomona, Calif., in January 2009, as an “Outstanding Pioneer in the Creative Sport of Automobile Building”.
In 2010, Dick had the honor of being the guest of the Sacramento Living Library series, offered by Time Tested Books in Sacramento, in which he spoke about the beginnings of the “Kustom” scene and racing. of Sacramento.
Over the years, Dick’s story of his custom car work and hot rod roots has been featured in countless magazines. Some examples include Rod & Custom (October 1989 issue), Cruisin ‘News (November 1999) and Rodder’s Journal (issue seventy-one).
Dick passed away peacefully in the wee hours of the morning on October 12 at the age of 92. He was predeceased by his lifelong sweetheart Beverly, who passed away in 2020. He was also predeceased by his mother Mary and his father Mario.
He is survived by his six children Terri (Ed Parra), Tina (John Hamrick II), Vince Bertolucci, Tami Brousseau (Steve Schuler), Trudi (Ken Balestreri) and Tracy (Phil Balestreri), grandchildren Angela, Michael, Lisa, John III, Brittany, Nicholas, Loni, Ryan, Holly, Donald, Joseph, Jennifer, Christy, Gannon, Skye, Danielle, Anthony, Molly, Mary and Samuel, and great-grandchildren Jamie and Emery. He is also survived by his close in-laws Carlo and Sharon Taylor, as well as his brothers-in-law Jim, Bob and Mike Osborne.
The funeral will be held at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Loyola at 10:00 am on November 2nd, located at 3235 Arden Way, Sacramento. A celebration of Dick’s life will immediately follow the service. For more information, please send an email [email protected] for location and details.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Sacramento, California, or The Shriners Hospital for Children – Northern California.

Posted by The Sacramento Bee on October 24, 2021.


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