PHOENIX — Sadly, for those unable to imagine him not serving his community in some capacity, former Mayor Carlos DeBritto died Wednesday just weeks after his final term in office ended.
DeBritto, 83, died around noon after a yearlong battle with cancer that found the active man less and less in the public eye toward the end of his term.
DeBritto spent more than a decade in city government and twice as long volunteering in various aspects of his community, from garden and theater groups to helping at the community kitchen and planting trees in city parks.
DeBritto moved to the Rogue Valley 20 years ago from Walnut Creek, Calif., and was elected mayor in 2006 after four years as City Council president.
His wife Jan said it was the former mayor's nature to help others and to be involved in the community in which he made his home.
"We moved up here in 1992 and by 1993 he was involved with the master gardener program and running Spring Fair, then involved with Pacific Non-Profit Network," she said, noting that the retired banker liked to help nonprofits with their financial and banking needs.
Known for his white, upturned mustache, broad smile and short stature, DeBritto was a familiar face at the community kitchen and held various leadership positions with the Ashland Elks Lodge.
"He was extremely special, not just because he was my husband but he was just a very special human being," Jan DeBritto said. "He always had a caring manner about him and always carried himself in a certain way yet you always felt like you could just sit down and talk to him. He was just always kind."
Shortly after his cancer was diagnosed early last year, DeBritto assured fellow council members that his age would likely cause his demise, rather than his illness.
Jan DeBritto said her ailing husband did not relinquish his mayoral duties, or even slow down much, until late fall.
Former council member and friend Mike Stitt remembered DeBritto for his eloquence and ability to remain calm despite often tumultuous meetings.
"You might have not always agreed with him, but he was always there and you knew he cared about Phoenix and about the citizens above all else," Stitt said. "Sometimes we would fight like cats and dogs on an issue and then go out with (others) and have some wine. Carlos was the people's mayor. He was always there, washing a table, going to meetings, listening to people. He just really cared."
Council President Bruce Sophie said DeBritto's commitment to the city was admirable.
"He served the city well and I'm going to miss him," Sophie said. "He always put the city first. My first term on council was his first as mayor and we went through some woolly times together."
DeBritto's youngest daughter, Lisa Stevenson, of Martinez, Calif., remembered a committed father who was not one to boast of his volunteer efforts.
"We didn't follow his political career so we didn't know about everything that he was involved in. Being in town, we're all learning a lot about what a phenomenal civic leader he was. It's been eye-opening," she said.
"I know he was a really great, wonderful father and that no matter what job or position he was in, he would push up his sleeves, was first to get there, last to leave and would take out the garbage or do whatever needed done. That was just his nature."
Stevenson added, "He was just an amazing father. He was the kind of dad that we danced on his feet when we were little and he taught us how to do everything — tennis, bowling, baseball. He was a very special man to everyone who knew him."
Married 25 years, Jan and Carlos shared four children from previous relationships including daughters Stevenson and Stephanie DeBritto-Krul (Concord, Calif.) and two sons, Andy Johnson (Tracy, Calif.) and Tom Johnson (Rockland, Calif.).
A public memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at First Presbyterian Church, 121 W. Second St. Donations may be made in DeBritto's name to First Presbyterian Church Community Kitchen or the Lions Sight and Hearing Center.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. E mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.