Two months after his death, the Scripps Ranch community honored an Army colonel who served the region for decades during its annual Fourth of July parade.
Col. Bob Dingeman served in the Army for more than 30 years and went on to create the Scripps Ranch Civic Association and become a sort of neighborhood hero – even having an elementary school named after him in 1994.
His death at 96 came as “a real surprise” to his wife of 73 years, Gaye Dingeman, and now the silent partner has stepped into the spotlight.
On Thursday, the community came together to pay tribute for Bob Dingeman’s service, which his wife said was “a pretty special thing.”
Bob Dingeman used to help with parade planning and announcing.
“I would show him on the page, 'This is where you are, and this is what's coming,' so he'd be ready to do his comments,” Gaye Dingeman said. “He had a comment about just about everything.”
"And he'd say, 'Here comes a Ford Model T -- I used to have that when I was 15 years old," Gaye Dingeman said.
But Gaye Dingeman nearly skipped the parade this year before receiving a special invitation to join in on the festivities.
A riderless horse with boots resting backwards walked ahead of Gaye Dingeman’s car in the parade. The reverse boots represent a fallen leader looking back on their community for the last time.
“I'm doing it ‘cause I know he would want me to. This is not my cup of tea,” said Gaye Dingeman. “Of course, all these people waving and recognizing you and calling out is a very wonderful feeling and that's the sort of thing that really fed his enthusiasm.”
The parade had to stop multiple times as community members ran up to hug Gaye Dingeman.
"He had a place where he was making a difference, and neither one of us have a home town, so this turned out to be our home town," she said. "I'm sure it would never occur to him something like this would happen."
Gaye Dingeman said the entire event was just a blur, and the 94-year-old said her husband would’ve loved to see it.
“Oh, he would love it. He'd absolutely love it. He didn't need very much encouragement, but boy, he loved it,” she said.