Dick Thibodeau, devoted husband, proud father, career Naval dentist, sportsman, recognized tennis referee and columnist, died June 3 in his sleep. He was 87.
It’s not often one can suggest someone passed as they lived. But Dick did just that. He had just finished eating his favorite meal and watching his beloved San Diego Padres play.
He died with his Padres hat on, comfortable with the full life he had lived, in the home he made safe for his family and their friends.
Raised in Manchester, N.H.
Dick was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. French was the only language he spoke until he entered elementary school.
Born to Arthur Ernest Thibodeau and Laurette Beliveau, Dick’s family traced its roots from Nova Scotia. Both parents came to New Hampshire in their teens to work in the cotton mills.
Dick was an only child. He was born in Manchester and raised in a mill town. A tall and strapping youth, Dick quickly took to sports. He played hockey, basketball and tennis, and was successful in all sports. He was loved and respected in the Coronado tennis community.
Army Reserve, Navy Reserve
After high school, Dick attended St. Anselm College, a Benedictine school. He received his Bachelors in Pre-Med and entered Tuft University School of Dental Medicine.
He received scholarships and financial aid to allow him to pursue his education, working summers as a deliveryman, going door to door selling bread, cakes and pastries.
In college, he was in the Army Reserve. At dental school he switched to the Navy Reserve and fulfilled his required duty while finishing up dental school with a Doctor of Medical Dentistry degree.
Navy “dream sheet”
Upon graduation from dental school, Dick began his active duty career in the Navy as a young lieutenant specializing in endodontics.
On his Navy “dream sheet,” Dick wrote his destination preference as, “As far away from
New Hampshire as possible.”
The Navy sent him to Japan.
His first duty station was at Yokosuka, Japan. He arrived there in the summer of 1961. He was 26. Dick always said tennis opened many doors for him, and Japan was no exception.
About that time, his wife-to-be (Linda “Tippy” Gary) also arrived in Japan, as the oldest daughter of a navy family.
Before long she and Dick met at the Navy tennis courts, and the magic between them was evident within six weeks. They were married in Japan, August of 1962. Two years later they
had their first of five children.
In 1964, Dick was transferred to a dental clinic at NAS Pensacola, FL, where tennis remained his constant pastime.
Seven moves in 10 years
“Our first ten years of marriage, we moved seven times,” recalled Tippy. Dick deployed on the hospital ship, “USS Sanctuary,” which operated offshore of Vietnam to treat the wounded who were helicoptered to the ship.
Other stateside duty stations included Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, Washington, D.C., where he did graduate training, serving at Bethesda Naval Hospital an additional year at the Naval Yard.
Move to Coronado
From there the Thibodeau family came to Coronado (1971).
He was assigned another tour of Saigon (one year) and then worked at a variety of locations in San Diego, using Coronado as his base of operations. Coronado was where his family had settled. They purchased a house on Coronado Avenue. The family still resides at this residence.
Dick served 22 years in the US Navy, retiring in October 1983 as a captain.
His last duty station was Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twenty-Nine Palms.
Coronado dental practice
After his retirement from the Navy, Dick had a dental practice in Coronado for three years. Then, he was a contract dentist at the Coronado Naval Amphibious Base. Dick retired after 38 years as a practicing dentist.
Dick Thibodeau loved his career as a Navy dentist. He was dedicated to dentistry and, even after retirement, he continued to keep abreast of his craft through reading, studying and taking dental courses. For him, retirement certainly wasn’t going to be an excuse to slow down.
At 72, heart issues caused him to give up playing the game of tennis. But he continued to go to the tennis courts daily, and coached Coronado High School tennis players for several years.
Love of tennis
His love of tennis never waned. During the era of World Team Tennis (1974), he became a trained and respected on-court referee, working all San Diego Friars home games.
He wrote a monthly column in two different tennis publications.
Dick was active in the Catholic church and remained close to the Lord throughout his long life.
He is survived by his loving wife Tippy, children Marc (Amy), Cary, NC; Felice Beaulieu (Dave), Aurora, CO; Aimee Richards (Tony), Coronado; Maury, Overland Park, KS; Michelle Loesch (Michael), Alexandria, VA; and 12 grandchildren.
Services will be held at Sacred Heart Church, Coronado, 11 a.m., August 1. Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations be made, “In Loving Memory of Dr. Richard Thibodeau,” to the Disabled American Veterans, P.O. Box 14301, Cincinnati, OH 45250-0301; or Sacred Heart Parish School, 655 C Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118.
Submitted by Joe Ditler.