“He was here every day, sometimes for all three meals,” said John Gaudette, manager of the Byron Inn. “You can definitely tell he’s not around; it’s a lot quieter in here. We are going to really miss him.”
Friends and associates mourned the passing of DeBorba, who died on Jan. 24 of complications from a recent heart attack. The longtime, 70ish Byron farmer will be remembered by many as a local icon with a big smile and generous spirit.
“This was a man who had a heart of gold. He would do anything for anyone,” said personal friend Gail Della Nina. “He (Jim) has been helping us with our business (making olive oil) since we moved here 12 years ago. Here was a man in his 70s who every day was on a tractor or driving a truck or baling hay. He was an amazing man and a wonderful friend.”
Born and raised in Byron, DeBorba’s mother, Marguerite, who passed away in December, was one of the area’s first families and attended school at the historic Byron Hot Springs before attending Liberty High School in Brentwood. DeBorba was involved in the local Harvest Time organization as well as the Contra Costa County Farm Bureau. His deep roots in the community made him a regular fixture throughout his beloved Byron.
“He (Jim) showed up here every day at 6 a.m. with a big smile,” said Sherry Culling, a friend and waitress at the Byron Inn. “If there was only one person in here, then he would sit down with that person and have a conversation. He had a big personality, always happy.”
And always joking, said Della Nina.
“The one thing about Jim I will always remember is that no matter whom he met, he had a joke; a new joke – nothing recycled,” she said. “He had a wonderful sense of humor and he adored his wife and daughters. He was a man who respected the people he worked with and helped, and they respected him. We all loved him.”
“I’m going to miss seeing his old brown truck parked out front,” added Culling. “I think they should just park it here and leave it; we’re really going to miss him.”
DeBorba leaves behind his wife, Barbara, and two daughters. Services were held on Feb. 2 at St. Anne Church in Bryon.