John Richard “Dick” Estey, a native of Portland, passed away Nov 17, 2016 at the age of 86 near his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Dick had taken a fall on November 14, and did not recover.
A modest man who wanted no fuss about such things, a small private service for Dick was held on Friday, December 9, at Sunset Hills Memorial Park, 6801 SW Sunset Hwy, Portland, Ore. 97225. (Call 503-292-6654 for information, or click here to sign the guestbook.)
Dick was born July 7, 1930 in Seattle to Dewey A. Estey and Effie E. Haxby. Early in Dick’s life, the three moved to Portland and, as fortune would have it, made their home adjacent to the par-5 sixth hole at Eastmoreland Golf Course. Dick attended Duniway Grade School, attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1946, and was elected Senior Class President of Washington High School (1948). For the duration of his life he annually attended the Washington High School reunion, which was a highlight of his summers.
Dick was among the most decorated junior golfers in Oregon history, winning the Oregon Junior Championship from 1946-1948, the 1948 Oregon State High School championship, as well as various other state and local tournaments. Dick was inducted into the Portland Interscholastic League Hall of Fame in 2009. In what would remain a highlight of his life, Dick caddied for Sam Snead in the 1946 PGA Championship, and for Henry Cotton in the 1947 Ryder Cup, both tournaments being hosted at Portland Golf Club.
After high school Dick enrolled at the University of Oregon where he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. At Oregon he met Maureen (Maurie) Cotta, and they married on Dec 29, 1951 in Portland. Dick and Maurie remained married until her passing in 2004. Dick went to work in the family vending business and continued throughout his career creating and diversifying his own enterprises, to include restaurant and food service management, wholesale distribution and National Park hospitality operations at Crater Lake, Oregon Caves and Mt. St. Helens.
While cultivating his business pursuits and helping Maurie with raising the family, Dick took a 25-year hiatus from golf, enjoying camping, taking up tennis with the entire family (a tradition he would pass through his children and grandchildren), and traveling the world, including his favorite destination, Portofino, Italy.
In the community, Dick served as President of the Racquet Club, Vice President of the Multnomah Club, President of the Portland Executive Association, President of the National Automatic Vending and Food Service Association and President of Oregon Easter Seals. He was honored to receive membership in the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and remained a member of Waverley Country Club, Morningside Country Club (in Rancho Mirage, Calif.), and the Multnomah Athletic Club.
In 1986, Dick started to play major senior amateur golf tournaments around the world, and he recorded nearly a dozen victories in major amateur tournaments in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. By 1991, he was the No. 2-ranked senior amateur golfer by Golf Digest.
In addition to his playing career, he became an internationally renowned collector of golf artifacts and memorabilia, with his collection perhaps rivaled only by that assembled at the Royal & Ancient in St. Andrews. While he loved collecting, he most enjoyed giving tours of the stunning museum he created in a high-rise building in downtown Portland.
After Maurie’s passing, Dick married Judy Lea Kruggel in 2005. Together they lived a life of dance, travel, and, with Judy’s introduction, a love of dogs – Tango and Rumba, rescue Havanese, became Dick’s side-by-side companions, faithfully accompanying him on his morning coffee trips, midday errands, and riding along in the cart for afternoon golf rounds.
Judy survives him in their community and with their friends in Morningside, Rancho Mirage.
Dick loved making friends, meeting people of all walks of life, striking up new conversations, and sharing his world and stories with others. He had an ever-present twinkle in his striking blue eyes, especially when he wanted to cause a bit of (usually good natured) trouble. Dick was best known, and will be best remembered not for his achievements in business or sport, but for his natural curiosity, kindness to strangers, impeccable ethics and morals and youthful spirit.
Dick was preceded in death by Maurie. He is survived by his wife, Judy; his children, Craig Estey, Deborah Jackson (Bill) and Heidi McIntire (Scott); his grandchildren, Bunkie, Ally and John Estey, Nicole Miller (Brad) and Tyler Jackson (Heidi), and Callie Guerra (Jeremy); and his great-grandson, Davis Miller. The family held a private interment on December 9, and in lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to one of Dick’s favorite charities, Oregon Health and Science University, or a charity close to the giver’s heart.
(The article below was previously published in the February 2015 issue of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine.)
Collecting for the Ages
Dick Estey has an unparalleled collection of golf history
by Paul Ramsdell
High above downtown Portland, on the 21st floor of the KOIN Center, is a collection of golf history with maybe just one rival in the world.
For 23 years, Dick Estey has been gathering valuable artifacts from the sport from all over the world, and it’s housed in a 2,500 square-foot condominium that looks like a museum and serves as a guest bedroom.
“I’m going to brag a little bit about it,” said Estey, 84. “The only collection I know of in all the world that’s better than my collection is the Royal & Ancient in St. Andrews. I’ve taken it a long way. I basically have every famous club that was ever made. I obviously have all the balls. I’ve got 50, 60, 70 famous paintings. It’s really wonderful.”
He gets no argument from some of the lucky few who have seen the private collection.
“You go to Dick Estey’s collection and you see everything,” said Pat Sutton, the PGA head golf professional at Riverside Golf & Country Club in Portland who has been a golf memorabilia collector for 40 years.
“It’s amazing how much he’s accumulated that’s wonderful, and such a wide variety you literally get the whole evolution of golf just be going through his collection,” Sutton said.
Sutton, who for 28 years has put together a golf antique show, slated this year for March 21-22 at Riverside, says he specializes in collecting historic golf balls and golf books.
Estey, he said, specializes in everything.
“The first word probably would be ‘stunning,'” Sutton said of his initial impression after visiting Estey’s collection for the first time six years ago. “He has everything from rare books, and rare porcelain, and rare medals and rare paintings. He has 10 different categories, and he has the best stuff within the 10 different categories.”
Antique golf clubs are the Holy Grail for true collectors.
“The thing that’s really wonderful in collecting is when you can get a club or a ball, or whatever, and it’s the only one known in the world,” Estey said.
Estey has two clubs that fit that description.
Raymond “Spike” Beeber, a former PNGA president, first met Estey when they were both playing junior golf in the late 1940s. He has enjoyed touring the museum several times, and loves to talk about the half-dozen display cases that adorn each wall, with several drawers below each display case, each featuring another half-dozen clubs. Those display cases go on for three different rooms, and the number of clubs is somewhere between 400 and 500.
“He opened up the door and took out a club, a wooden-shafted, wooden-headed thing, with a leather-bound grip,” Beeber remembered. “So I stand to the side and grip it, and I hold it down, and like all golfers do I gave it a little waggle. He said, ‘Be careful of that – that’s $400,000.'”
While the collection is considerably valuable, it started as a substitute for the game he loves. Estey, who caddied for Sam Snead in 1946 in a match-play event in Portland, and then for Henry Cotton, the captain of the British Ryder Cup team when the matches were held in Portland in 1947, thought he was going to have to give up the game back when he was a 61-year-old in 1991. Severe back pain threatened his career.
He has since recovered and now owns senior amateur titles from Mexico, Canada and the Pacific Northwest. He still plays today, although a bout with vertigo the past seven months has made it more difficult.
He is not a young man anymore, so an obvious question is what does the future hold for his collection.
“A lot of people ask that, and I don’t have a satisfactory answer,” Estey said. “I would hate to see it torn apart.”
At some point, his family will have control of the collection, he said.
“Whether they keep it together, you can’t even answer that question now,” he said. “They don’t have to sell, but if they want to they would have that right, but I would be surprised.”
From where he stands, Sutton says he sees four options. The collection could be donated in some fashion to the USGA or PNGA. It could become a public museum or it could be sold off.
“It’s so great, I don’t think it should be sold,” said Sutton, who has acted as a buyer for Estey at auctions.
Sutton added that he’s seen large collections sold off before, but only at a fraction of their value because suddenly the supply-and-demand for antique golf collectibles is thrown totally out of whack when so many valuable items all become available at the same time.
Sutton enjoys the way Estey has his collection set up now and he would like to see it remain intact as a perfect way to enjoy the history of golf all in one spot.
“He starts with the really early stuff,” Sutton said. “Is it golf, or is it goff? Is it started in the Netherlands, is it started in Holland, is it started in Scotland? I mean, he’ll go up to the modern day where he has Tiger Woods’ stuff. There is a continuity there so a person can really learn by walking through the museum and learn about all the parts of golf.”
It’s a treasure for Sutton, who considers himself a golf historian.
“For a guy like me, I could spend all day there.”