Though his primary job was as an automobile dealer, Darwin Shebelut did a lot more for Madera than sell cars.
Mr. Shebelut inherited his sense of community from his father, said longtime friend Robert Boro. Conrad Shebelut taught his son at a young age to give back to the community, and Mr. Shebelut did just that, Boro said.
Mr. Shebelut died Monday at age 93.
He was born and raised in Madera, attended Madera schools and graduated from Stanford University in 1943 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
After college, he served in the Army as a second lieutenant. He was stationed in France and Germany during World War II and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He was promoted to captain by the end of the war.
When he returned to Madera, he married Wilma Watt and they had two children, Richard and Nancy.
During his career, Mr. Shebelut continued in his father's footsteps and kept Madera at the top of his priorities. Stell Manfredi, former chief administrative officer of Madera County, said Mr. Shebelut was a visionary for the region.
"He was a force that developed a better quality of life for the Madera area," Manfredi said.
He began working with his father at Shebelut Chevrolet after World War II. Mr. Shebelut added the Oldsmobile and Toyota dealerships and operated the dealerships for 52 years.
Mr. Shebelut also developed multiple shopping centers in north and south Madera.
But he is best known for his part in founding Madera Community Hospital, where later he was the chairman and a trustee.
Though Mr. Shebelut gave so much to the community, he never wanted anything in return, said his son. In 2008, Mr. Shebelut reluctantly accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Madera Chamber of Commerce.
"His reward was being able to achieve and contribute," Dr. Richard Shebelut said. "He got joy out of using his brain, coming up with new ideas and concepts and solving problems."
Mr. Shebelut loved to travel outside of work. He visited many countries in Europe, South America and Asia. One of his favorite places was Venice, Italy.
A funeral service for Mr. Shebelut will be at 10 a.m. today at Jay Chapel in Madera. His family asks that donations be made to the Madera Community Hospital Foundation in lieu of flowers. Remembrances to the foundation can be sent to 1250 E. Almond Ave., Madera CA 93637, or to the Madera Historical Society, P.O. Box 150, Madera CA 93639.
Darwin Gordon Shebelut
Date of birth: Aug. 8, 1920
Died: Dec. 16, 2013
Occupation: Automobile dealer, developer, community leader
Survived by: Wife Wilma, son Richard and daughter Nancy Schiffer
Services: 10 a.m. Saturday at Jay Chapel in Madera
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6679 or firstname.lastname@example.org.