David Smith Dungan, 1935-2020

David Smith Dungan, fourth-generation Exeter, Calif., resident and rancher, passed away peacefully, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, of natural causes. He was 85 years old.


David Smith Dungan

David was born Sept. 16, 1935, in Los Angeles, Calif., to Curtis and Louise Shillinglaw Dungan. The family made their home in Exeter, where David’s great grandfather came with his six children in 1894. David’s grandfather, John Smith Dungan, was one of the early ranchers who truly pioneered the planting of citrus in the Exeter district. He graduated from Exeter Union High School in 1953. He attended Menlo College and College of the Sequoias before graduating from Fresno State University in 1957.

David was a citrus grower for over 60 years in the Exeter Area. He was active in the community and served on the boards of the Exeter Ivanhoe Citrus Association and the Exeter Irrigation District for many years. He grew delicious Valencia and Navel Oranges as well as Pomelos and, more recently Cara Cara Navels, and he once traveled with members of the Citrus Association to Japan to promote California Pomelos where they compared favorably to their native Southeast Asian ancestors. David also owned a farm management company managing groves for absentee owners.

An avid USC football fan, David rarely missed a game, either in person or on TV. He loved driving to Los Angeles to attend the games which were usually followed by a prime rib dinner at Lawry’s. As a young fellow, before his football addiction took hold, he was an avid cowboy; playing “cowboys and Indians” was his favorite pastime, as long as he could be Roy Rogers. All other playmates were relegated to supporting roles; Trigger, Gabby, Dale, etc. When David’s playmate, friend, and Cousin Tom, who had been relegated to the role of Gabby, turned 50, David gave him a double Roy Rogers holster and guns telling him that now he could occasionally be Roy.

In addition to being an armchair sports enthusiast, he also excelled at athletics. He was an excellent and gifted skier and a determined tennis player. In order to impart his love of snow skiing, David, along with his dear friend Patrick Pinkham, took their families to Bear Valley, which became an annual tradition. Many harrowing trips were also made to China peak in the early morning hours, through dense fog, in order to be one of the first on the slopes.

He ran marathons and taught his daughter, who was 12 at the time, to drive his pickup. To see, she sat on a stack of telephone books and followed him in the dark through the furrows of the orange groves as he trained for his marathon. The headlamps of the truck lighted his way on the run. David also taught her how to drive a speedboat so she could take him waterskiing.

Later in life, he took up bicycle riding and rode hours every day to train for a ride up the steep 25-mile road to Mineral King, which he did in his 70’s. And later, in his 70’s, David and his childhood friend Edward Dobson walked together up the Mineral King road. When he was growing up in Exeter, David and his family spent many summer weeks in Mineral King, and David spent much of his time climbing and exploring the mountains with his dog, “Red Dog Dungan.”

David loved going to the movies and knew most of the dialogue from every Burt Lancaster movie, having seen each one well into double digits. In senior year of high school, David and the above-mentioned friend Edward Dobson drove to Fresno to take the SAT tests which were given in two sessions. They finished the morning session, and during lunch, they discovered that a Burt Lancaster movie was playing nearby that afternoon…they very much enjoyed the movie and never did complete the SATs.

David loved life and loved spending time with his many friends and colleagues. He was always ready to help someone who needed help, and was always ready for that Martini at the Vintage Press, or the Martini and the Tostada salad at Estradas served by Mary-Pauline. He never left his love of the land behind, and a Barbecue in Exeter was one of his favorite evenings.

When friends are asked about David, the first words are usually “fun,” “rascal,” and “dapper.” David loved women, and an invitation from him promised a time filled with lots of fun and maybe some naughty words of wisdom and a sunset. And despite intensive research, the author of this piece could find no evidence to suggest that David ever left a party early – if he ever left at all. He was rich in friendships, and one always felt special when with him. David had an intrinsic style, both sophisticated and unstudied, and he loved life. But he always said that what he was most proud of were his two beloved daughters, Christina and Kelly.

He is survived by his sister, Mary Megalli; his two daughters Christina Dungan Saenger, Jeff Saenger (Spouse), Kelly Dungan Hunter, Todd Hunter (Spouse,); and four grandchildren, Kate, Ted, Sam, and Ben.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to your local food bank. A virtual Celebration of Life is currently being planned for early January. For more information, contact Evans Miller Guinn Exeter Chapel, 559-592-5161, or go to the memorial page at https://www.gatheringus.com/memorial/david-smith-dungan/5991. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.evansmillerguinnchapel.com or Tulare County Obituaries at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2072945459676292. Services entrusted to Evans Miller Guinn Chapel.

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