Each year, the Healthcare Foundation presents the Wetzel Awards to highlight individuals who demonstrate a commitment to improving health and health equity in our community. We could not be prouder to present this year’s Wetzel Community Leadership Award to Edgar and Judy Deas, and the Deas family, who through their many decades of philanthropic and volunteer efforts have contributed greatly to the wellbeing of their fellow Sonoma County residents.
Edgar and Judy Deas, along with their four sons Steven, Bruce, Paul, Mike, and their families, are all longtime residents of Healdsburg. Edgar’s parents, Mario and Dora, came to the U.S. from Cuba in the 1940s and traveled west to Albany, following the wartime work in the shipyards. They headed north of the Bay after the war, settling first in Willits, where Edgar and Judy met in high school.
The family relocated to Healdsburg in 1955. Edgar and Judy married in 1956, while both were attending Santa Rosa Junior College. After finishing their second year at SRJC, they began their married life together in Healdsburg in 1957 and have been there ever since.
Edgar and Judy joined patriarch Mario in establishing E&M Electric in 1955 as a full-service electric motor repair facility. The business was a success and in the 1980s, as sons Paul and Steve graduated with engineering degrees and joined E&M, evolved into a leading automation supply and consultation firm that today has multiple offices along the West Coast.
While raising their children, Edgar and Judy became active in their local PTA. They also helped to found the Healdsburg Community Nursery School in 1964, the longest running preschool in the area whose cooperative structure, according to the HCNS website, “allows parents and children to play, learn and grow together.”
“For our family, community involvement has always been there,” remembers Paul, speaking on behalf of his siblings. “We can’t remember a time when Judy, Edgar or their parents weren’t involved. That’s the environment that they created for all of us. It is rewarding to be connected to our community.”
That commitment has made the Deas family well known and greatly appreciated. Among the many initiatives and organizations they have supported over the years, the Deases have been stalwart champions of the Healthcare Foundation and other nonprofits devoted to healthcare access and equity.
Edgar and Judy have also been longtime members of service clubs—the Kiwanis for Edgar, Soroptimist for Judy. In 2012, the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society named Edgar one of its local “Pioneers” in recognition of many decades of devotion to his community, including service on the city council and a year as vice mayor.
When asked how the example of their parents was passed down to the children and their own extensive philanthropic endeavors, Paul explains it as a culture more than a decision.
“This isn’t something that happened one day,” he says. “It’s more like small steps—like joining a service club or becoming a soccer coach. These small steps just add up and, over years, you find yourself on the next floor, amazed at how you got there.”
“Volunteerism and philanthropy are just ways of giving back to our community,” says Paul. “Each of us, at some point in our lives, has benefited from someone else’s generosity, be it time or money. From parents who drive on school field trips or volunteer in the classrooms, to service organizations, the result is the same. It enriches the lives of others.”
Looking ahead, Paul admits there remains much to be done in north county. “Healdsburg has challenges as our population changes, housing prices increase, and schools shrink,” he notes.
In the family tradition, his focus is on equity and the next generation, knowing that a community rises and thrives together.
“We owe it to ourselves to provide the best opportunities for our youth regardless of their personal situations.”