Mass of the Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 1 at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 900 H Street in Bakersfield, for Arthur Ghilarducci, beloved father, grandfather and longtime Buttonwillow resident, who passed away peacefully Sept. 20, 2019 at age 93.
Art was born April 16, 1926 in Bakersfield to Joe and Natalina Ghilarducci of Buttonwillow. He attended Buttonwillow Elementary School and Kern County Union High School in Bakersfield. As a high school senior, Art drove the high school bus for students between Buttonwillow and KCUHS. While attending Bakersfield College, Art was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. He served in the South Pacific from 1944-46.
Art returned to Buttonwillow to work in the family grocery store, Ghilarducci’s Market. He married Eleanor Riccomini on May 9, 1948 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Buttonwillow. Art and Eleanor were blessed with three children: Eileen, Albert and Margaret. In 1960, Art became a cotton farmer in the Buttonwillow area.
Art and Eleanor were involved in many of Buttonwillow’s community, church and school activities. Art belonged to St. Mary’s Church Council and Men’s Club. He was a member of the Buttonwillow Chamber of Commerce from 1955-2019, serving as president in 1969-70 and as Honorary Mayor in 2001. Art was a life member of the Buttonwillow PTA and an officer in the Shafter High School PTA. He was a commander of American Legion Post 674 and an officer in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9282. He was an honorary member of the Cub Scouts.
Art and Eleanor co-chaired the Kern County Heart Association for the Buttonwillow area. Art was instrumental in the creation of the Buttonwillow Health Center. He helped found what is now Buttonwillow’s annual Fall Farm Festival. In 1993, he and Eleanor served as grand marshals in the festival parade. In 1970, as president of Buttonwillow’s Chamber of Commerce, Art dedicated 24.5 miles of Interstate 5 from Stockdale Highway to County Line Road.
In 1996, Art was honored by Pope John Paul II and awarded the Benemerenti Medal in recognition of his outstanding service to the Catholic Church and society.
In more recent years, Art enjoyed visiting with patrons and employees of Willow Ranch Restaurant near Buttonwillow.
Art was preceded in death by Eleanor in 2018; son-in-law Randy Berry; sister Anita Merlo; brother Leo Ghilarducci; and brothers-in-law John Merlo and Gene Garibaldi. He is survived by daughter Eileen Ghilarducci of Bakersfield; son Albert (Sharon) Ghilarducci of Buttonwillow; and daughter Margaret Berry of Bakersfield; sister Joan Garibaldi; grandsons Stuart and Nicholas Berry and Jason (Amber) Ghilarducci; great-grandchildren Faith, Sienna and Gino; aunt Olga Jacobs; sister-in-law Flora Ghilarducci; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Pallbearers will be Stuart Berry, Nicholas Berry, Jason Ghilarducci, Larry Merlo, Anthony Ghilarducci, Mark Garibaldi and Michael Riccomini. Honorary pallbearers will be Roberto Lucas, Tom Vontz and Ernest Antongiovanni. Burial will take place at Union Cemetery.
The family would like to thank: Stuart Berry for the five years he cared for his Nonno Art; Dr. David Dougherty; and Alicia Webb and the staff at Carrington of Shafter.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the American Heart Association or charity of your choice.
Art, who loved trains, is now riding the rails with the angels.