Vincent Bezdecheck, an artist and longtime leader in efforts to preserve and revitalize midtown Sacramento, died May 30 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, his family said. He was 63.
Mr. Bezdecheck moved his family in 1987 from the scenic American River canyon near Auburn to a faded Sacramento neighborhood near 21st and H streets troubled by crime and social problems. He spent several years restoring hardwood floors, plaster walls, high ceilings and wood paneling in their 1907 home.
He also banded with neighbors including homeowners, renters, young families and retirees in a movement to restore and improve midtown. As co-chairman of the Boulevard Park Neighborhood Association, he led efforts to make the area next to downtown a safe and desirable community for residents.
Along with leaders of other midtown groups, he lobbied City Hall for help to stop crime, fight blight and protect historic homes. He pushed officials for years to implement a traffic plan widely credited with reducing speeding and improving safety on residential streets.
"He was one of those who persevered," veteran Washington Park neighborhood activist Paul Tsamtsis said. "A lot of people gave up and went home and adopted a 'can't we all get along' mentality. But Vince was fighting for his family and his home and his neighborhood."
A talented artist, Mr. Bezdecheck won a grant from the California Arts Council during the late 1990s to serve as artist-in-residence at local schools. He helped students create murals and taught scenery painting.
He designed and built sets for the Davis Musical Theatre Company and taught stagecraft at the Visual and Performing Arts Center at Sacramento High School. Using giant pieces of cardboard and house paint, he taught students to quickly create sets depicting locations ranging from tropical forests to Victorian interiors.
"He couldn't help himself," said his wife, Donna. "When he saw the kids needed help with something, he had to step in."
Born in 1948 in Lancaster, Vincent Brian Bezdecheck moved at 13 to Auburn and graduated from Placer High School. Inspired by wilderness surrounding his family's home near the American River, he studied biology and created artwork for the natural history museum at Sierra College. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, where he earned a second degree in art.
Mr. Bezdecheck married his wife in 1974 and had twin daughters and a son. He worked as a driver and distributor for The Bee for more than 30 years and as a stay-at-home dad while restoring his family's midtown home.
Passionate about politics, he spoke at government meetings and wrote letters to The Bee on many issues. He enjoyed canoeing and competed in a wood-slat vessel he built for Eppie's Great Race in 1994. He was an avid cyclist who participated in double-century rides until he was diagnosed with ALS in 2009.
"He had so many interests, and he could have pursued a career in any one of them," his wife said. "But the reality is, he cared passionately about too many things to be tied down to just one. So he lived his life in phases and committed himself to each one with deep, single-minded focus."