Claude J. Farinha, a retired civilian Air Force executive who saved taxpayers millions of dollars as a logistics expert at McClellan Air Force Base, died Sept. 18 of Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia, his family said. He was 87.
A son of Portuguese ranchers in Lincoln, Mr. Farinha rose to be honored by President Jimmy Carter during an exceptional career in federal civil service.
Starting as a non-military training officer in 1951, he climbed the ranks to serve in the top civilian position as deputy director of materiel management for the Sacramento Logistics Center.
"It always helps to have somebody you could depend on to make the right decisions when you're the boss," said Lee Greer, retired major general and former logistics center commander. "He was extremely helpful."
Mr. Farinha supervised thousands of workers and managed a $400 million budget for buying, maintaining and supplying aircraft and equipment at McClellan. He oversaw improvements and created a plan to streamline operations that cut $29 million in overhead costs.
He also found ways to save money as a top civilian official at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio from 1971 to 1975.
Mr. Farinha, who retired from federal service in 1986, received top Air Force commendations for his innovative service. In 1980, he joined 48 other government workers at a White House ceremony recognizing them as distinguished executives.
"When the president called my name, that really got me," he told the Washington Post. "That was the high point. My (immigrant) dad, with his faith in the American system, always said someday his son would be in the White House."
Mr. Farinha also was a Los Rios Community College District trustee from 1980 to 1994. He was a driving force behind improvements in vocational education and creating partnerships with the business community. He served on the Sacramento Employment Training Agency board from 1981 to 1983.
Claude John Farinha grew to be a leader from humble roots. Born in 1925 in Lincoln, he was one of five children raised by immigrants John and Mary Farinha. He spoke Portuguese as his first language, learned English in school and picked fruit to support himself as the first in his family to go to college.
"His mother was very insistent on education," said his daughter Jana Cira. "She always told him that education was the key to success."
Mr. Farinha graduated from Lincoln High School and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business at UC Berkeley. He was chosen for the Sloan Fellows Program and earned a master's degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He had three daughters with his wife of 59 years, Shirley, and lived for the last 15 years in Gold River. He was honored for his contributions to the military by a local Air Force Association chapter, which changed its name in 1997 to the Claude Farinha Gold Rush Chapter 116.
"He was very innovative and very forward thinking," Greer said. "All the people who worked for him admired him."