Obituary: Stephen H. Runyon, 64, was longtime Courtland pear rancher

10/29/2013 5:38 PM

10/29/2013 7:06 PM

Stephen H. Runyon, a Courtland pear rancher who was active in the running community, died Sunday in a traffic collision in Sacramento. He was 64.

He was riding a motorcycle near Riverside Boulevard and 35th Avenue when he was hit by a vehicle that he was attempting to pass just as the motorist was making a turn, according to Sacramento police. He was taken to UC Davis Medical Center, where he died.

With family roots going back five generations, Mr. Runyon was well known in the Sacramento River Delta. He grew pears on his family’s ranch in Courtland and marketed pears and pear juice at local supermarkets and the California State Fair.

A marathon runner, he volunteered as a coach and raised money for the track and field program at Delta High School. He organized track and field events at his ranch as fundraisers and built a platform for discus throwers at the school, said his sister Liz Mulligan.

“He was always giving,” his sister said. “He was always reaching out to help people.”

Stephen Hamilton Runyon was born July 8, 1949. His father, Mercer Runyon, was a Courtland pear farmer, and his mother, Jean, founded a prominent Sacramento public relations firm. He ran the half-mile on the track team and graduated from Sacramento High School in the 1960s.

Mr. Runyon, who covered the 1987 California International Marathon for The Sacramento Bee, participated in Eppie’s Great Race and was a regular at running events for many years. He sponsored the Slough Run in Courtland in honor of his grandfather Brutus Hamilton, a silver-medal decathlete at the 1920 Olympics who coached the USA track team at the 1936 Games in Berlin and became a legendary coach at UC Berkeley.

His pastimes included painting, writing music and poetry. An avid pool player, he followed billiard tournaments and recently bought a pool table.

“He was a pool shark,” his sister said.

Mr. Runyon also enjoyed celebrating Halloween. He decorated his home for the occasion in honor of his mother, who was legendary in Sacramento for dressing as a witch, climbing atop her roof and cackling with glee while tossing candy to trick-or-treaters.

“He was planning a big party in her honor,” Mulligan said Tuesday. “He had a recording of her cackle that he was going to play, and he had lots of candy for the kids.”

Besides his sister, Mr. Runyon is survived by his daughter Melody. A memorial service is pending.

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