Claude Randall “Bud” Dunham never met a stranger. Among his many gifts, Bud easily nurtured deep and meaningful relationships that endured throughout his life. His unique sense of humor and quick wit never failed to bring out the best in others and generate a laugh in even the most mundane circumstance. Bud was a magnet to others because of his positive outlook and upbeat personality. Reflecting on their sixty-two years of marriage, his wife, Francine, remarked, “I’ve never heard him say anything negative about anyone.”
Bud was born in Springfield, Missouri on March 27,1941 to Red and Julia Dunham and lived there until he entered first grade when the family moved to Branson, Missouri. During his elementary and high school years in Branson, Bud was an avid basketball player and was coached by John Earl Chase who took his team to the Missouri state basketball championship game in 1958. The well-known movie, Hoosiers, was one of Bud’s favorites because it reminded him of the game that brought his team home to Branson victoriously as 1958 state basketball champions.
During high school and college he was one of the seventeen original employees at Silver Dollar City Theme Park and was a cave guide in Marvel Cave near Branson, Missouri. His natural ability to entertain and provoke laughter provided enjoyment not only for park guests but also employees.
He married his high school sweetheart, Francine Michel, in 1960. During the early years of their marriage, they owned and operated Dunham’s Gift Shop as a summer business in Rockaway Beach, Missouri, while they both studied at present day Missouri State University where Bud majored in elementary education with aspirations to teach and coach. Their first son, Kirk, was born in1962. In the fall of 1965, the young family moved to Orange, California where they resided for fifty years.
Bud and Francine became parents of a second son, Chris, in 1969. With two active sons, the Dunham house was the “go to” place for them and their friends. Bud was a hero not only to his two sons, but to their friends as well. He coached Little League baseball for more than ten years and rarely missed a game or event in which his sons participated.
He was a special “Papa” to his grandchildren and because of the blessing of living close to them, he attended most of their sports and other school events. Among the most treasured memories of the grandchildren were their times spent with “Papa” in his beloved shed because “Papa” was their partner in crime offering them a stash of “forbidden” treats like Oreo cookies. He loved to make popcorn for the grandchildren and other visitors to his home proclaiming, “I do take pride in my corn!”
Bud’s long and successful career in Orange County with Frito-Lay Company spanned nearly thirty-five years. He was loved and respected by colleagues and customers and earned the nickname, “The Legend” during those thirty-five years. He continued his relationship with his former Frito-Lay colleagues for many years after his retirement through golf outings, tournaments, and phone conversations.
Bud and his buddy, John Holloway had a standing tee time at Willowick Golf Course in Santa Ana for twenty years. He played basketball twice a week well into his fifties at the YMCA with another buddy, Pat Welch.
After retiring from Frito-Lay, Bud joined Francine in the real estate business in Orange County and they worked as a team for close to fifteen years. Upon his second retirement in 2015, Bud and Francine moved to Athens, Georgia. Members of Briarwood Baptist Church in Watkinsville, Georgia, Bud was a loyal and devoted member of his Sunday School class and his Friday morning gathering of the Briarwood Brothers where he prepared and led the weekly devotional.
When he moved to California, Bud became an avid gardener. He loved to tend his flowers, vegetables, and especially his coveted tomatoes. In Athens, he immediately made new friends through golf, church activities, and as a volunteer at the Athens Food Bank. He enjoyed his daily trips to the Georgia Club neighborhood garden with his great pal, Nancy Garner, where they planted and cultivated more than two dozen tomato plants every year that they shared with friends and neighbors.
At the age of sixty-three, Bud accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and was baptized at Grace Church of Orange in California. From that time, he dedicated his life to serving Him and telling others of the joy of his personal relationship with his Savior. Bud spoke often of this life-changing and momentous experience, and he strove to live his faith every day.
Two sisters, Valca and Maudie, preceded Bud in death. He is survived by his wife, Francine, sons Kirk, Athens, Georgia, Chris and wife, Anita, Orange, California, grandchildren, Luke, Zack, and MaryJo Dunham, Cheyenne Vega and husband Ryan, and their sons, Nolan and Cooper, and Wyatt Myers, all of Orange, siblings, Ron Dunham and wife, Jeannie, Harrisburg, Virginia and Debbie Engleright, husband, Jim, Fredericksburg, Virginia, and a host of nieces and nephews, and friends wherever he went.
Bud passed away on May 27, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 12:00 PM at Briarwood Baptist Church in Watkinsville with Pastor Rick Standard officiating. The family will receive friends prior to the service from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM.
A youth basketball scholarship fund is being set up in Bud’s name. If you would like to contribute to it, make your check out to “Oconee Parks and Recreation” and send it to Zach Churchill’s attention at Oconee County Parks and Recreation, Bud Dunham Youth Basketball Scholarship Fund, 3500 Hog Mountain Road, Watkinsville, Georgia 30677.
Lord & Stephens Funeral Home, WEST, Watkinsville is entrusted with arrangements. www.lordandstephens.com.