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WWII cinematographer Richard Dick Ham dies
July 11, 1920 April10, 2014
Dick Ham
Richard Dick Ham, 1920-2014 - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Richard T. Ham

July 11, 1920 - April10, 2014

Ceres native Richard T. "Dick" Ham, 93, who led an interesting life in photography locally and on the world stage, has passed away. Mr. Ham died April 10 with family by his side at the Veteran's Hospital in Palo Alto.

Living alone in Portola Valley where he daily fed the deer that appeared outside his window every morning, Mr. Ham only recently showed signs of slowing down but remained in communication with his family and his many friends worldwide.

Dick was a cinematographer, teacher and a writer.
Dick was born to Myrtle and William "Will" H. Ham on July 11, 1920 at the family home on First Street in Ceres. His grandparents had come to Ceres in the early 1900s, the Ham family in 1910 and the Baldridge great-grandparents and grandparents in 1901. Will Ham was well-known in Ceres; he owned the Ceres Grocery for 18 years and was then appointed to the office of Constable of the Ceres Township following the death of Jack Dillon who had earlier been elected to that office. Will was always re-elected and served as constable until his death in 1963.

Dick developed a passion for photography that lasted a lifetime in the little basement darkroom at Ceres High School. Will Ham later built Dick a darkroom at home where he developed photos of Ceres and its activities. He graduated from Modesto Junior College and Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles where he studied photography until June of 1942 when he faced being drafted during World War II.

While in Hollywood, he learned how to use a movie camera after a brief training period by a movie studio cameraman. The next day he enlisted in the Army as a cinematographer with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was promptly sent to the European Theater of Operations. As a combat photographer, he had many assignments with both U.S. and British forces. His assignments brought him to become acquainted with many reporters and photographers who later became famous, including Andy Rooney, Lee Miller and also Lowell Thomas whom he accompanied to the Middle East. Toward the end of the war Mr. Ham did a portrait photo session with famous artist Pablo Picasso.

Back home, he became an instructor in film making at Art Center School of Design and his brother Gordon became a student. Later Dick worked for the Ramo Wooldridge Corp. In 1953 when he was in Spain with Hoyningen-Huene to film the Don Quixote story, he sent for his fiancée, Phyllis Schmidle, whom he had known during their junior college days. They were married in Tangiers and honeymooned in Spain.

On moving from Los Angeles to Palo Alto, Ham worked for Lockheed doing commercial films until he established his own commercial film business for a few years before joining the faculty of San Francisco City College. For 27 years he taught cinematography at the college as well as setting up and organizing that department to train students for the film production industry.

He leaves behind his sister, Doreen Mauk (Merlin) of Sacramento; his sister-in-law, Betty Ham of Sonora; his niece, Marilyn Thompson of Sonora; five nephews, Norman Ham (Leslie) of Modesto, Ronald Ham (Mary) of Livermore, Mitchell Mauk (Solange) of San Francisco, Russell Mauk (Daryl) of San Ramon and Glenn Mauk (Rae Jean) of Atascadero; and special friend, Huguette Sordoillet of Paris, France. He was preceded in death by wife Phyllis and brother Gordon Ham.

A private celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

-Ceres (Calif.) Courier
Wednesday, May 28, 2014