Dick Catts, whose blue and white beach service shacks are as much a part of Rehoboth Beach as the sand, passed away Feb. 26 at the age of 84.
Catts’ daughter-in-law, Kim, said he had been in Harbor Health Care in Lewes with Delaware Hospice when he passed away of old age and diabetes. He is survived by his wife, Connie, twin sons Russell “Rusty” Catts and Richard Catts, as well as stepchildren Sharon and J.P., six grandchildren and two stepgrandchildren.
“He was the most magnetic, positive, optimistic person I’ve ever known,” said Russell Catts. “More than anything else he loved the beach.”
Catts was born Jan. 25, 1930 in Milford and as a teenager teamed up with his cousin, Richard Lynam, to rent beach umbrellas and chairs. Lynam said their mothers owned businesses on the Boardwalk before the two cousins went into business for themselves.
Lynam described his relationship with Catts as a complicated affair, in which they were sometimes together and sometimes apart as Lynam’s Beach Service and Catts’ Beach Service. But they always joined forces as Catts and Lynam when they would renew their contract with the city, Lynam said.
Lynam said Catts was a person who loved to talk to people, sociable with anyone he ever met. He said Catts enjoyed going out and having coffee. Despite being in their 80s, Catts and Lynam were still very active in the business, although they had both turned the physical work over to their children.
Kim Catts said, “His favorite saying was ‘You are one hot cat.’ He loved people and the beach; it didn’t matter if you were from D.C. or California.”
She said Catts loved her yellow lab, Honey, who rode around with Catts in his Jeep.
Rehoboth Mayor Sam Cooper said Catts was a character who marched to the beat of his own drummer. He said he marveled at Catts and Lynam’s staying power on the beach, where they have contracted with Rehoboth since the mid-1960s.
A graduate of Felton High School, Catts served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, earning a Good Conduct medal and the National Defense Service medal. Besides the beach service business, Catts spent his professional career as a teacher, starting at Milford Consolidated School before spending 20 years teaching in the Seaford area. Russell Catts said his father loved his students, teaching industrial arts such as wood shop, power mechanics and architecture.
“He seemed to like kids that fell between the cracks,” Russell said. “There were no socioeconomic boundaries with friendships. He called himself a people’s person.”
He retired from teaching in 1989 but remained very active in his beach service until the last year when his health started to worsen, Russell Catts said.
“As long as he could make it to the beach, he’d find a way to get there,” Russell said. “He loved being a beach concessionaire.”
Speaking of Catts as a dad, Russell said, “I was just lucky to have him there for me. I have a lot of respect for him. He worked so hard to provide for his family. I couldn’t have had a better father or business associate than him. I feel fortunate he was my father.”
A viewing will be held 5-7 p.m., Monday, March 3, at Parsell Funeral Home in Lewes. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m., Tuesday, March 4, also at Parsell Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Delaware Hospice, 100 Patriots Way, Milford, 19963 or a charity of your choice.