Wayne Mills, current president of the Orcutt Mineral Society

Wayne Mills, current president of the Orcutt Mineral Society, was the guest speaker at the May 12, 2012, Valley Speaks event at the Santa Maria Public Library.

The Orcutt Mineral Society goes back to 1958 when the Santa Maria Gem and Mineral Society, which had been around for many years, dissolved. Wanting to regroup, members and other rock hounds got together Nov. 24 of the same year. Before the night ended, 21 had signed up as charter members of the Orcutt Mineral Society, named in commemoration of Bill Orcutt, the father of modern geology in the Santa Maria Valley. Orcutt is also reputed to have been the first person to use geology in oil exploration.

As stated in its bylaws, the purpose of the society is to educate the public about the earth sciences and to promote good fellowship and proper ethics in the pursuit of lapidary arts.

Lapidary classes began in 1974 with Barney Miller and Charlie Azevedo as instructors in a workshop that was constructed by the members, with the society furnishing the equipment. After Barney passed away, Charlie continued as instructor. When Azevedo retired, Marshall Reeves took over.

The group meets once a month and has participated in “digs” throughout the year in many sites located in the Western states.

Wes Lingerfelt, who joined the club in 1983, was dubbed “mountain goat” by Emmett Biddle because of his skill in going up and down hills. Biddle is the longtime owner of Dad’s Rock Shop in Arroyo Grande.

There’s a lot of good-natured rivalry among the three rock clubs in the area but, on a serious note, Orcutt Mineral Society has awarded many scholarships to students at both Hancock and Cuesta colleges and recently to the geology department at Santa Barbara City College. In addition, the Orcutt group also provides funds to the Santa Barbara County Social Services to purchase clothing for abused children in the department’s care.

Get tips on free stuff and fun ideas delivered weekly to your inbox

Rocks and minerals are named for different reasons. Some for the locality in which they were found, and some honoring the person who found them. Such was the case of a rock named Deedeeite, which was named for a vivacious red-headed woman by the name of Dee Dee Magri, who had just joined the Orcutt Mineral Society. Dee Dee and her husband, Aldo, had recently moved to Avila Beach, where the Dee Dee often searched the beach looking for pretty rocks. Before long, she had a sizable collection in her small backyard.

One day, Dee Dee brought a large rock that she’d found on the beach to Wes Lingerfelt and asked him to make a sphere of it for her. The man’s only comment, after taking a look at the rock, was “That’s the ugliest rock I’ve ever seen.” However, he shrugged his shoulders and made the sphere, anyway. After the rock was polished, it looked a lot better, but when Lingerfelt placed it under a black light and it fluoresced in three colors, he changed his tune. The rock was absolutely beautiful. When the men felt that the rock needed a name, Ralph Bishop suggested “Deedeeite,” in honor of the woman who found it. Deedeeite then became hot property and in July of 2014, Dee Dee was made an honorary member of the Orcutt Mineral Society.

* * *

The society’s biggest fundraising event is its annual Rainbow of Gems Show at Nipomo High School from Aug. 4 to 6. The Orcutt Mineral Society’s 50th anniversary show, is the largest in the county and features about 60 dealers in lapidary goods from all over the Southwest. In addition, the show will feature the Central Coast Gold Panners, a kid’s booth, as well as displays and demonstrations of the various lapidary arts. For more information, visit www.omsinc.org.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.