In Memory

David Nunenkamp - Class Of 1961

Class of 1961

David C. Nunenkamp, a deputy secretary of California food and agriculture who served under four governors and was a widely respected legislative adviser on scientific and environmental policy, died June 12, 2006 at age 62.

He died of colon and liver cancer in a Sacramento hospice the day his son graduated from Kennedy High School, where Mr. Nunenkamp served as a football team trainer and Booster Club president, said his wife, Ann Nunenkamp. Despite a demanding job, he was devoted to his sons' sports activities, volunteering at their baseball, basketball and soccer games for more than a decade.
"He spent more time in T-shirts with cutoff sleeves and cutoff shorts on the field than he did in a suit and tie," his wife said. "He was a passionate parent."
During a 38-year career in business and government, Mr. Nunenkamp worked in several scientific fields, including aerospace, agriculture, environmental management, energy and manufacturing. His range of knowledge and scientific impartiality won the respect of both Democratic and Republican politicians.
After serving as vice president of California Nickel Corp., he joined the Governor's Office of Planning and Research from 1986 to 1991 in the Deukmejian and Wilson administrations. He was chief of the Department of Toxic Substances Control under Gov. Gray Davis and was appointed in 2003 to the Department of Food and Agriculture by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He also worked as chief environmental consultant and science adviser to the Assembly Republican Caucus and advised several legislative committees. Lawmakers and colleagues praised his hard work, depth of knowledge and intellectual honesty in helping policymakers grasp technical issues.
"David wasn't interested in proving something from a political point of view," said state Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks. "He worked with the facts."
Mr. Nunenkamp was born in 1943 to an Army Air Forces officer and housewife in Astoria, Ore. His childhood was taken around the world, including Japan and France, by military life. He earned bachelor's degrees in chemistry and political science from Oregon State University.
He became a nationally recognized expert on science and public policy, writing technical publications and advising federal and state agencies. He also worked as a corporate consultant and served as general manager of two of the largest surface coal mines in the United States.
In Sacramento, he was widely known for his legislative efforts to reform the controversial California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
Mr. Nunenkamp -- whose personal license plates read "CEQA DOC" -- was widely admired for his unflappable demeanor and reliance on scientific facts during political debates.
"When it came to CEQA or environmental issues, David was always the go-to guy," said Richard Costigan, deputy chief of staff to Schwarzenegger.
At work, Mr. Nunenkamp was a dedicated public servant and policy wonk, colleagues said. At home, he was a devoted family man who enjoyed drinking red wine and eating chocolates with friends under a wine grape arbor, his wife and friends said.
He often went to work early or returned late at night to allow time to participate in his sons' sports activities. Besides volunteering for the high school football team, he spent most weekends serving as coach and manager for Land Park Soccer League, Land Park Pacific Little League and local church teams.
He was a gourmet cook who enjoyed big-game hunting, camping and steelhead fishing. He was sometimes quiet but always thoughtful and generous, never without an extra pole for buddies on fishing trips, longtime friend Wayne Schell said.
Schell recalled riding horses with Mr. Nunenkamp and other friends on a camping trip in Wyoming. As the group crested a mountain ridge, he was surprised to see Mr. Nunenkamp crying softly, overcome by the natural beauty of the environment.
"He was a man who usually contained his emotions, who never let you see him cry," Schell said. "He never wanted to let you think he couldn't take care of you."


Survived by: Wife, Ann Nunenkamp, and sons, Adrian Nunenkamp, and Mikah Nunenkamp and Kawika Nunenkamp, both of Sacramento; parents, Victor and Chrissie Nunenkamp, and sister, Vicki Nunenkamp, all of Roseburg, Ore.

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04/12/11 11:14 AM #1    

Dick Ely (1961)

 I was a classmate of David's in the late 1950's in Paris. He was a good friend and a talented leader at our school. It was nice reading about his successful life and wonderful family.

Dick Ely

09/04/11 02:02 PM #2    

Sandra Prescott (Laney) (1961)

I just saw this today Sept 3, 2011.  My heart is breaking!  Dave and I were good friends, and he may have never known I actually had a crush on him. It was interesting to read about his life.  I am so glad he had such a good and fulfilling life and marriage!

Sandy Prescott Laney '61

11/09/12 12:30 AM #3    

John Knight Jr (1961)

Dave was my buddy in High School. I did not know that he lived in California. Sorry to hear about his passing. He will be remembered.

11/09/12 09:44 AM #4    

James Atkins (1962)

Dave was a sophomore my freshman year at PAHS and we were close friends. I'm not surprised at all that he had such an amazing career and life. My prayers to his family; he is truly missed.

03/28/15 11:18 AM #5    

Frank Dennis (1961)

I just joined the PAHS site and just read my good friend from our days in PAHS passed in 1962.  Was very very sad to hear of his passing, but reading his obiturary was no surprise as he was always a go getter and left his mark in this world in California.  He came to visit in Kansas while I was still in University and I will always remember his great attitude and demeanor

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