Richard Lindholtz was the first Optometrist in Davis. He served the community professionally for 37 years – 10 of those years as the only vision professional in town.
In addition to his busy practice, Lindholtz also made time to serve on the Davis Planning Commission at a time when the city’s population grew by 50 percent over a period of four years.
He was an active presence in the Rotary Club of Davis, volunteering locally and serving a term as President, as well as traveling overseas to Fiji in 1986 and again in 1989 to conduct an eye clinic there.
A co-founder of University Covenant Church, Lindholtz and his wife Barbara were instrumental in establishing the church’s pre-marital counseling and Family Ministries.
Born in Berkeley on September 4, 1923 to Thomas Dahl and Dollie Louise Freund Lindholtz, he moved with his family to the Los Angeles area at a very young age. He graduated from Eagle Rock High School.
Lindholtz became interested in a health care profession during World War II, although he was an engineering major at UC Berkeley for one year before the war. In 1944, he married Barbara, his High School sweetheart. Following a one-week honeymoon, he was shipped overseas for 18 months, seeing combat in Europe from the Battle of the Bulge onward. Referring to his war experiences, Lindholtz said "I think the feelings of the American public at that time were pretty much the same as mine – Nazi socialization was evil.
"While war is bad, when it prevents the domination of the world by an evil philosophy, it is necessary. This is a different side than many young people see today. I don’t think anybody in their right mind likes war, but sometimes it is necessary."
It was during the war that Lindholtz decided he’d rather work with people than things. Looking into various health care professions at a time when he had family responsibilities, he chose optometry school over medical school due to his desire to finish in fewer years (three, instead of four plus internship and residency).
After the war he returned to school, switching to UCLA. Earning his bachelor’s degree in 1948, he moved to Illinois with his wife and son Tom, born March 24, 1947. There, he attended Optometric College. Interested in returning to California to settle, the family chose Davis.
The Lindholtz' second child, Karin, was born on May 6, 1951. A third child, Rick, would join the family on March 2, 1956.
The family moved to Davis in late 1951 and opened the doors to his Optometric practice on January 14, 1952, when the population of Davis was about 3,500 and there were about 1,250 students enrolled at UCD. Yet to Lindholtz, Davis seemed to hold the promise of bigger and better things. "Some visionaries in town thought we would eventually have 1,500 students," he recalled with a grin. "We felt there would be greater things in store for the town – the baby boomers would pretty soon hit the ranks and there would be a manifest destiny for Davis." The family rented briefly before building a home on Miller Drive, in what is now called Central Davis, though at the time, it was the northern edge of town.
Lindholtz' first office was at Fourth and G streets. He worked as a solo practitioner for most of his career, except for a partnership between 1966 and 1972, which eventually split up, and a brief period around 1984-85 with a young man who decided to move to Canada. About a year before retiring, Lindholtz welcomed Dr. Mark Helmus to the practice, and Helmus subsequently took responsibility for the practice after Lindholtz' 1988 retirement.
Prior to Dr. Lindholtz' arrival in Davis, residents drove to Woodland or Sacramento for optical services. By the time of his retirement, there were eight Optometrists and three Ophthalmologists as well as some optical retail outlets. "The emphasis in optometry is on the service that is rendered to the patient rather than the materials. I feel I am in the vision care profession – not the costume jewelry business," he remarked in 1988. "So much of what we do comes through the visual senses; to help people see better contributes to the quality of life."
A glance over the years of his career shows considerable change in eye care. "When I graduated from optometry school in 1950, my training in contacts consisted in a one-hour lecture. At that time, you could cover everything there was to know in one lecture," he said.
Lindholtz was instrumental in getting a vision insurance program off the ground during his years as Director of the California Vision Service in the late 1950s and early 60s. He developed a pre-paid vision care plan at a time when this concept was "about as revolutionary as prepaid medical services in the 30s."
"I feel very good about this; a lot of people have benefited," Lindholtz said. "State workers and those in the school system are some of the people who’ve been helped by the plan."
Upon retirement in 1988, Dick Lindholtz was honored by the City of Davis with the observance of "Richard J. Lindholtz Day" on October 8, 1988. The following year, Dick and Barbara Lindholtz were honored by the City as recipients of the C.A. Covell Citizen of the year award.
In addition to his professional work in Davis, Lindholtz was active throughout the community. He served as a cub scoutmaster, was on the board of Directors of the Davis Area Chamber of Commerce, served as President of the Davis Senior High School PTA, and was a member of the Davis Planning Commission from 1965 to 1969.
"My time on the Planning Commission came during a period of extensive growth and I think we managed things pretty well" Lindholtz observed. The city grew from a population of 14,750 in 1965 to 21,750 in 1969. It was also during that time that the bike paths were developed in town.
Active in the Rotary Club of Davis (a Paul Harris fellow and a past President of the Davis club), Lindholtz and his wife went to Fiji in 1986 and 1989 through Rotary International sponsorship to conduct an eye clinic for people there.
Closer to home, the Lindholtzes are among a group of five couples who founded University Covenant Church in Davis.
"We take a great deal of satisfaction from that, and feel it has been a really positive contribution to the community," said Lindholtz. Over the years, both Dick and Barbara have served the church through a variety of offices, and offered informal marriage counseling to couples. "We have been married for 44 years, and we are still in love – more every day," Lindholtz said in 1988. "Because of what we’ve learned over 44 years, we are eager to share with young couples our experiences through marriage counseling."
In 2000, the Lindholtzes sold their home on Miller Drive and became residents of University Retirement Community on Shasta Drive. They made this their home for the remainder of their lives. Barbara died on July 7, 2009, and Dick followed her on January 12, 2011. Dick was memorialized by Bob Dunning in a Davis Enterprise column on January 21, 2011.
This wiki page is modified from a 1988 feature article by Kathy Robertson, published in The Davis Enterprise.