Obituary: William “Bill” Keith Guptill

Loving husband and father, mentor, entrepreneur

William “Bill” Keith Guptill, loving husband and father, friend and mentor to many, died peacefully from natural causes at Claremont Manor on June 4. He was two months shy of his 90th birthday. 

Bill will be remembered for his laughter, friendship, business acumen and generalized knowledge of many subjects. 

He was born on August 20, 1930 in Fertilla, California to Sidney Earl Guptill and Dorothy Marie Guptill. He was raised during the Great Depression on an 80-acre farm in Blythe, and attended grammar school and high school in the Palo Verde Valley.

His parents grew cotton and alfalfa, and as a boy he enjoyed helping out on the farm and hunting and fishing with his brother and sisters. His strong work ethic, love of America, and concern for others were shaped by these early experiences.

In 1951, he joined the US Air Force during the Korean War, achieving the rank of staff sergeant and serving as crew chief of four-engine bomber planes. After being stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska, he was honorably discharged in 1955.

During his service he became proficient at poker, and used his winnings to put himself through Los Angeles State College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in accounting in 1958.

At that time he met Olga Bulat, a business English teacher at West Covina High School. They married in 1961 and settled in Claremont.

He worked at an accounting firm in Pomona before moving on to industrial experience and then co-founding a firm in 1964 in West Covina with his college classmate, Ralph Parke. Their firm became known as Parke Guptill & Company, and specialized in auto dealership accounting.

The business thrived, growing from five to more than 50 employees over 25 years. Building the practice was one of Mr. Guptill’s greatest joys and accomplishments. He served as managing partner for 11 years before retiring in 1989.

A natural entrepreneur, he founded and co-owned numerous enterprises throughout his life, particularly in his fifties and sixties. In addition to founding two used car dealerships, he also fulfilled his lifelong dream of owning a new car dealership, the former Valley Pontiac GMC in El Monte.

Along with two friends, one a former drag racing professional, he also invested in two major motorsports facilities, the former Orange County International Raceway in El Toro, and the former Firebird International Raceway Park in Chandler, Arizona. He greatly enjoyed his involvement in these businesses and the challenge of making them consistently profitable. 

A longstanding affiliation of which he was most proud was with the OREMOR automotive group, founded by his friend and client Richard D. (“Dick”) Romero. He served as a consultant for OREMOR for decades and on its board of directors.

When he wasn’t working he spent time with his family, travelled, studied investments, and made annual hunting trips to Blythe with relatives and friends.     

Mr. Guptill loved his life, and would wish to be remembered for his “farm boy good sense,” his business accomplishments and the livelihoods created by them.

“He touched everyone with his laughter, good humor, and optimism,” his family shared. “We will forever remember him as a devoted father, husband, and grandfather and uncle. To others, he was a true friend and confidant, offering his care, time and expertise, whatever the need.”

He is survived by his wife, Olga Guptill; daughter Tanya (Guptill) Brugh and her husband Timothy C. Brugh; granddaughter Elena Grace Brugh; sister Patricia Conner; eight nieces and nephews; and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews.

A private memorial service will be planned following his cremation.


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