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Tom Clotfelter, Rancho Santa Fe 'icon,' dies

Thomas Rene Clotfelter, 81, will be remembered by friends and associates as a legend in Rancho Santa Fe. He died Jan. 20.

“Tom was an icon in the Covenant of Rancho Santa Fe,” said Andy Nelson, president and owner of Willis Allen Real Estate.

He was a licensed real estate agent since 1968 and became the broker and owner of Clotfelter Real Estate, which was founded by his father in 1931, according to www.clotfelterhomes.com.

He ran his own office for years before joining forces with Willis Allen Real Estate more than 15 years ago, Nelson said. Clotfelter's sons, Cutter and Chaco, are also real estate agents with Willis Allen.

“He’s an icon, a legend in Rancho Santa Fe,” said Gary Wheeler, branch manager of Willis Allen’s Rancho Santa Fe office.

His knowledge of the Covenant was “superb,” Nelson said. It was “historical, detailed and fueled by some great stories. We all learned so much from him.”

“He knew the benefits of locations throughout the Covenant and could probably name every bird that flew across Rancho Santa Fe,” Nelson said.

Clotfelter’s many years in Rancho Santa Fe “helped develop the town,” Wheeler said. “I think everyone benefited from his expertise.”

Wheeler described Clotfelter as honorable and detailed, personable and great to work with, hardworking and caring. Nelson said he had a “wonderful sense of humor, a conviction and intensity about his family, his community” and “a strong desire to provide sage advice to his clients.”

“It’s a big loss. A great loss,” Wheeler said.

The Clotfelters have sold real estate in Rancho Santa Fe for three generations, and is one of the few original families still living in the area.

“His father was the original salesperson for Covenant vacant lots as the original owner, the Santa Fe Railway Company, realized that they couldn’t use the eucalyptus trees for railroad ties,” Nelson said.

Clotfelter was born May 14, 1932, to Reginald and Constance (Cummins) Clotfelter in Rancho Santa Fe. He was the oldest of three children, with younger siblings Richard and Susan. He graduated from Stanford University in 1954 and San Dieguito High School in 1950.

Clotfelter was chairman of the Rancho Santa Fe River Arroyo Committee, an adviser for the San Dieguito Conservancy since 1994, director of the Whelan Lake Sanctuary since 1990, former chairman of the San Dieguito Flood Zone, director of the San Elijo Alliance from 1973 to 1996, national trustee of Ducks Unlimited and cofounder and former chairman of the San Elijo Foundation, according to www.clotfelterhomes.com.

He is survived by his wife, Karen Miller Clotfelter, and his two sons, Cutter and Chaco, who were from a previous marriage to Leith (Ramsey) Clotfelter.

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