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Obituary of Jim Orton, 81 

Obituary of Jim Orton, 81

Jim Orton.

In the care of Chapel of the Roses & Chapel of the Roses Cemetery

– Jim Orton was born in Fullerton, CA to parents Chauncey and Kathleen Orton. He grew up on the family citrus ranch and was a precocious child: once slipping away as a toddler for a tractor joy ride. There was also an incident with fireworks that resulted in a significant dental bill. He moved to Simi Valley in 1955. He excelled academically and enjoyed athletics, as well as family sailing adventures. He also developed an innate talent for listening, which, combined with his signature kindness, curiosity and humor, led to lifelong friendships.

Jim attended the University of California at Berkeley. He met and married his first wife, Katherine Coats Orton, and graduated in 1967 with a degree in economics. He then served in the United States Navy as a Landing Ship Tank Operations Officer on the inland waterways of Vietnam. In 1973, Jim earned his Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law. He devoted his career to public service. He first worked as a Kings County Deputy County Counsel, then as the Santa Maria City Attorney, and ultimately as a Deputy County Counsel for San Luis Obispo County where he remained for 33 years. Upon his retirement, the County Board of Supervisors commended him on a distinguished and honorable career. “Jim earned the admiration and respect of his clients and co-workers through his attention to every detail and his sincere concern with the well-being of San Luis Obispo County, its people and its places.”

Jim met his second wife, Tonga Phan McGill, at a Cuesta College Spanish class. They married in 1996 and remained together until his death. Tonga inspired Jim’s deep appreciation for Vietnamese and French culture, which they enjoyed together, as well as the customs and cuisine of countries across Europe, Asia and South America. Years as a host father and volunteer for AFS Intercultural Programs also reflected his love of cross-cultural learning, which extended to cooking. Jim’s Killer Kung Pao Chicken, the preparation of which once generated a home cook’s version of pepper spray, remains an eye-watering legend among family and friends. In retirement, he became an avid hot pepper gardener.

Jim was devoted to his family and friends. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and a grandson, along with his two brothers and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

He died as he lived, embraced by love.

A graveside memorial will be held for Jim on Friday, April 5, 11 a.m. at the Atascadero Cemetery District. If desired, please consider donating to AFS.org in his memory.


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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.