SANTA ROSA - Brother Richard Columban Derby, FSC (AKA Alfred Robert Derby) was born in San Francisco on Aug. 19, 1914, to Robert Tobias Derby and Edith Marie Page.
He was a member of the De La Salle Christian Brothers for 75 years and died at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, in Santa Rosa, on Jan. 6, 2008, at 8:10 p.m., at the age of 93. Brother fell down a flight of stairs on Jan. 4 and suffered severe trauma to his head and cervical vertebrae.
Brother Columban began his association with the De La Salle Christian Brothers as a freshman at Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco, from which he graduated in 1932. He entered the Novitiate on July 2, 1932, and received the habit of the Brothers of the Christian Schools on Aug. 14, 1932, and received first vows on Aug. 15, 1933. Brother received his A.B. in philosophy from St. Mary’s College in 1940. Brother also did graduate studies in psychology at the Dominican House of Studies in Illinois and La Salle University in Philadelphia. In 1936 he received his first assignment to Sacred Heart High School (it is now Sacred Heart-Cathedral Preparatory), beginning a relationship with the school that would last until his death. In 1941 he was assigned as principal of St. Peter’s High School. Although he only ministered at St. Peter’s for three years, his relationship with the school, and many confreres and former students, has continued to the present. Brother also served in the San Joaquin Valley at Garces Memorial High School, Bakersfield, and San Joaquin Memorial High School, Fresno, as principal, teacher and superior of the Brothers’ Communities. In 1961 he became the director of the Holy Family Community and Director-General of Mont La Salle. In the 1970s he returned to Sacred Heart High School for seven years as director of the community and a teacher in the school. In 1986 Brother Columban began his long sojourn at Mont La Salle as director, with retirement in 1993.
Beginning at the age of 17, Brother was a devoted and talented organist playing in churches and other venues in and around San Francisco. He was the main organist at Mont La Salle for many years, relinquishing his responsibilities as main organist this past year at the age of 93, but playing occasionally, including the Sunday before his death. One of his many contributions as an administrator in schools served by the Brothers was to integrate African-American students into St. Peter’s High School first, and then into Sacred Heart High School. He was a person who felt deeply for his students, especially the poorer students. Many of his former students owe their high school diploma to his active interest in their home life, their studies and their development as a person. He continually argued on behalf of justice in regards to both the church and society.
He is survived by several cousins: Antoinette and Richard Dixon, of San Francisco; Claire and Lee Jones, of New Canaan, Conn.; Edwin Borello, of Novato; Gabrielle Clausen, of San Francisco; and Erick and Ellen Engman, of Daly City. He is also survived by many friends and former students.
Funeral services will begin with a viewing on Saturday, Jan. 12, 9 a.m., at Mont La Salle in Napa, followed by the funeral liturgy at 10 a.m., and the burial in the cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Lasallian Education Fund, De La Salle Institute, 4401 Redwood Road, Napa, CA 94558. Funeral services through Claffey and Rota, Napa.