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Dick Maugg may not have been a star, exactly.

But prod their memories a bit, and most Americans who lived through the 1980s would remember the Santa Rosa man for his TV role as folksy wine-cooler pitchman for the Bartles & Jaymes brand.

Maugg and his counterpart, a central Oregon farmer, were made famous as the celebrated duo Ed Jaymes and Frank Bartles in a series of classic spots that ran for seven years, endearing them to the public even as they made the E&J Gallo wine cooler a top seller.

Maugg, a building contractor and developer in real life, was the stone-faced, mute one in the ads. He never said a word, providing counterpoint to the fictional Bartles, a talkative, down-home huckster who started each 30-second spot with “Hello,” and ended them with “Thank you for your support.”

Clad always in a button-down shirt and tie, with his too-large ball cap pulled low to his ears, Maugg’s sidekick character often displayed a certain distractedness, and seemed only mildly interested in the product.

But the ads were enormously successful, winning industry accolades, as well.

“They were really very funny, and much better than most of the advertising that was going on then,” said Maugg’s wife of 58 years, Barbara Maugg. “After they finished, a lot of advertising got better because of it, I think.”

Long past his stint in advertising — an unintended bit of serendipity — Maugg remained busy in development well into his later years, until his health began to fail. He died of cancer July 28. He was 83.

Born and raised in Longview, Wash., Maugg studied business at the University of Washington, graduating in 1953. He later served in the Army at the Presidio in San Francisco.

While attending a gathering of University of Washington alumni on Treasure Island, he met a young San Francisco nurse named Barbara Marie Rogstad. They married that same year.

Maugg was working in Northern California as a sales representative for Burroughs Corp., a business machine and equipment manufacturer, for whom he peddled high-tech adding machines called Sensimatics, when he and his wife set up housekeeping in Santa Rosa.

He worked for Burroughs, a predecessor of Unisys Corp., for several years as the first of the couple’s five children came along, but eventually left to try his hand at selling stocks, his wife recalled.

But he eventually found his career in building, learning his trade from scratch and building homes on spec in northern Santa Rosa neighborhoods like St. Francis Acres, Austin Estates and Larkfield as his family grew. Maugg also worked on seismic renovations in several downtown buildings after the 1969 earthquake, said his wife. He eventually moved into more exclusive home-building work in the Tiburon and Belvedere area.

Maugg had also built the San Francisco headquarters for his childhood friend, an advertising man named Hal Riney, when Riney’s agency got a contract with E&J Gallo for the Bartles & Jaymes television ads. Riney’s wife found an Alfalfa, Ore., cattle rancher named Dave Rufkahr to take the part of Bartles, a good ol’ boy in suspenders and a fedora. But the agency was still looking for its Jaymes on the eve of shooting when someone suggested trying Maugg in the role.

The resulting ad campaign made him famous. He and Rufkahr reportedly shot more than 200 spots, though many of them did not run. Many of them featured the two men seated on a country porch that was, in fact, in the Alexander Valley, though the pair also traveled to different U.S. cities for shoots and, if Rufkahr had his way, a baseball game, Barbara Maugg said.

“It was really a vacation for Dick to go on these things, and it was exciting for Dave to go,” she said. “All of the acclaim didn’t do anything to Dave. It was amazing. He just thought it was kind of fun.”

The team would shoot several ads at once, perhaps over a weekend, and then Maugg would return to his work, eventually building a home for Riney in Honduras. A lifelong fisherman who also learned to fly, Maugg built homes for himself near Cabo San Lucas and in Washington so he could fish. They were long-term projects, his wife said.

The ads ensured the couple’s children could attend college — all of them went to the University of Washington, like their parents — but the family faced more than its share of challenges, as well.

They lost their only son, Augie Maugg, of Windsor, to cancer at the age of 37 in 1999, a month before his twin boys were born.

Maugg himself required a kidney transplant in 2007 that necessitated anti-rejection drugs that made him vulnerable to bouts of cancer. He was in treatment for one malignancy when a previously undiagnosed cancer became suddenly acute and took his life last July, his wife said.

A formal announcement of his death was delayed by a cancer recurrence in the couple’s daughter, Karen Coset, also of Santa Rosa, around the same time. She died Oct. 4.

Maugg’s surviving daughters include Kathryn Toms of Hillsborough, Kristina Maugg of San Francisco and Johanna Kousoulas of Pasadena, as well as his wife and several grandchildren.

No services were held.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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