DeCarli Propane History

Our founder, Victor L. DeCarli, was born on January 31, 1918 at the Petaluma General Hospital.   Victor was born to Victor and Elmira (Filippini) DeCarli who were descendants of a pioneering Swiss family who immigrated to the Petaluma area in 1847. 

Victor’s grandfather, Carlo Filippini, founded the Swiss-American Bank, the precursor to the Petaluma branch of the Bank of America.  He graduated from St. Vincent de Paul Grammar School and in 1936 he graduated from Petaluma High School.  He earned an A.A. degree from Santa Rosa Junior College in 1938.  On December 16, 1940, Victor graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering. 

During his college years he worked for the City of Petaluma as an assistant to the Land Surveyor.  He also worked for the County of Sonoma Engineering Department doing surveying, drafting, and inspections of road construction projects.  His U.C. Berkeley graduate work in Mechanical Engineering helped to influence the development of the wind tunnel at the Mechanical Engineering Lab.  The project under his supervision in the early part of 1941 became useful to the development and refinement of airplanes used during WWII.  From 1941 to 1945, Victor worked at Mare Island as an Engineer for the U.S. Navy.  He acted as Chief Engineer for the Navy Ships Main Propulsion Systems and was involved in numerous sea trials and testing of battle damaged vessels. 

After the war, while visiting with Ralph Small, owner of Small’s Scales and a modest butane company, Victor asked if Ralph might have a job available for him. Ralph said no but that he would sell the butane company to him.  

Victor recalled that during his summers before the War, as a youth, he went to Gonzales, California to work on his relatives’ farm.  There, he was inspired by his relative, Angelina Finatti.  While at her home he witnessed her great excitement over her new propane gas stove. She removed her outdated wood stove and marveled at the ease and efficiency of the new appliance. Most of all she appreciated all the free time she now had. Victor had recognized back then that there was opportunity in this new market.

After a long discussion with his parents, his mother agreed to loan him the money to purchase Small’s butane company, if he took his brother Charles on as a partner. On September 3, 1946, Victor and his brother, Charlie, started DeCarli Brothers Butane, now DeCarli’s Petaluma Butane Distributors, Inc. 

Victor was active in the Western Propane Gas Association from 1959 through the late 1990’s and served as the district representative.  Victor raised his beloved registered Shetland ponies along with many other interests.  In 1957, he became involved with a small group of local Petalumans to develop the Best Western, Petaluma Inn.  He was a board member for 40 years, primarily serving as the Treasurer.  In 1965, Victor and six local businessmen founded Northbay Savings and Loan Association.  He was a Director and Treasurer until 1996 when Northbay was acquired by Bank of the West. 

In 1969 Victor and his wife, Marisa, purchased two dilapidated buildings in downtown Petaluma known as the Centennial (1876) Building.  They saved the buildings from demolition by converting them into a small shopping complex which became known as The Lan Mart Shops.  This redevelopment project was the first of its kind in Petaluma and was recognized by the Heritage Homes of Petaluma and was awarded its first Certificate of Recognition. 

In 1996, Victor and Marisa founded the Victor L. and Marisa DeCarli Engineering Scholarship.  A long time supporter of St. Vincent de Paul Schools and a believer in the importance of athletics, he made a generous contribution to the St. Vincent High School Gymnasium Fund in 1997.  Victor was a lifelong member of St. Vincent de Paul Church; active in St. Vincent de Paul Father’s Club; a 60 year member of the Petaluma Riding and Driving Club; a 58 year member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, aerie 333; member of the Sonoma A’s; member of the Petaluma Golf and Country Club; member of the Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. 

After his death on January 16, 2000, Marisa, his wife of 46 years, was involved in the business until her death on March 12, 2003.

Today, Petaluma Butane Distributor’s remains family owned and operated.  Victor’s and Marisa’s children, Angela and Richard, have been actively involved in the business for most of their lives and now jointly own and operate the business.