John D. Manross...California is Home.
John was born on June 15, 1915 in Janesville, Wisconsin. He was the third child of Delbert and Beulah Manross. His older sisters were Audrey, born in 1908, and Lural, born in 1912. At the age of three his family migrated west to Butte, Montana for three years. In 1921 his father achieved his lifetime goal of moving his family to California. They settled in Modesto where Delbert secured a teaching position.
As a young boy, John was very active in the YMCA. He belonged to Y Clubs, attended Y Camps, and was a Y Camp Counselor for many years. John’s work with the YMCA as a young man and later as President of the North Hollywood Y’s Men Club, earned him a White Camper’s Rag. That was the highest honor that could be given to a member of the YMCA.
Fishing, camping, and hiking were activities he loved throughout his lifetime. On one of his many trips to Yosemite National Park, both John and his friend Larry Meeker climbed Half Dome. I have included a photo of John sitting on Half Dome’s diving board with his legs dangling over the edge. In 1932 he and his friend, Larry, attended the Olympic Games which were held in Los Angeles, California. To earn spending money as a young boy, John took various jobs such as delivering Saturday Evening Post Magazines and working at the Velvet Ice Cream Factory.
Following graduation from Modesto High School, John attended Modesto Junior College for two years. While at Modesto JC he played varsity basketball, French Horn in the school orchestra, and sang in the school glee club. He also performed with the Modesto Symphony Orchestra.
To earn enough money to attend the University of California at Berkeley during the depression, John had to take two years off from his schooling. He worked at the Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley, the largest gold mine in California. It was a dangerous job a mile below ground, swinging a sledge hammer, with no breathing equipment. After two years John enrolled as a Junior at the University of California, Berkeley. Having spent 2 years swinging that sledge hammer, he was very strong and was able to walk on and make the Varsity Crew, although he had no experience in that sport. In 1938 he was in the Varsity 8 boat which competed in the National Championship at the Poughkeepsie Regatta in New York.
John’s early career began with Douglas Aircraft Company in Southern California. He held many positions, including scheduling production and analyzing service problems and crash data. He developed the first database to analyze the incidents taking place among all airlines. Previously, each airline only had information on their own safety issues. John personally traveled to each scheduled airline to instruct them on the new program and how it would improve airline safety throughout the country. The information in the database was updated and shared with all airline customers on a monthly basis. The program resulted in a reduction of crashes and safety incidents.
John met Ruth Hambright, originally of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while working at the Douglas Aircraft plant at the Santa Monica Airport. Both Ruth and John were transferred to the Douglas plant in Chicago, Illinois where they were married on May 1, 1943. Shortly after their marriage, they were transferred back to California. John and Ruth were the parents of two sons: John “Larry”, born in 1944 and Tim, born in 1950.
Southern California was the home of the Manross family. From 1949-1966 they resided in North Hollywood. In 1966 they moved to Cupertino, California.
One of John’s favorite activities was golfing, while Ruth especially enjoyed playing bridge. Both were avid bowlers and swimmers. When the boys were quite young Ruth and John were determined to have a swimming pool. So Ruth started working from home while raising Larry and Tim. She was the President of the Fan Club for the singer, Frankie Lane. He was one of the most popular entertainers at that time. The first pool in the neighborhood was built in the Manross backyard. It was the center of recreation for everyone.
John, Ruth and the boys would take two week vacations each year and they were usually spent at the beach (Newport Beach, CA) or in the mountains (Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras). John and Ruth would take a three day trip to Las Vegas every year as well. In the Summer of 1968, John and Ruth vacationed in Hawaii to celebrate their 25th Anniversary.
As parents, both John and Ruth were very active and involved. Ruth was a Cub Scout Den Mother and President of the YMCA Y’s Mennettes. John was also determined to provide a great childhood for his two boys. He organized and led Y Clubs for his children and was instrumental in starting Little League, Pony League, and Park League baseball in the community.
John’s career continued and progressed with the steel industry where he held management positions in both operations and sales. Lockheed Aircraft in Sunnyvale, California was so impressed with the major sale he made to them that they recruited him back into the aerospace industry. Ruth also enjoyed her career in the medical and aerospace industries.
John passed away in 1970 and Ruth in 1975. Larry and Tim and their wives decided to pay tribute to their wonderful parents. Funds were donated to the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona for a one acre meditation garden to be landscaped with trees, flowers and grass. The area was dedicated in honor of John and Ruth Manross and Bert and Kay Winthrop (Mary’s parents).
John’s two older sisters were Audrey and Lural. Audrey married Mel Harris in 1932 at Stanford University. The Harris’s resided in Modesto, CA. They had two children; Bill who was born in 1936 and Susan born in 1941. Mel was the owner of an exclusive men’s clothing store in Modesto called Plato’s. Both Audrey and Mel traveled extensively to many parts of the globe.
Lural married Bob Bookwalter in 1932. Escalon, California was their home for many years. The Bookwalters had three sons; Robert Jr. born in 1934, Gerald born in 1940 and David born in 1946. Bob engaged in farming during a great part of his career, growing peaches, walnuts, and almonds. He was an active hunter, while Lural enjoyed painting. The lure of agriculture was passed down to his son, Jerry. Jerry and his wife Jean McClarnin founded the successful Bookwalter Winery in Richland, WA in 1982. Today the winery is owned and managed by their son John.