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Joe O'Leary
January 8, 1933-July 27, 2022
Joe OLeary obit pic

Joe O’Leary, 89, died of natural causes on July 27, 2022, at his home in Ripon. Joe was born in Petaluma, California on January 8, 1933. 

   In 1944, his family of four moved to a small farm five miles east of Grass Valley. They owned and operated a delicatessen and market in Grass Valley and later a restaurant in Auburn. He, his parents, Owen and Lois, and his sister Jean, each owned a horse and they became very involved with the Nevada County Horsemen’s Association, trail riding, and County Fairs. He milked the family cow twice a day and rode his horse twice a week. He quipped more than once that he wished it had been the other way around.  He graduated from Bear River Elementary, a one room school, in 1946, and enrolled in Grass Valley High School, now known as Nevada Union. He was active in football and track, served as student body president, and graduated co -valedictorian in 1950.  He enrolled in the University of California at Davis in September of 1950. He played football there until a train accident, that left him with a slight but noticeable limp, took him out of the sport in his sophomore year. In 1953, he was one of thirty students who started the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house at UC Davis. In a psychology class in the fall of 1953, he met Ann Martin which led to a coffee date a few weeks later, and a marriage

in June of 1955. With a Bachelor of Science degree in 1954, a graduate year of study, and newly married, he joined the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Parks Air Force Base which was, in his opinion, the only Air Force base without an airplane. Honorably discharged in 1956, he accepted a position at Orestimba High School in Newman, California, where he taught math and science, and coached both tennis and football.

   Several years later he became the vice principal and counselor. Over several years, he finished a Master’s Degree in Administration at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  In 1962, he was selected as the principal of Ripon High School at the age of 29. He was named the District Superintendent of Ripon Unified in 1965, and he served in that position until his retirement in 1993. He often said the first ten years were some of the most interesting, which included opting out of the Delta Junior College development and annexing to the Mode sto Junior College district, and also forming the Ripon Unified School District to escape from a state proposal to form a large school district which would have combined Ripon with Manteca and Escalon. Those communities also eventually formed their own unified school districts. As the Ripon community increased five-fold, he helped with the expansion of Ripon High and two elementary schools, along with the construction of two new elementary schools to provide for the increased

enrollment.  He felt strongly that all administrators should teach or, in some way, remain active in the classroom. He initially supervised students taking college correspondence courses. This expanded to include independent study and research projects. In 1970, he started teaching a class in Statistics and did so on a daily basis for the next 23 years until his retirement.  When his mother, who worked for the Nevada Union School District, died in 1975, some co-workers asked about making a donation of some kind. It was from this that he established “The Good Guys Award” where cash contributions could be made to honor the memories of others. The interest from that account was given to several high school students each year for “having high standards of personal conduct,” “making the day a happier time for others,” and because “they smile.” In his first year of retirement, he helped form the Ripon Arts League (RAL). He served on

its Board of Directors for 20 years and served as RAL president for a number of years. He  was a 54-year member of the Ripon Lions Club and served as president in 1972-73. He was a member of the Stanislaus Memorial Society and served as president for three years. He was active in the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and was

involved in the accreditation of thirty schools, including two in Hawaii and three in Indonesia. He was a member and elder of the Manteca Presbyterian Church. He also loved traveling. He and Ann traveled extensively, visiting thirty countries, and made it to all states but Kentucky. His favorite destination, however, was Grass Valley, where he and Ann owned the family home, and visited several times a month.

He was an avid tennis player, playing for more than 60 years. He stopped just short of his goal of playing until he was 85, retiring from the game at 84. He was an avid bridge player and belonged to multiple bridge groups. Another favorite activity was playing the guitar. If he wasn’t playing tennis, bridge, or the guitar, then he was reading or listening

to music, and sometimes both at the same time. He enjoyed cooking and upon retirement, he did most of the breakfasts and several dinners a week. Everything had to be made from “scratch,” cooked separately, and combined for serving. Each year, he grew zinnias for his garden. Collecting seeds from the tallest and strongest plants, he grew zinnias over six feet high.  

   With all of that, he was most proud of his children and grandchildren, all of whom he taught to play bridge! He is survived by his wife Ann of 67 years of marriage, and his four children, Mike (Halline) and their children Matthew, Ian, and Andrew; David (Theresa) and their children Nathan, Zachary, Sarah, and Katie; Sally (Steve) and their children Jonathan and Lauren, and Thom (Sherri) and their children Brooke, Kaitlin, Whitney, and Luke. And he was blessed with 17 great-grandchildren.

   A Celebration of Life will be held on September 11th at Spring Creek Golf & Country Club. Informal visiting will be from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. with a formal remembrance from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. Donations may be made in his name to the "Good Guys Award" at the Ripon Unified School District or to the Ripon Arts League.


Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

Saturday, August 6, 2022