John edited and published the Pleasanton Times for 30 years before selling it to Dean Lesher, publisher of the Contra Costa Times. The succeeding newspaper became the Valley Times that competed aggressively with the Tri-Valley Herald owned by Floyd Sparks. I worked for Floyd until he sold his newspapers in 1985. That was a few years after John had retired from the Times. Lesher had bought a major interest in the paper in the 1970s.
I received word yesterday that John’s long life had come to an end in England. He died at 93 after a short illness. Thanks to Molly Walker of Oakland, his daughter, for the information.
When John and two partners bought the Times in 1952 Pleasanton was a tiny little farm town. What’s now the Bernal park was land leased to Jackson and Perkins to grow their famous rose bushes. Diaries occupied what is now Del Prado and the area between Hopyard and Santa Rita.
The “rad lab” had just opened in Livermore in 1950 and the first of the tract housing—Jensen tract—was taking shape across from Amador Valley High. My family arrived in town in 1958 when there were about 3,000 residents.
John was the classic small-town editor and publisher. He met with the mayor and other community leaders to talk about what they wanted Pleasanton to grow into. A few years ago, when I was working on the memorial service booklet for the late Rev. Robert Stuart Vogt, I remember a picture of Bob and John having coffee with the city manager in what I think was Dean’s Café.
Publishers in that day were actively engaged in their community, striving to make the local economy better, to improve the community and to see it grow. Their business would grow with it. That was certainly the case for John.
As Molly wrote, “He was a sought-after speaker and a tireless champion of his adopted community of Pleasanton, actively supporting local school bonds and other civic causes.”
He served on the city’s General Plan Committee that laid the foundation for the Pleasanton we enjoy today.
A native of Canada, he become a naturalized American citizen after moving to the United States. His first wife, Eugenia O’Shea Walker, was his business partner and together they raised four children. She died in 1981.
In 1982, he married Joyce Taylor and then lived in Pleasanton and Florida before relocating to Marbella, Spain and communities in England. What a great long life—a 30-plus year newspaper career and then 35 years of travel and enjoying life in retirement.