Longtime Newhall resident John S. Fuller, who helped create Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in 1975 and led the $35 million reconstruction of California Institute of the Arts after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, died Friday at home in Happy Valley. He was 80.
Fuller's active participation in the Santa Clarita Valley spans more than half a century.
Professionally, he arrived in 1962 to open the Valley Federal Savings office in downtown Newhall. He moved with his wife Eleanor and their toddlers from Granada Hills to Newhall in 1964 and worked in the SCV until the late 1960s, when he went back to Valley Fed's Van Nuys office. He returned in 1984 to take a job as administrative vice president of CalArts. He retired in 1998.
As a volunteer, in 1965 Fuller served as president of the Newhall-Saugus Chamber of Commerce (a predecessor to the SCV Chamber). He was a member of the Upper Santa Clara Water Agency board (now called CLWA), and he was the founding treasurer and later chairman, until 1991, of the hospital board. For about 15 years starting in 1985, he served on the local YCMA board, chairing it twice.
An unassuming man, Fuller was never one to seek the limelight. Nonetheless, his peers named him SCV Man of the Year in 1979 for what was already a legacy of community service.
In an SCVTV interview taped last month (Dec. 9) and not yet televised, Fuller shared his first impressions of Newhall.
"When you walked down the street in 1962, you knew just about everybody," he said. "It was a different town."
"The first stoplight didn't come to Newhall until about 1965. You could blow through town without stopping."
The SCV's big employers at the time, he remembered, were Thatcher Glass, Bermite Powder Co. and The Newhall Land and Farming Co., which was about to launch its new town of Valencia.
Fuller had a particular memory of the birth of Valencia, which started with the Old Orchard Shopping Center in 1965, the year Fuller was chamber president.
"Heavy rains came in November, which was unusual, and all of that water just poured into the parking lot," he said. "The county flood control (district) hadn't built the retaining basin south of there to retain the water out of Wildwood Canyon."
"I'll always remember that the stores had about a foot of water in them," he said. "The fellow who ran the toy store was just fit to be tied."
Grocery shopping was done at Safeway, now Tresierras Supermarket on Main Street. Wife Eleanor had a hard time negotiating their children, ages 2 and 5, through the narrow aisles.
"I kept telling her there was a mall coming. Well, it came, but it was a few years later," he said with a laugh.
The Valencia mall opened 30 years later, in 1992.
Monthly chamber meetings were held at the Newhall Bowl on Lyons Avenue, and the menu never varied from roast beef. Many chamber leaders were Rotarians, Fuller remembered, and in the days before cityhood in 1987, the chamber and the service clubs "kind of filled the role of the city," he said.
Actually "chambers," plural, because Canyon Country had its own until the two chambers merged to form the SCV Chamber in 1995. The dividing line, Fuller said, was the L.A. Aqueduct pipeline where it crosses Soledad Canyon Road (at today's Center Pointe Business Park).
One seed that germinated within the chambers of commerce was the desire for a bigger hospital. The need became clear in October 1962 when a major bus crash killed one and injured 19, and the private Santa Clarita Hospital on Soledad couldn't handle them all.
The Lutheran Hospital Society teamed up with Newhall Land and devised a plan to build the SCV's first nonprofit community hospital. LHS purchased Santa Clarita Hospital (then called Inter-Valley) and renamed it Hillside; meanwhile, Newhall Land donated $1.6 million and 25 acres along McBean Parkway.
Somebody would need to raise the rest of the $8.5 million construction cost.
"The Lutheran Hospital Society, The Newhall Land and Farming Co. and (Municipal Court Judge) Adrian Adams brought together a group of about 25 people to be the board, and that's how the hospital got started," Fuller remembered.
Treasurer of the group was the man with the financial know-how from Valley Federal Savings — John Fuller. With help from numerous volunteers, the board raised the money and opened the hospital five years later, naming it for town founder Henry Mayo Newhall. Fuller remained active until recently with the hospital's volunteer-run gift shop.
Fuller, who turned 80 on Sept. 7, had been in ill health for some time, his daughter Jane Deitz said Sunday. He is survived by his widow, Eleanor; daughter Jane and sons Bruce and Steve; brothers Robert and Ernest; as well as six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Services will be held Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at 11 a.m. at Newhall Presbyterian Church, 24317 N. Newhall Ave.
John Fuller, a generous family man and community leader, passed away Friday, January 3, 2014.
Since moving to Newhall in 1964 with his wife Ellie, John has been an active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall and instrumental for Santa Clarita's development. John was a founder of the Henry Mayo Hospital, where he served as a board member for 21 years and volunteered for 40 years. He served on the boards of the Santa Clarita YMCA for 25 years, Newhall Schools for 10 years, and the Castaic Lake Water Agency for 12 years. He was also an active, longtime member of the Santa Clarita Rotary.
John was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and graduated from Occidental College in 1955. After serving in the Air Force for two years, John joined Valley Federal Savings, where he worked for 26 years in various positions, ending as president from 1982-1984. After Valley Federal, John worked as vice president of administration and treasurer at the California Institute of the Arts until his retirement in 1998. After retirement, John enjoyed traveling with Ellie and his grandchildren.
In addition to his many civic contributions, John volunteered and cared deeply for Occidental College, the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall, and the San Fernando Presbytery.
"Papa" John was much loved by his family. He is survived by Ellie, his wife of 58 years; children Steve Fuller, Jane (Craig) Deitz, and Bruce (Liz) Fuller; brothers Bob and Ernie; sister-in-law Nan; 9 nieces and nephews; 6 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.
A celebration of John's life will be held at 11 a.m. on January 11, 2014 at the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall, 24317 N. Newhall Ave, Newhall, CA 91321.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in John's memory to the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall or to Occidental College.
California Institute of the Arts
On Friday, Jan. 3, the CalArts community lost a great friend and valued former administrative vice president and CFO, when John Fuller passed away at age 80.
A resident of Newhall since 1964, Mr. Fuller was, for 20 years, a senior executive of Valley Federal Savings Bank before joining CalArts in 1984. On staff at the Institute until 1998, Mr. Fuller did much to stabilize and improve CalArts financial position.
He is also remembered for the heroic role he played in the rebuilding of the campus architecture and infrastructure in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. "John put himself at considerable physical risk at that time," says CalArts President Steven D. Lavine. "He refused to send facilities staff and contractors into the severely damaged main building without going in himself. He was a deeply caring person whose decency and values had a lasting impact on the CalArts community."
At the time of his retirement Mr. Fuller commented that he enjoyed using his experience as a banker and economist at an institute devoted to the arts. "It has been a privilege to be here," he said. In addition to his service to the Institute, Mr. Fuller was recognized for his many contributions to the development of the Santa Clarita Valley, including many years of voluntary leadership of the combined Canyon Country and Santa Clarita Valley chambers of commerce. In that capacity, and as treasurer of an ad hoc group, he played a key role in raising the funds required to create Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in 1975.
Known as a humble and unassuming man, satisfied to work behind the scenes, Fuller was, nonetheless, named Santa Clarita Valley "Man of the Year" in 1979.