Welcome to the East County Gallery of Honor. The Grossmont Healthcare District has dedicated the foyer of our Conference Center as a special place to recognize the achievements of current and former East County residents. The men and women whose photographs and biographies line our walls have brought honor to themselves and to their home communities in various disciplines, including medicine, sports, music, fine arts, performing arts, military, politics, education, television, science, business and aviation. The Grossmont Healthcare District is one of the largest public agencies serving the East County. Accordingly, it is fitting and proper that we take a leading role in reminding our local residents of the significant roles that our fellow citizens have played in shaping the world of today. The honorees represent more than 130 years of our history, from the 1870s to the 21st Century.
In selecting the Gallery of Honor inductees, we have applied various criteria, including residence in the East County, significant contributions beyond our borders and recognition outside the local community. These honorees were suggested by many leading citizens, including the several historical societies within our District. We hope that you agree with our selections and, based on your visit, we hope that you have derived a greater sense of the accomplishments of the men and women who have shaped the place we call home.
In 1888, Ed Fletcher arrived in San Diego at the age of 16. In 1907, Gov. George Pardee appointed him a Lieutenant Colonel in the California National Guard. By 1908, he and his partner William Gross developed Grossmont and Mount Helix, and he later developed Solana Beach. His early interest in roads led to the construction of the Mountain Springs road to Imperial Valley and the plant road to Yuma. His name also is inseparably connected with the development of water, including the Cuyamaca Water System on the San Diego River, and the Volcan Water System, which includes the Lake Henshaw Dam, Lake Hodges Dam and San Dieguito Dam. In 1934, he was elected State Senator and served for 12 years during which he authored the law that created the San Diego County Water Authority. Col. Fletcher’s memory has been honored by the naming of several geographic locations, including Fletcher Cove Beach Park, Fletcher Hills and Fletcher Parkway.
Years after his death in 1918, Spring Valley pioneer Hubert Howe Bancroft is still recognized as California’s historian. During his 86 years, he authored 39 volumes of history, including the seven-volume “History of California” series. His name is attached to buildings and monuments throughout the state, including the famous Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. Locally, he was a farmer and rancher after purchasing the Rufus K. Porter farm for $8,000 in 1885. His 515-acre Helix Farms ranch was one of the largest in Spring Valley. He also served from July 1886 to July 1888 as Spring Valley’s second postmaster. Bancroft Drive and Bancroft Elementary School are named in his honor. His home now serves as the headquarters of the Spring Valley Historical Society.
Carrie Jacobs Bond already was a world-famous composer, lyricist and poet when she moved to the Grossmont Art Colony in 1912. There she joined other internationally famous artists and personalities, including writer Owen Wister, contralto Madame Ernestine Schuman-Heink, and pianist Theresa Carreno. She resided at her redwood home called “Nest-O-Rest” for the next 34 years. She is best remembered for her songs “The End of a Perfect Day” and “I Love You Truly.”
Madame Ernestine Schuman-Heink was opera’s brightest female performer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Revered in both Europe and the United States, she performed in all the great opera houses, including La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. In 1910, she purchased 500 acres for $20,000 from Ed Fletcher and William B. Gross, including a 14-acre orange and lemon grove and several acres in El Cajon. When not performing, she always looked forward to returning to the tranquility of her magnificent home. Her death in 1936 triggered a period of national mourning declared by President Roosevelt. In addition to ordering all flags to fly at half mast, the U.S. Army conducted its respectful “missing man” formation over her home.
In 1911, at the age of 28, Alan Dwan was already a prolific director and producer of a new art form called motion pictures. His Flying A Studios in La Mesa produced many silent western movies that were filmed in Lakeside and La Mesa, including “Three Million Dollars,” “Cupid in Chaps,” “The Poisoned Flume,” “The Sagebrush Phrenologist,” “Bonita of El Cajon,” “The Land Baron of San Tee” and “The Winning of La Mesa.” After making more than 100 one-reel films, exhausting local filming sites, including the lake at the now Anthony’s restaurant, he relocated with other filmmakers to the recently developed Hollywood area. Mr. Dwan enjoyed a long and distinguished career. He is best remembered for his 1938 version of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” with Shirley Temple, and the 1949 World War II classic “Sands of Iwo Jima” with John Wayne. In 1983, at the age of 98, he was honored with an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Sophronia Nichols graduated with honors from Boston University Medical School in 1874 at the age of
39. In 1876, she moved to California. In 1879, she received California Medical License #26. In 1888, she began serving East County’s mountain communities from her home on Tavern Road in Alpine, traveling to patients’ homes by horse and buggy. As the only physician within a 900-square-mile area, she brought health care to a pioneer population from El Cajon to Buckman Springs. Her medical license reflects her status both as one of California’s earliest accredited doctors and, possibly, the state’s first female to be licensed to practice medicine. Her home now serves as a museum owned by the Alpine Historical Society. Dr. Nichols is buried in Alpine Cemetery.
America’s most famous aviatrix of the mid-20th Century, Aileen was honored as the 1960 National Pilots Association “Pilot of the Year.” She first gained fame as consecutive winner of the 1959 and 1960 “Powder Puff Derby” transcontinental air races, founded in 1929 by Amelia Earhart to promote aviation among women. Aileen served as a member of both the San Diego Airport Commission and the San Diego Aerospace Museum. She was honored for her service as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and as “Woman of the Year” by the American Business Women’s Association. In
1961, Aileen co-founded the “Flying Samaritans,” bringing medical care to the isolated and impoverished peoples of third-world nations. The Flying Samaritans currently has more than 2,200 members in 12 chapters operating 22 rural clinics in Northern Mexico. Aileen had accumulated more than 4,000 hours of flight time in both military and civilian aircraft ranging from Twin Bonanzas to T-33s. In 1961, she was named “Citizen of the Year” by the City of El Cajon.
On Dec. 7, 1941, U.S. Navy Lt. John W. Finn distinguished himself during the Japanese attack on the U.S. air base at Kaneohe Bay, Territory of Hawaii. He single-handedly manned his 50-caliber machine gun during the entire two-hour battle. Although wounded many times, he finally left his post after destroying at least one enemy aircraft. Following his medical recovery, he returned to supervise the rearming of returning Navy aircraft. Lt. Finn’s heroic action in disregarding his own safety helped earn him the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for bravery. Until his death in May of 2010, Lt. Finn lived in Pine Valley.
Affectionately called the “Dean of Western Artists,” Mr. Wieghorst earned widespread admiration and respect for his accurate depiction of the western frontier. As the twentieth century successor to earlier favorites such as Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Charles Schreyvogel and James Frazier, Mr. Wieghorst’s paintings graced the collections of such notables as John Wayne, Barry Goldwater, Dwight Eisenhower and Leonard Firestone. Mr. Weighorst’s legacy was further enhanced by his membership in the Western Artists Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and locally by the Olaf Wieghorst Museum in El Cajon.
In 1960, while still a resident of La Mesa, Regis Philbin began his television career hosting “Feature Desk” at KFMB News in San Diego. He later joined rival station KOGO where he hosted “The Regis Philbin Show.” After graduating to network television as a sidekick to comedian Joey Bishop, and as host of the “Westinghouse Show,” he achieved his greatest fame as host of “Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” In 2000, he was elected to the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame.
Dane Davis, a 1975 El Capitan High School graduate, has quietly become a contemporary giant in the filmmaking art. His skill was recognized in March 2000 when he was awarded the 1999 Academy Award for sound effects editing for the classic film “The Matrix.” He has served as sound designer or supervising sound editor on other successful films including “Romeo Must Die,” “The House on the Haunted Hill,” “Boogie Nights,” “Mother,” “Don Juan DeMarco,” “Drugstore Cowboy,” “Back to the Beach,” “A Rage in Harlem” and “Red Planet.”
Best known for his work as both the director and performer in the 1969 motion picture “Easy Rider”, Lemon Grove’s Dennis Hopper had enjoyed five decades of stardom. He began his career as a Shakespearean actor at the Old Globe Theatre at the age of 17. After graduating from Helix High School in 1954, he appeared in his first motion picture “Johnny Guitar,” after which he signed a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers Studio. He next starred with the late James Dean in the 1955 hit “Rebel Without a Cause” and the 1956 classic “Giant” with Dean and Rock Hudson. A list of his subsequent work included “Blue Velvet,” “Hoosiers” and “Apocalypse Now.”
He won the 1987 Los Angeles Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Award for “Hoosiers.”
As a senior at Helix High School in La Mesa, Bill Walton averaged 29 points and 22 rebounds and shot 78.3 percent from the field, still a national high school basketball record. His unselfish style of play inspired and enhanced the play of his teammates. That spirit transcended his graduation to the college ranks where his UCLA Bruins, under the coaching leadership of the legendary John Wooden, compiled an 86-4 record and two NCAA titles in three seasons. In 1973, he won the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete. In the 1973 championship over Memphis State, he made 21 of 22 shots. In 1977, he led the Portland Trailblazers to the NBA title and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Today, he is seen frequently as an expert analyst on televised professional and college games.
Brian Sipe’s success as quarterback at Grossmont High School was a harbinger of even greater things to come. Following graduation in 1967, he led Don Coryell’s San Diego State Aztecs to their greatest seasons. He was signed by the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns, and enjoyed a remarkable 10-year professional career from 1974 through 1983. During this time he rewrote the team record book by surpassing the long-established records of legends Otto Graham and Frank Ryan. At one time, Brian held nearly every Browns passing record, including most career passing yardage (23,713), most passing yards in a season (4,132 in 1980), most career passing touchdowns (154), most passing touchdowns in one season (30) and most passing touchdowns in a single game (5). In 1980, he was voted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. Today, he is a highly successful architect in the North County.
East County’s most honored Olympic athlete began his competitive career at Valhalla High School in El Cajon, where he won several CIF diving championships. In 1976, at the age of 16, he won the silver medal in platform diving at the Montreal Olympics. In both 1984 in Los Angeles, and again in 1988 in Seoul, he won double gold medals in the 3-meter springboard and 10-meter springboard competition. During his illustrious career, he won 47 national titles and five world titles in diving competitions. In 1984, he was awarded the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete. Greg is currently East County’s only member of the Olympic Hall of Fame.
Lakeside resident Joan Embery is an internationally known expert on the care and propagation of wild animals. For many years, she worked with biologists, primatologists, herpetologists, zoologists, behaviorists and curators at the world-famous San Diego Zoo to share her knowledge of animals. She frequently appeared on network and local television programs to educate the public about the conservation and preservation of endangered species. She is best known for her more than 50 appearances on network television shows, including “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, and “The Merv Griffin Show.” While a college student studying equine medicine, she began her zoo service as a part-time employee at age 18. In 1970, she earned full-time status by being selected as “Miss Zoofari,” a title that quickly changed to “Goodwill Ambassador.” In that role, she served as the zoo’s best known personality for more than 30 years.
Prior to serving as U.S. Attorney General from 1995 to 1998 under President Ronald Reagan, Ed Meese was a partner in the La Mesa law firm of Knutson, Tobin, Meyer and Shannon. Mr. Meese’s distinguished career includes service as Chief of Staff to California Gov. Ronald Reagan and later as Counselor to the President of the United States. While residing in the East County, Mr. Meese practiced law and served on the faculty of the University of San Diego School of Law. In retirement, he holds the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the prestigious Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., and is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
In 1958, Bert Betts, a certified public accountant from Lemon Grove made history by becoming California State Treasurer and San Diego County’s first elected state officer of the 20th Century. After defeating an incumbent, Mr. Betts won a landslide reelection in 1962. As state treasurer, Mr. Betts provided the fiscal leadership that enabled California to enjoy its highest bond rating, making possible massive public works projects such as the interstate highway system and the California aqueduct. The results of that period of prosperity continue today, providing benefits to all California residents.
Dr. William C. Herrick, who passed away in March 1998, devoted his life to the improvement of the Grossmont Hospital District and to the health of residents
of San Diego’s East County. He was director of the Grossmont Hospital Pathology Department (1961-1996), chair of the Continuing Medical Education Department (1963-1993), and a Founder of El Cajon Valley Hospital (1967). He was appointed by Gov. Ronald Reagan to the State Board of Health in 1967, and was president of the San Diego County Medical Society in 1971. He also served as a member of the Grossmont Hospital Foundation board of directors (1990-1996). In recognition of his dedication to excellence in medicine, he received the Grossmont Hospital Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Herrick was a lifelong advocate of physical fitness. He initiated a youth tennis program in San
Diego, and in 1969, he ran in the Boston Marathon. After retiring from active practice, Dr. Herrick was elected in November 1994 to a seat on the Grossmont Healthcare District board, for which he served a term as board treasurer. He was an active member of the board at the time of his death.
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Frederick W. (Rick) Sturckow achieved his dream of becoming an astronaut when, in December 1998, he piloted the space shuttle Endeavor on a 12-day scientific mission during which the six-member crew mated the first two elements of the International Space Station. He has been on two additional Shuttle missions since then. This 1978 Grossmont High School graduate is one those unique heroes equally comfortable serving his country in combat in the cockpit of a Marine Corps F/A-18C “Hornet” military aircraft or pursuing scientific advancement on the flight deck of NASA’s space shuttle. He is a graduate of the “Top Gun” fighter weapons school. In addition to his work in space, Rick has logged nearly 3,000 flight hours, including 41 combat missions during the Gulf War.
In December 1968, Mount Helix resident and U.S. Navy Capt. William Anders, along with fellow astronauts U.S. Air Force Col. Frank Borman and U.S. Navy Capt. James Lovell, conducted the first manned lunar orbital mission aboard Apollo 8. The six-day mission preceded the first moon landing by seven months. During their six days in space, they photographed proposed landing sites, and demonstrated translunar injection and midcourse corrections. Mr. Anders retired as a Rear Admiral, after which he became president and CEO of General Dynamics Corp., one of the nation’s largest defense contractors.
In 1990, La Mesa’s Dr. Ellen Ochoa was selected by the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) to begin astronaut training as a space shuttle mission specialist. Her selection was in recognition of her status as one of the country’s most accomplished scientists, having co-invented and patented an optical inspection system. On April 8, 1993, she, along with a crew of four others, was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to measure and record the sun’s radiation levels. She has subsequently flown on two additional space shuttle missions, logging about 30 days total in space. Ellen is a graduate of Grossmont High School (class of 1975), San Diego State University (bachelor’s degree in physics, 1980) and Stanford University (masters degree and doctorate in electrical engineering, 1981 and 1985). She currently serves as the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
In 1975, Greg and Janet Deering founded the Deering Banjo Co. They started manufacturing “America’s own instrument,” the banjo, from their home in Encanto. Their goal was to build a quality banjo that even a beginner could afford. With their passion, persistence and innovation, the company — now located in Spring Valley — has become the number one banjo manufacturer in North America, employing about 40 workers and producing about 7,000 instruments a year. Their banjos, both acoustic and electric, are played by many notable musicians.
A promising young musician, Bob Taylor handcrafted his first guitar in his junior
year of high school. In 1974, he and co-founder Kurt Listug purchased a small, struggling guitar factory in Lemon Grove. Over the next three decades, they built their company — now located in El Cajon — into a major manufacturer of excellent, high-end guitars, producing about 80,000 instruments per year. Taylor has earned an international reputation as a visionary guitar maker, an innovative manufacturer and a generous supporter of youth programs throughout San Diego.
The influence of savings and loan industry pioneer and La Mesa resident John A. Davis was felt all the way to New York’s Wall Street. In 1945, he founded Southland Savings and Loan Association as a single branch in Downtown La Mesa. Soon renamed as Imperial Savings and Loan Association, it became a leading stock on the New York Stock Exchange in 1966. For 30 years, Mr. Davis was one of East County’s leading businessmen and named La Mesa’s Man of the Year in 1963. He served as president of the Western States Music Tournament, member of the California Republican Central Committee and president of the San Diego County YMCA board of management. A generous gift to rebuild the Heartland YMCA in La Mesa resulted in renaming the facility as the John A. Davis Family YMCA.
W.D. Hall was a pioneer of El Cajon. He came to the valley in 1886 at age 18, and married Florence Grant, the great niece of General Ulysses S. Grant. In 1898, he
opened the W.D. Hall Co., and became the area’s largest retailer. East County’s phenomenal growth during the 20th Century was fueled with lumber and other materials purchased from Mr. Hall. His civic contributions included membership on the high school board and as founder of the El Cajon Rotary Club. During periods of drought his water tank served the entire El Cajon Valley. In 1971, his family sold the real estate that today is occupied by the East County Performing Arts Center, El Cajon City Hall and the County Courthouse, all of which are located on W.D. Hall Drive.
He is universally recognized as the founder of the City of El Cajon, although no street or park currently bears his name. In 1877, travelers from the mines at Julian were welcomed at El Cajon’s Knox Hotel, conveniently located halfway to San Diego. The hotel occupied the present day corner of Magnolia and Main streets, a location known for many years as “Knox’s Corners.” Knox served as El Cajon’s first postmaster. He also served as East County’s appointed road master and was responsible for maintaining the road from San Diego.
El Cajon’s Scott King was a pioneer in the motel industry. He transferred his success as a building contractor into creating the TraveLodge chain in 1935. He developed a franchising model of ownership and operation that soon was emulated
by other industry pioneers, including Howard Johnson, Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inns) and Bernard Whitney (Imperial 400). By 1961, Mr. King presided over a worldwide chain of 157 motels. TraveLodge International, Inc. was headquartered on TraveLodge Drive in El Cajon. An astute marketer, he developed the now-famous “Sleepy Bear” TraveLodge logo. In 1976, TravelLodge International was acquired by Great Britain’s Trusthouse Forte Ltd.
John S. Harbison is considered the father of the honey bee industry in California.
Working with colonies of imported European bees among the sage and buckwheat of East County, he created the San Diego Beekeepers Association. By 1878 he began sending more than two million pounds of California honey to eastern markets. His book, “The Beekeeper’s Directory, or the Theory and Practice of Bee Culture,” was considered the 19th Century’s ultimate authority on apiary culture. The San Diego Union newspaper has noted that “the economic impact of Harbison and his bees on the county was enormous.” Harbison lived and worked in the valley southwest of Alpine that today bears the name Harbison Canyon.
In 1925, after a successful career in sales and management with the Cyclone Fence
Co. of Waukegan, Ill., Fred J. Hansen settled in Mount Helix at the age of 46. He developed the East County’s Calavo Gardens and Casa de Oro Avocado Villas subdivisions. He planted more than 2,000 avocado trees on his 853 acres of land. By 1930, his orchards made San Diego County the capital of the avocado industry. He was a co-founder of the Otay Water District, which today serves residents in portions of Spring Valley, Jamul, El Cajon and Chula Vista.
In 1902, actor and theatrical agent William B. Gross and his friend Edward Fletcher purchased the Villa Caro Ranch nestled just below Mount Helix. These two self-made men with foresight and an entrepreneurial flair established the “Grossmont Art Colony.” While Fletcher was building winding narrow roads and spectacular view lots, Gross was securing commitments from some of the world’s great artists, authors and performers of his day, including Madame Ernestine Schuman-Heink, Carrie Jacobs Bond, Owen Wister (author of “The Virginian”) and composer Wakefield Cadman. Gross said he “loved Grossmont – its marvelous view, its closeness to the city, similarity to Hollywood and Beverly Hills, no city taxes and splendid soil…” The name “Grossmont” was coined by Edward Fletcher’s sister Bess and became synonymous with peace, tranquility and an escape from the hectic world of performing.
Considered by many to be San Diego County’s greatest businessman, John D. Spreckels had a profound influence on the East County. He developed the Morena and Otay dams as part of the Southern California Mountain Water Co., which also created the Dulzura conduit and other pipelines to the city. In 1919, as owner of the San Diego & Arizona Railway, he dedicated the “impossible railroad” after 13 years of construction. His railroad spanned the entire East County from San Diego to the Arizona border, and beyond. Today, portions of the San Diego Trolley follows the exact path of his railroad right of way. His other business holdings included the Union-Tribune Publishing Co., San Diego Electric Railway, Belmont Park, the Spreckels Theatre, San Diego Hotel, Golden West Hotel, the San Diego and Coronado Ferry Company and the
Hotel Del Coronado.