Meet Carlton Senior Living’s spotlight resident, John Searles — John was born in 1928 in Canandaigua, New York. His mother was a school board member, library president and housewife while his father was a doctor. John had three brothers and two sisters, but when John was not yet born, one of his brothers died from the flu epidemic in 1918 when he was only 18 months old. After losing his young son, John’s father felt that being a doctor wasn’t right for him and so he became a banker. During summers when John’s father would stay in town for work, he fondly recalls his mother taking the children to their cottage on Canandaigua Lake where they would stay until Labor Day.
John attended Canandaigua Academy through his junior year of high school and at the age of 16, he worked as a counselor at a summer camp run by a family friend in northern Michigan who also worked at Cranbrook Academy. Upon his return to New York at the end of summer, John learned his father was ill and so the family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Due to the move, John coincidentally transferred to Cranbrook for his senior year. Within the same year, John’s father passed away from a brain tumor and John was also accepted into Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. John began classes at Yale and attended for two and one half years before transferring to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. After one semester at Willamette, John decided “it wasn’t working out for me” and so he quit.
Needing a change, John decided to join the service for a one year commitment as part of the peacetime draft. He was assigned to the radar repair school at Fort Bliss in Texas and once his year was complete, John thought he was finished with the service for good. Unbeknownst to him, he had been assigned to the Army Reserve and with the outbreak of the Korean War, John was called to Fort MacArthur in San Pedro for service. Prior to his recall, John commuted to Hollywood where he worked for NBC Studios in their parking lot before being called to serve an additional year. Meanwhile, John met and married Betty Wiley and the couple had three children; Julie, Mark and Devon. After his time in the service was complete, he received his degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1953. He would later earn his Master’s and Doctorate at USC.
John began his career in education working as a school teacher in Palos Verdes and eventually became a school principal. In 1968, he became an Assistant Superintendent in Salinas before moving to Martinez where he was the Superintendent of schools for nine years. When John and Betty eventually separated in 1983, John became Superintendent of schools in Alameda. John met Kathy, a dedicated educator in her own right, and in 1984 they were married and welcomed their daughter, Heather. In 1993, John retired from the school district and he and Kathy remained very active in the Martinez community until her passing in 2012. In 2011, the couple were honored with the Service Without Borders award for their commitment to serving the community.
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Written by Patrick Coleman