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John Mann: Dedicated educator, proud veteran

John Mann, former principal of Claremont High School, died peacefully at home in La Verne on August 17, 2016.  He was 85 years old. 

He was born on February 25, 1931 in his grandmother’s house in York, Nebraska and grew up in Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Mr. Mann attended York College in York, Nebraska, where he lettered in football all four years and earned All-Conference Honors his senior year.

While at college, Mr. Mann met his future wife Patricia Chaney. After graduation in 1952, he entered the US Army and asked her to write to him while he was stationed in the South. After exchanging letters for a year and a half, John and Patricia were married on June 12, 1955 at Covenant United Methodist Church in Pomona. They were the first couple to be married in the sanctuary, and attended CUMC for many years.

After the wedding, they traveled from California to Georgia where Mr. Mann spent his last year in the army and Mrs. Mann taught third grade. Following a year in Georgia, they moved to Nebraska where Mr. Mann pursued his master’s degree in education at the University of Nebraska. Due to the shortage of teachers in California, John and Pat accepted contracts to teach in the Azusa Unified School District. Mr. Mann taught math and coached football at Azusa High School before becoming the principal at Gladstone High School in Azusa, where he served from 1963-1975. The family was very active in Gladstone High athletic events, and Mr. Mann dearly loved his staff and students.

In May of 1963, the Manns bought a home in beautiful Claremont and welcomed daughter Melissa in 1963 and son Mark in 1966. In 1975, Mr. Mann had the opportunity to become principal of Claremont High School. He loved being the principal while both of his children attended CHS, and loved when his kids stopped by his office to say hi. He took great joy in watching his children’s activities at the high school, as well as supporting the staff and students in all of the activities at CHS. 

Mr. Mann was CHS theater director Krista Elhai’s principal when she was in the 10th through 12th grade. Being on the Principal’s Advisory Board her senior year, she got to know him well.

“I loved John Mann. He had a gift for making us all feel very welcome on campus,” Ms. Elhai said. “I believed he knew every kid’s name and what activities we were involved with, and he was always at every event on campus supporting all the groups. From a student’s perspective he was friendly, had a good sense of humor and seemed to enjoy being around teenagers. Isn’t that the perfect high school principal?”

Jack Harper, who teaches science at CHS as well as serving as ASB director, had the privilege of working under the leadership of Mr. Mann before the administrator’s retirement.

“John was an effective leader who constantly made his presence known at school, school activities and in the community. He always had a positive attitude and a smile,” Mr. Harper shared. “He was a true advocate for students and staff at CHS. He was a principal who made me want to be a better teacher.”

In 1984, Mr. Mann moved to Julian, California to take the position of Superintendent of the Julian Union High School District. This was a new experience for him, as the high school had a population of 275 students spread over a distance of 1,100 square miles. He and Mrs. Mann loved living in Julian, and finally achieved their dream of having a horse property and owning a horse. After four years with the Julian District, he retired from public education and became a full-time professor of education at Azusa Pacific University. At APU, Mr. Mann had the great privilege of having his wife and two children take a class from him, as they all earned their master’s degrees during his tenure. Mr. Mann commuted from Julian so he and his wife could continue to live in their beloved mountain community.

John and Pat lived in Julian until the San Diego fire of 2003 came within 30 feet of their home. After helping the town recover from the fire, they decided it was time to leave. They moved to join friends in Sky Valley, a desert resort where they spent 10 years completing their goal of traveling to all 50 states, a dream they reached in Medora, North Dakota on their 50th wedding anniversary.

At an elderly age, John and Pat returned to the Claremont area to be near their children, who both followed their parents into the field of education. One of the highlights of Mr. Mann’s final years was escorting his granddaughter, Kristina, as Homecoming Queen at Claremont High School in 2011. He and Pat celebrated 60 years of marriage in 2015 by returning to walk the aisle of the church where they were married. They also spent an afternoon in their beloved Claremont home where they raised their children, thanks to the generosity of the current owners.  

Mr. Mann is survived by his wife, Patricia, of La Verne; his daughter and son-in-law, Melissa and Mark Leopold, of Claremont; his son and daughter-in-law, Mark and Kymmberly Mann, of Rancho Santa Margarita, and grandchildren Kristina Leopold and Braden Sak. 

Mr. Mann is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Donn and Cathy Mann of Lincoln, Nebraska, and many wonderful nieces and nephews. He will be buried at Riverside National Cemetery in a small family ceremony. 

If you would like to remember Mr. Mann, please feel free to make a donation to your favorite college student to help them pursue the education that John so loved. Go Big Red!