Obituary: John “Jack” Monroe

Teacher, lifetime activist, demonstrator, and protester

John “Jack” Monroe died Friday, March 31 at home in Claremont. He had been in declining health for the past six months.

Born October 22, 1938 to parents John and Dorothy Monroe in Girard, Ohio, Jack was the oldest of six siblings. After graduating from Ursuline High School and working at unloading hides for the Ohio Leather Works, he decided to attend college, and enrolled at University College of Notre Dame of Saskatchewan, Canada (now Athol Murray College of Notre Dame). There he learned about the Canadian educational system that then included “grade 13” and “senior matriculation.” He was a member of the 1957 Notre Dame Hounds football team that won the provincial championship. Transferring to the University of Ottawa, he earned a B.A. in 1961, and later an M.A. from the University of La Verne.

He and his wife Carolee married in 1962 and traveled from Ohio through Canada to his new teaching position in San Gabriel, California. They celebrated their 60th anniversary last year.  With their children, Murray, Gabe, and Mary, they frequently vacationed in “the incredible slow-mobile” across the United States and into Mexico.

He taught at Nogales High School in La Puente for 38 years. For many of those years he was known as “the voice of the Nobles,” as he announced the school’s home football games.

His years of activism began with anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. He was present in 1967 at the Century Plaza demonstration, when the “police riot” of heated motorcycles drove into the protesters. Active in Bobby Kennedy’s California campaign, he was present at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, when Bobby was killed.

Locally, he demonstrated for progressive causes. “He had strength of belief and the willingness to act upon it,” his family shared. For many years he was a part of a group of Pilgrims and others, first at Indian Hill Boulevard and Arrow Highway, and later at Foothill and Indian Hill boulevards. Along with signs and flags, the latter demonstration included a display of the insignia of the troops that were wanted home. He continued to be present at rallies and demonstrations and, as he could not attend, sat on his porch in support of the Claremont Change demonstrators walking by. “He also often sat on his mobility device ‘at the corner’ (Indian Hill and Foothill boulevards) as needed, knowing that every bodycounted,” his family added.

Having known some of the originators of the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, in his later years he was asked to walk as “Jack Palance” with a cigar alongside his “sons.” He eagerly accepted (no push-ups required).

“A lively conversationalist, Jack could talk with people for hours,” his family said. “He practiced the art of questioning and valued dialogue. He practiced what he preached: a proponent of exercise, he walked on land, meeting the neighbors and, in water, he once met up with a manatee in Tampa Bay. He kept a journal and chose not to eat red meat. Jack mastered the phrase, ‘What can I do to help?’”

He is survived by his wife, Carolee; children Murray and his wife Marlena, Mark “Gabe,” and Mary Gen; and grandchildren Jacquelyn and Matt Monroe, Anabelle Monroe, and Camille, Max, and Jade Nakama.

Per his request, no services are planned.


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