John C. Powlesson: Engineer, woodworker

John C. Powlesson, Jr. died on June 19, 2015 at his home in Claremont. He was 99.

Mr. Powlesson was born on April 16, 1916 in St. Louis, Missouri to John and Carrie Powlesson. He was a member of the US Army Air Corps during World War II, stationed in Anchorage, Alaska. It was there that he met his true love, Jean Van Zante. They were married in Anchorage on Thanksgiving Day, 1946. They had two sons, Edward and Howard.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University and earned a Master of Business Economics degree from Claremont Graduate School. He worked as a quality control engineer for both Aerojet and Southern California Edison.

Mr. Powlesson moved his family to Claremont in 1961. He was active in the Claremont Presbyterian Church and later with the South Hills Presbyterian Church in Pomona, where for many years he served as an elder. He also served on the Presbyterian Governing Board for Westminster Gardens in Duarte. As a young boy, John joined the Boy Scouts of America and reached the rank of a Life Scout. Later, he served as a scoutmaster for his sons’ Boy Scout Troup 405 in Claremont.

After retirement, Mr. Powlesson enjoyed woodworking. A fan of Sam Maloof, he spent hours in his garage workshop, making pieces that benefited from his inventive mind and meticulous nature. Among his many projects, he built a three-tiered plant stand and devised a wine rack to be stored under his home’s crawlspace where the wine would be kept cool. One of his most striking pieces was a decorative bowl carved out of a burl from a black walnut tree. He also enjoyed seeing the world, and traveled extensively with family throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

A fan of poetry and literature, Mr. Powlesson had a near-photographic memory and could recite poems and lyrics to fit any occasion. Once, the daughter of a friend was over at the house. Her name was Katy, which reminded Mr. Powlesson of the World War I-era song “K-K-K-Katy” in which a smitten young soldier stutters in the company of women. Finally, the military man manages to woo Katy, a maid with hair of gold. Mr. Powlesson launched into the song, “K-K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy, you’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore…” Tears welled up in the girl’s eyes and she shared that her grandfather, who had passed away, used to sing the song to her.

John is described by those closest to him as a “gentle giant and no respecter of persons” and as “a kind man, quick to respond and long in patience.”

He was predeceased by his wife Jean and is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law, Edward and Deborah Powlesson of Claremont and Howard and Trish Powlesson of Ashland, Virginia. He also leaves his grandchildren, Eric Powlesson, Ashley and Michael Garcia and Aric and Summer Sanders as well as great-grandson Donovan Sanders.

A burial was held on June 26 at Oak Park Cemetery in Claremont. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 25 at South Hills Presbyterian Church, 1170 Fremont St. in Pomona.


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