Obituary: William Owen Menard
Urban planner, entrepreneur, conversationalist
William Owen Menard, a native Iowan who spent most of his adult life in Claremont, died Wednesday, February 17, 2016. He died peacefully, surrounded by his family, after fighting pneumonia for several weeks. Owen, as he had been called since childhood, was 83 years old.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1933 to Joel and Grace Menard, he was raised on a cattle farm in the small town of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa along with his siblings David Menard, Artel Menard, Beth Hickey and Constance Wanberg. After earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture and political science in 1957 from the University of Iowa, Mr. Menard enlisted in the US Navy and was accepted to the Officer Candidate School, eventually earning the rank of lieutenant commander. He spent three years on active duty as a naval officer, traveling aboard the USS Lofberg, before choosing California as his base. Stationed in San Diego, he met Judy Ann Baer, a flight attendant for PSA Airlines, whom he married in 1960.
That same year, Mr. Menard became associate planner for the city of San Diego, his first step in a long and distinguished career as an urban planner. The years 1966 and 1967 saw him become assistant planning director in Pomona, then planning director for the city of West Covina. He eventually returned to Pomona and joined the firm Lampman and Associates, where he would spend several years.
In 1970 the Menards settled permanently in Claremont, where Owen opened his own city planning firm with friend and colleague Richard Hill in a tiny basement office on Foothill Boulevard. After they eventually parted ways, Menard & Hill became Owen Menard & Associates, a firm that would be his life’s work for the next 25 years and take him up and down the California coast in his beloved gold Mercedes.
Wanting less time on the road, Mr. Menard later transitioned from the work of planning cities to planning and development consulting, partnering with various colleagues and following his deeply entrepreneurial spirit as development in California continued to boom. A few of his most cherished partnerships were with fellow city planners Carrie Richardson and Roy Bruckner, also of Claremont, and his dear friend, builder and developer Thomas Hill.
He never lost his creative spirit and love of community involvement, serving as the president of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce from 1982-1983 and as vice chairman for the Mt. Baldy Private and Public Coalition. Even in retirement, Mr. Menard continued to pursue the occasional consulting job, and built Evergreen Self Storage on Base Line Road on the site of the old Spanish farmhouse that had served as his planning offices. It was a business he loved and managed until selling it in the late 1990s.
He learned to ski late in life and adored being on the mountain, especially in Mammoth. He was an avid golfer, a lover of animals and a conversationalist, to say the least. He believed in the longevity of friendship, missed his Iowa roots and his family there and spoke with pride and love about his Midwestern upbringing, his hardworking parents and the antics of farm life. Owen was an inspiring and loving husband and father and a deeply devoted friend, family shared.
He is survived by his wife Judy Menard, daughters Loreen Saldana and Kerri-Lynne Menard and granddaughter Maya Audrey Campos, as well as brother David and sister-in-law Shirley, sisters Beth and Constance, brothers-in-law Junior and Ted and sister-in-law Dorothy.
A celebration of Mr. Menard’s life will take place on Saturday, March 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Casablanca Restaurant, located at 500 W. First St. in the Claremont Packing House. In lieu of gifts and flowers, a donation fund is being set up with the Inland Valley Humane Society, details of which will be available at the memorial.