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Basham-Anspaugh Funeral Care - Bakersfield
620 Oregon Street
Bakersfield, CA 93305
(661) 325-5801

Joe Shell


1918 - 2008 Obituary Condolences
Joe Shell September 7, 1918 - April 7, 2008 Pilot, state assemblyman, candidate for Governor, oil producer, lover of his family and all dogs. That was Joe Shell. He passed away peacefully at home Monday morning, April 7, after a lengthy illness. He was 89. A family graveside military service will be held at 1:00 p.m., Friday, April 11, at Hillcrest Memorial Park, followed by a memorial service conducted by Rev. Dr. Gregory Horn at 2:00 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 17th & H streets. Pallbearers will be Paul Morton, Harry Stone, Welby Cramer, Michael Purdy and Bernell Whitaker. Joe was born in LaConner, Washington, raised in San Diego but has resided in Bakersfield for the last 38 years after he and his wife, Mary K. were married. He was a driving force in convincing Mary K. to first run for Mayor of Bakersfield in 1980 and then successfully campaign for county supervisor in 1984. He cheerfully accompanied her to many civic events for 16 years, while she was in office. Joe showed qualities of leadership early. He excelled in academics and athletics, served as student body president at Hoover High School in San Diego and played on the school's football team, which attracted the attention of several major universities. He was courted by the U.S. Naval Academy, Stanford University and the University of Southern California. He chose USC, where he played three years of varsity football and was captain of the 1939 undefeated team. Twice his team played in the Rose Bowl. Teammate and quarterback Ambrose Schindler has been his close friend for many years. "Amby" and Joe often would reminisce about their games, even remembering the plays. Joe was only 14 when he started to learn to fly. He had his private pilot's license at 16 and by the time World War II broke out he had well over 2000 hours in the air. He was actively engaged in the oil industry, was attending USC's law school and started instructing cadets for the Army Air Corps at Cal Aero and Lancaster. He wanted to join the Air Corps but they wanted him to stay as a civilian instructor. So he went down the street and joined the Navy. Because of his experience in the air he was assigned to air transport and all different types of aircraft. After the war he returned to the oil business as an independent producer. He drilled many of the wells in Bakersfield area even though he lived in Los Angeles at the time. During those years he continued to fly and owned, at different times, several WWII surplus planes, including a Grumman Wildcat, a Corsair, a P-51 and a twin Beech. He also flew a Staggerwing Beech, which he contended was of superior design. He had plenty of experience to advise Mary K. in politics. Joe was elected to represent the 58th Assembly District in Los Angeles in a special election in 1953. While serving in the legislature for the next 10 years, he authored many bills, but was most proud of the State Scholarship Act, which has afforded thousands of young people an education at both private and public universities. He served as Republican Floor Leader for four years then was urged to run for Governor of California in the 1962 election. However, Richard Nixon also decided to run and he came out from New York and captured the nomination only to be defeated later by Pat Brown. Political writers have often said Joe helped pave the way for Ronald Reagan's win because of his efforts in energizing volunteers in 1962. Soon after he turned to more relaxing endeavors by entering and placing third in the TransPacific sailing race. His boat was the Khamsin. He returned to Sacramento as an advocate for a group of independent oil producers and refiners. He commuted between Bakersfield and Sacramento and then in 1989 he was named to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board by Gov. George Deukmejian. He served until 1991. A few years earlier he leased some land near Terra Bella and drilled a few producing wells. The Shells eventually bought the land and moved a Porterville High School-built home onto it. The wells started to decline so Joe abandoned them in the early 1990's. In 1940, after graduating from USC with a Bachelor's degree in Business, he married the former Barbara Morton. They had five children: Barbara (Stone), Joe Jr., David, Harold and Diane (Morton). Lynn, a nephew, became his son when Lynn lost his parents. Barbara and Joe parted in 1968. In 1970 he married Mary K. Hosking who has a son, Geoffrey Hosking. They have been married more than 38 years. Joe's father was Joseph Lieb Shell, who served as a municipal court and superior court judge in San Diego. His mother, Nell (Schunemann) was a homemaker. His sister was Cheryl. All have predeceased him. He is survived by his wife, Mary K.; daughter, Barbara Stone and husband, Harry of Whittier; son, Joe Jr. of Dana Point; son, David and wife, Merrilee of Elk Grove; son, Harold and wife, Patricia of San Ramon; daughter, Diane Morton and husband, Paul of Alamo; and son, Lynn of Porterville. Also surviving are grandchildren, Robert and Steven Stone, Stacey and Brian Shell, Dana and Ryan Shell, Nicole Shell and Emily and Jennifer Morton. Great-grandchildren are: Matthew, Mark and Justin Stone and Ellie and Thomas Stone. Joe had a real interest in good, honest government at all levels. To quote Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters in a 1989 article, "Shell was, and still is, a hard-shelled conservative Republican who hasn't altered his political philosophy one whit in all the years he's been in politics. He believes in free enterprise, low taxes and minimal government." Walters concluded with, "One might argue philosophy with Joe Shell from dawn to dusk, but his ideology is less important than his character. He has survived two generations in politics with his integrity intact, and that's a lesson for all who aspire to office." In lieu of flowers, his family suggests donating to the Bakersfield SPCA or his church, Westminster Presbyterian. It is also the family's wish to acknowledge and give special thanks to his caregivers from Odyssey Hospice, Interim HealthCare and Agape HealthCare. Hopson-Anspach Family Mortuary
Published in Bakersfield Californian on Apr. 9, 2008
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