Dec 13,1923-Mar 28,2014
Resident of Lafayette
John Gilcrest died March 28 at his home in Lafayette with his family by his side. He was the great-grandson of California pioneers who settled in the Oakland area in 1864. Born in 1923 in Oakland, John spent his early boyhood in the mountains and foothills of the Sierra Nevada, developing a life-long love of the mountains, especially the Sonora Pass and Emigrant Basin areas. Backpacking, hiking and fishing with his father in his early years, John acquired a deep knowledge of and respect for the backcountry of California, which inspired his children and grandchildren in the years to come.
After graduation from Vallejo High School in 1942, John enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps and at age 21 was assigned to the 390th Bomb Group in England as the pilot and crew commander of a B-17 Flying Fortress. He flew 28 missions over Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. His war experiences taught him that he was a "very lucky guy," a belief he held his entire life.
After the war John married Mary Ann Holser in Los Angeles in 1948. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1950 with a degree in civil and structural engineering. The couple moved to Lafayette with their young family in 1951.
John had a 36-year career with Kaiser Engineers in Oakland. He became a division manager in 1964 with responsibility for all of the company's engineering and design work for US government agencies, including NASA, the Department of Defense and the US Postal Service. A notable project was his management of Kaiser's design of NASA's Apollo Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas. After retirement in 1986 John co-edited a book on the history of Kaiser Engineers entitled "Together We Build."
John was a scoutmaster for his son's Boy Scout Troop 241 leading backpacking trips into the Sierra. He was a family man and proud of his daughters' and granddaughters' achievements, and those of his son and grandsons who each attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He enjoyed sailing on the San Francisco Bay with family and friends, woodworking, home design projects and traveling with Mary Ann.
John was a former member of Lafayette Rotary and a member of SIRS, the Deadwood Society with his fellow Kaiser retirees, and the Third Thursday Lunch Group, an association of veterans of all wars.
Pre-deceased by his wife Mary Ann in 2008, John is survived by his four children: Susan David (Fred), Kathleen Gilcrest Jefferson (David), John Steven Gilcrest (Diane) and Mary Ann Trambley (Ted), along with six grandchildren, his brother William and seven nieces and nephews. Vigil services for informal remembrances by friends and family will be held on Friday, May 9 at 5 PM followed by a funeral mass on Saturday, May 10 at 10:30 AM at St. Perpetua's Catholic Church in Lafayette. Donations may be made in memory of John and Mary Ann to A Friendly Manor in Oakland, which provides services for homeless women, or the Lindsey Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek.
Published in Contra Costa Times on Apr. 6, 2014