June LeSage Whelan, born October 10, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, passed away from stroke related complications on Tuesday October 15, 2013, at the young age of 87. She was the daughter of Wilfred L. LeSage and Rose K. Ewens, and was predeceased by her brothers, Judge Thomas W. LeSage, Edward A. LeSage and her sister, Patricia Sorola. June was a 4th generation Los Angelino, and a descendant of the LeSage and Bouchard pioneer French Canadian families who came to Los Angeles in the 1870's, when Los Angeles had less than 6,000 inhabitants.
June attended Los Angeles Catholic schools, including St. Cecilia's Parish School, St. Mary's Academy and Mount St. Mary's College in Brentwood, California. On June 19, 1948 she married the love of her life, Walter W. Whelan Jr. after his return from five years in the U.S. Navy as a medic during WWII. He first served in the North Atlantic during the very dangerous days before U.S. official involvement, and then in the Pacific theatre, including the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. June and Walt began their life together in Santa Monica, California as he finished his education on the G.I. Bill at UCLA's School of Public Health. June was always an amazing math whiz, and Walt frequently said he could not have passed many of his math and chemistry classes without her help.
In 1956 June and Walt embarked on the adventure of their lives, left Los Angeles, and moved to Porterville so he could take a job with the Tulare County Health Department. Soon thereafter they also purchased their first olive grove in Porterville and became farmers. This was a turn in her life she never envisioned, but also never regretted. She would remain almost 60 years on that original home place. In addition to raising their five children June helped manage the more than 400 acres of olives they eventually purchased and farmed throughout California. June lost her beloved Walter in 1971 to a sudden and unexpected heart attack. As a 44 year old widow June had to deal with droughts, crop failures, banks reluctant to do business with female farmers, and the care and education of five children. Her resourcefulness, never-say-die attitude, and faith were constantly put to the test. She met and overcame every challenge and adversity with grace, humor, obvious joy and love of life, and a song for any occasion.
She had a lifetime thirst for knowledge, and until the very end, her knowledge of history, Western Civilization, and theology was not just amazing, but staggering. She loved the intellectual challenge of debating religion, history, politics and the law, which she learned as a child in a home where debate was the daily entertainment. As a precocious young teenager she would read her older brother's case books to him in the mornings as he got ready for law school, and they would discuss legal principles and issues. June instilled in her children and grandchildren her love of, and the importance of education, debate, justice and religion, however she could not persuade any of them to share her love of math.
June put all five of her children through college and graduate school. She had always admired the practice of law, and her first daughter, also named June, became a lawyer when there were very few women in that profession. Her sons, Christopher and Walter are trial lawyers, who daily use the debate skills they learned from their mother. Her daughters Jennifer and Joan became teachers, putting to use the love of education, compassion and the understanding they learned from her.
As the years progressed, to her great joy, her family grew to include many loved son and daughters-in-laws, and wonderful grandchildren. Her children and spouses include June (and Tony Stolz), Chris (and Linda Pemelton), Jennifer (and Ken McKeever), Walt (and Carol Zapata), Joan (and Robert Vanderhorst).
Her eleven beloved grandchildren include: Joseph Stolz; Nicole and Natalie McKeever; Brian (and Tali Silberman), Vincent, Lucas, Celine and Isabel Whelan; Blaise, Bianca and Bede Vanderhorst; her step granddaughter Jen Stolz Weeks, her children Evon and Lauren Weeks, and June's great granddaughter, Alessandra Whelan. Again through her influence, example and wisdom almost all of her grandchildren have attained or are earning their college and post graduate degrees, and have become doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, dancers, actresses and characters.
June has scores of wonderful nephews and nieces who were very dear to her, and who enjoyed coming up to the olive ranch in Porterville to visit their "Country cousins." This was especially true for her nephew, Mike Foy, who spent most summers of his youth working on the ranch totally unaware of the minimum wage laws.
Her life was enriched by good times, laughter and lively conversations with her classmates and old friends from Los Angeles, her many cherished friends in Porterville, St. Anne's Parish, and St. Anne's Mother's club, and her many dear neighbors. She always considered these long term friends, whose lives so entwined with hers, to be more like family than just friends. She has had a special place in her heart, and has been a close friend and substitute mother for many priests throughout her life. A few were even brave enough to engage in theological debates with her. She also has always been grateful to Chris Olmos who has created such beauty in her rose garden.
If one had to find something good about her passing, the only thing that comes to mind is that Tulare County may be a safer place because there will no longer be a little gray haired lady blasting down the country roads at speeds in excess of her age. June was an amazing, unique person who was a joy to know, and she will be missed by many.
Finally, as put so well, so many times, by her grandson Bede we say, "Goodbye, dear."
The family wishes to thank Dr. Oscar Hernandez and Dr. Ashok Behl for the wonderful care and compassion they gave June in her final days. They also want to thank all the caregivers from Auspice Home Solutions, especially Erika Lopez, Karina Jurando, and Montique Mathews for their kindness and constant concern for her health and comfort.
The Recitation of the Holy Rosary will take place on Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. at Myer's Funeral Home (248. N. "E" Street Porterville, CA), with visitation 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. that same day. The Funeral Mass will be on Friday October 25, at 9:00 a.m. at St. Anne's Church (378 N. "F" St. Porterville, CA). Interment will be at St. Anne's Cemetery West Gibbons Ave. Porterville, CA.
To sign the family guest book or send condolences go to www.myersfuneral.com. Myers Funeral Service & Crematory in Porterville is in charge of arrangements.
Myers Funeral Service and Crematory
248 North E Street
Porterville, CA 93257
Published in The Porterville Recorder on Oct. 22, 2013