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Longtime local leader dies

John S. Fuller helped found local hospital and YMCA branch

Posted: January 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.

John S. Fuller

 

John S. Fuller, a longtime Santa Clarita Valley resident who helped found Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and the Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA, and who guided California Institute of the Arts through its recovery from the Northridge earthquake, died on Friday. He was 80.

Fuller grew up in the Los Angeles area and graduated from Occidental College in 1955. He served in the Air Force and, upon returning home, went to work for his dad at Valley Federal Savings.

He and his wife, Ellie, bought a home in Newhall in 1964, and Fuller immediately became involved serving what was then a small community on the threshold of big growth.

“John was one of the builders of the (Santa Clarita) Valley between 1960 and 2010,” said Tony Newhall.

“They don’t make people like John anymore,” said Chris Clark, former executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA. “He was involved with the Y since before the Y was here. He was one of the founding board members.”

Fuller was among the YMCA board members who pushed for and oversaw the establishment of the YMCA building, which opened in 1988, Clark said. Before that, YMCA events were held in parks and people’s backyards.

Fuller was also on the founding board for the hospital and served as its treasurer, Newhall recalled. He was named 1979 Man of the Year and was also very active in the Rotary Club.

“He was so modest,” Newhall said. “Trying to get information out of him for his biography was a real chore.”

Fuller managed a branch of Valley Federal located where the current Roger Dunn Golf Shop is on Main Street. Then he went to work for Valley Federal in its main office in Van Nuys.

He left there as president in 1984 to take a job as vice president of administration for CalArts.

Newhall recalls Fuller telling him the toughest job he ever faced was leading CalArts through its recovery from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. At least two of the art institute’s main buildings were red-tagged, meaning they couldn’t be used, and tents were put up to serve in their places, recalled Fuller’s son Bruce Fuller.

“It was an interesting job for him — probably one of the most challenging,” Bruce Fuller said. “They had to re-seismic and redo everything. He saw them through that and a lot of other things.”

“He did everything and he was still great with the family,” Bruce Fuller said. “He was a generous person and he focused on what needs to be done.”

But weekends were for the family, he said. “We had a lot of good times on the weekend — he loved to camp and travel. After retirement he would travel with Mom and the grandkids.”

John Fuller was also very active in the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall, his son said.

“He was deeply in love with his wife,” Clark recalled of John Fuller. “He would smile and sparkle a little bit when he talked about his wife.”

John and Ellie Fuller had three children: Steve Fuller, Jane Deitz and Bruce Fuller. Services are scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Newhall.

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