John Elmore, Valley innovator passes at 91


John Jameson Elmore, 91, passed away peacefully Tuesday August 29, 2017 at his home in Newport Beach, California, with his wife, Anabeth, by his side.

A celebration of life will be held October 6, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. at the Del Rio Country Club in Brawley.

John was born to the late John and Hetty Joy Elmore in Riverside, California, June 14, 1926, and was raised in Brawley with his late siblings Hetty Joy, Miriam, and Stephen Elmore.

Throughout John’s childhood, he enjoyed hunting in the country and farming with his father. Taking after his father’s love of horses, John loved equestrian jumping and competing in the county fair as a horse jockey. John would later own several winning racehorses.

Upon graduating high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and served during World War II. He was stationed as a Seaman Guard aboard a Liberty Ship, the SS Charles H Windham. During his service, John’s ship provided supplies around the world and arrived in Calcutta, India, on VE Day, where he celebrated with his childhood friend, Tom Fifield.

After serving in the Navy, he attended Oceanside Junior College, then transferred to his father’s alma mater, the University of Southern California (USC). He later became a trustee of USC, serving for many years.

In 1949, John fell in love with a beautiful Brawley girl and USC Pi Beta Phi, Ann Elizabeth Kelley. They were married February 10, 1951, at the First Presbyterian Church in Brawley. Over their 66 years of marriage, they welcomed four children, Howard (Cindy), Richard (Robin), Margaret (Hank Darnell), and Kelley (Bob Witt), 11 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. John’s family was his greatest accomplishment and he loved seeing his family spend time together. John took immense pride and joy in working with his children, and more recently, treasured working with the next generation as they became involved in the family businesses.

John was an avid hunter and sportsman, and loved organizing trips with family and friends from goose shoots in the Imperial Valley to big game hunting in Africa. He also enjoyed boating and traveled the west coast of the United States, Mexico, and Central America with friends spear-fishing, scuba diving, and instigating all-around monkey business along the way.

John was passionate about agriculture and a gifted innovator in the industry. From turning raw desert land along the Colorado River and Mexicali Valley into farms, to starting an Imperial Valley-style farm operation in Santa Maria, John was always looking for ways to challenge himself and grow the family business. In addition to John’s produce growing ventures, he, along with his brother, Stephen Elmore, Lou Hausmann and Gene Oswalt, founded Sahara Packing Company. For many years, fresh produce grown in the Imperial Valley, New Mexico, Arizona, central coast of California, and Mexico, was shipped worldwide from Brawley bearing the Sahara Packing label.

In the late 1950s, John started Lidco, Inc. with his good friend, Willy Taylor. Lidco became the number one agricultural subsurface drainage company. Later, Jay Hillgren, also a longtime friend, and John added the manufacturing of corrugated plastic pipe for drainage, lowering the cost of subsurface drainage. John then went on to sell the company to his nephew, James Jameson, who still operates it from Brawley, doing business around the world.

John generously contributed to local organizations, agricultural boards, and other ventures. He was a member of the Brawley Elks Club, Del Rio Country Club where he served as President, the Imperial Valley Veg Growers Association, the Brawley Stockmen’s Club, the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, and the Big Canyon Country Club. John served as a board member of the Western Growers Association and was awarded their Award of Honor in 1998. He was a member of the Conquistadores del Cielo, a founding member of Rockwood Chemical Company, and served on the board of directors of Crocker Bank and LTV Corporation.

His last award was given to him by the Brawley Chamber of Commerce in May 2017. John was immensely honored to receive the Branding Iron Award, and cherished his visit from Brawley friends to award him this honor. He treasured his friendships and had friends of all ages and all walks of life, from generational friends in Brawley, to beach buddies in Newport. Even with his broad and worldly adventures, he always enjoyed coming back home to Brawley. In the words of John, expressing his love for Brawley and gratitude for receiving the Branding Iron award, “We have no troubles telling anybody we are from Brawley, and feel sorry for everyone that doesn’t live here, but we are real worried about the word getting out.”

John is survived by his wife Anabeth, all his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked to please donate to the Imperial Valley Community Foundation. Donation options are available online for the general foundation, the Brawley Community Foundation Fund, or the John Elmore Family Scholarship (