The Bruin Voice

Donn Emerson Church – O’Connor Woods


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O’Connor Woods resident Donn Emerson Church was born on December 19, 1925 and raised in Tracy.  

He first came to Stockton after World War II.  He inherited a business focused on air conditioning from his father after working as a mechanical contractor.

His favorite memory from owning a company?

“It was a good day when I retired, let’s put it that way,” Church said.

The biggest changes from when he was a teenager are the decrease in importance of the draft and the increase in opportunities for women.

“That would be the biggest change, you don’t have to be drafted now,” Church said.  “At least now as a student, you can plan ahead.”

Women in his high school had extremely limited options for what they could do.  The majority either became a telephone operator or got married.

“I wrote a book on the class of ‘44 a few years ago and I interviewed a few of the girls,” said Church. “A lot of them chose marriage, which is okay but sometimes it isn’t a choice if you got pregnant.”

Donn’s book focused on genealogy.  He created the core idea with classmates and was tasked with writing it because he was familiar with the process.  For his book, he conducted interviews with several people he knew from high school.

“I just finished a genealogy course and I knew how to write a book

One of the stories from his book was a woman he knew in high school who was vice president of a glass company in Illinois.  She got her start as a secretary after graduating with a Business degree from UC Berkeley.

“They grabbed her right away because she was probably doing the work the president was supposed to be doing anyway,” Church said.

He married right after he got out of the army.  His wife’s dream was to attend college, which she accomplished through being accepted at University of Pacific.

“She came from a small town where neither of her parents were college educated. Her father owned a farm,” Church said.

Together, he and his wife had four children.  After he retired, he first relocated to the Bay Area and then back to Stockton.

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Donn Emerson Church – O’Connor Woods