Old John in his favorite had -- made by his father, Valentine the Hatter.
John William McMenamin
  • 96 years old
  • Date of birth: Apr 1, 1917
  • Date of passing: Feb 11, 2014
Let the memory of John be with us forever

Old John was the real deal.  He lived a good life and was well loved by all.  John always had a good word to share, and a story to tell.  A pun was never far off when you were with John. He had a good run and he remained sharp to the end. 
He was born in Tacoma Washington and moved to Los Angeles in 1924 when he was seven.  He spent the next 60 years in the area.  He attended Le Conte Junior High, Hollywood High, Occidental College, and UCLA where he received his doctorate in biology.  He married Adelaide Grant in 1942 and began a long career teaching at Occidental shortly thereafter, while he and Addie raised their sons in their Eagle Rock home two blocks from the college campus.  

Following retirement, John and Addie moved to the Puget Sound area and built a house on Filucy Bay in Longbranch.  They spent 20 happy years there and became actively involved with the community, boating and gardening.  There was nothing he liked better than to be out in the bay watching Mt. Rainier turn pink...then white...as day turned to night.

The final chapter played out in Oceanside CA, where John and Addie moved in order to be closer to their family.  John was active in the birdwatchers group, the photography club, and the computer club.         

John was a man of many interests.  In his files you will find folders on bioluminescence, creation theories, black holes, scaevola, photography, computers, gadgets, history, poetry, fishing, camping, palindromes, ....

He leaves behind Adelaide, his beloved wife of 70 years, two sons (David and Stuart) and their spouses (Lindsay and Laurie), two granddaughters (Sara and Sylvie) and four great grandchildren (Jake, Charlie, Riley, and McKenna), as well as numerous close friends, including colleagues and students from Occidental College and community friends from Eagle Rock, Longbranch and Oceanside.

In accordance with John's wishes, memorial contributions may be made to the McMenamin Scholars, a scholarship at Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles, CA 90041.

The world is a smaller place without old John.  It's up to us to live up to his example and to make it big again. 

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Randall Schapiro on 11th February 2015

"To one of the finest men I have ever known, who helped launch my career and taught me how to care about people.  I think of him often, even now!"

This tribute was added by Jean Parry on 18th April 2014

"Dearest Addie, David & Stuart, I feel so blessed to have had the chance to get to know John ever since I had the luck to work for his beloved Addie in the Alumni Office. Over the years, like many, I enjoyed the wonderful Christmas cards recounting their joys of each year. I'll always remember John punting us down the river Cam during our alumni trip  with Bob & Elaine Ryf. And, you both  keeping me company, and sane,  as we waited for Marilyn at the train station in Sligo, Ireland after she missed her plane connection from NYC. I visited you in Washington and heard John's tales of his favorite childhood memories. Steve and I had the pleasure of having you visit us when we lived in Santa Barbara, Addie's hometown. And, we saw you in Oceanside re-planted so a sort enjoy being close to the growing family they adored. As I had told John & Addie many times, you both were my heroes- loving, compassionate, smart, devoted and fun! Your message of looking for "the magic moment" in every day has resonated with me since I first heard it in 1979.I will always remember John's enthusiasm, smile and love for Addie and his family. John's love of life was contagious. And, Addie, you and he made a remarkable couple. Much love, Jean Keefe Parry"

This tribute was added by Robert Burley on 1st March 2014

"Dr. McMenamen was my mentor and guiding light . He was my Biology teacher as well at Antelope Valley Joint Union High School in Lancaster where I believe he began his teaching career. Can you imagine! He and Addie were our senior class advisors. They certainly livened the little high school.  He was responsible for my attending Oxy. '51
He administered the entrance exam to Eugene Cahill and myself, so that when I was discharged from the service, I would be able to get on with my career. My most unforgettable character!"

This tribute was added by alec ingle on 28th February 2014

"I will always be indebted to Dr. Mac for taking me under his wing. I transferred into Oxy for my Jr. year and declared a Bio major. As a very undisciplined student, he realized quickly that I needed "guidance". He and Dean Culley intervened and they had a "wake-up" meeting with me, the conclusion of which was a reversal from my "flunk-out" track to an Oxy degree and the motivation to go on to a graduate degree. He epitomized the qualities of a professor - challenge, motivate, nuture and encourage. He had a very significant role in my life.
Alec Ingle "63"

This tribute was added by Irene Dunny on 27th February 2014

"My fondest memories of my years at Oxy are of the Bioxy camping trips we took each spring.  What a gift John and the other professors gave us of their time and personal interest in our education during their break time.  When I came back to visit 16 years after my graduation, John greeted me with a warm and welcoming "Irene" as though I had been there all along.  I also had the pleasure of knowing Addie as a friend when I worked for her in the alumni office.  They were two very special people and contributed much to my life."

This tribute was added by Paul Andres on 27th February 2014

"Dr. McMenamin turned me into a Biology Major at Oxy in 1979 with his unbridled enthusiasm for and wonder of life. I specifically recall him getting very animated in describing the toe pads of tree frogs and their suction cup like structure. I couldn't help but get excited about studying biology after spending time in his class. Dr. McMenamin's spirit of wonder will live on through all of us that he so touched."

This tribute was added by Casey James on 27th February 2014

"I first heard John on a bus before I met him.  We were part of a zoology trip to the Great Barrier Reef in the early 70's.  It quickly became apparent that the person in the 5th row on the right was going to keep the rest of us in stiches for the whole trip.

And then a few years later we were hiking at Mt. Rainer and there were John and Addie having a picnic!  Years later, in their Christmas card, they enclosed a snap shot of that chance meeting, featuring our not yet one year old.  He is now 39, and has that photo on his bulletin board in his UW office.  

A few years later we spent a sabbatical year in Del Mar and found John and Addie's grand daughters were the same age as our two younsters.  Colin had his first date, going to his first movie, with Sylvie.  Age 3.

A highlight of our Christmas has been reading John and Addie's card.  We always laughed ourselves silly. I've kept most, for the beautiful phtography, the fond memories, the wonderful sense of humor but especially to remind us of how life should be lived.

John, you will live on in all our hearts....and in our funny bones.

casey pritchard james"

This tribute was added by William Spencer on 27th February 2014

"Upon first meeting Prof. McMenamin in the Fall of 1968, I was struck by his humor and dedication to teaching life sciences. He was always kind, patient and noble in the ways he approached guiding his Biology majors through the discipline. I respected his facilitative style of inquiry and his expectation for comprehension by every student. Four years later at the occasion of my Biology oral exams at a faculty house off campus, I remember when it was his turn to speak, he focused his questioning on topics relating to environmental concerns and the social impact of biology rather than the technical  aspects of anatomy or genetics for which I had prepared. He wanted his students to be systems thinkers and understand Biology as a platform for humanity, not a regime of memorization or recall. I took that moment with me when I left Oxy and it has served me well throughout my professional career and continuing passion for understanding the details of the moment and the systems and politics of the big picture. Thank you Professor. William Spencer, '72."

This tribute was added by Clara Gresham on 25th February 2014

"A highlight of taking John's Invertebrates class was his bringing us into
the world of Between Pacific Tides and the stories of John Steinbeck,
and his friend, "Doc".  Doc, the author of Between Pacific Tides (Ed
Ricketts) and Steinbeck had great adventures in MontereyBay and
explorations up and down the Pacific Coast, gathering specimens of
marine life, and having some down to earth adventures with some weird human "characters ".  Clara Thompson Gresham, Oxy class of 1953"

This tribute was added by Laurie McMenamin on 24th February 2014

"Sometimes life presents the most wonderful gifts in unexpected ways.  Little did I know when I fell in love with Stuart at age 14, that this would open the door to a lifelong friendship with two truly extraordinary individuals.  John and Addie welcomed me into their home and into their hearts.  They were generous, supportive, and kind.  They provided stability and a kind of blueprint for happiness during a time in my life when my own family situation was in chaos. Over the years, I often looked to them as role models for personal and marital happiness.

In the last three years, I had the privilege of spending time with John.  I would stop to visit on my way to weekly chorale rehearsal.  We would take care of practical matters as well as have philosophical discussions or read poetry or just talk about life.  Even in the face of pain from a broken clavicle, he was concerned about others (the comfort of his caregivers; that I was “wasting” too much time on him) Even in the face of pain, we almost always managed to have a laugh.   He was very appreciative of my visits, but I always came away feeling as if I were the one who had received the gift.

John taught me nobility of spirit, curiosity about the natural world, and an immense appreciation of the beauty to be found everywhere, even in a close up photograph of a flesh fly.  He appreciated the perfection of nature and in that appreciation I sensed a deeply spiritual man, despite his protests. I admired him greatly and loved him dearly, and will miss him dearly.  If we could all be even a little bit more like John, the world would be a much kinder, gentler place, and a lot more fun."

This tribute was added by George Roegler on 21st February 2014

"Dr. McMenamin was my Intro to Biology professor at Oxy and I never would have met him if I hadn't become an "undecided major" my sophomore year.  I never had a teacher who was so excited and enthusiastic and interested in his field.  He almost bubbled when he explained the beauty and science of life processes.  As I recall, he was very keen about what was going on in chicken embryos. Near the end of the semester, he gave his frequently announced lecture on human sexuality (our college level " birds and the bees talk") and less than half the class attended.  He quipped, "I wonder if it's because they are embarrassed, or because they think they already know it all?"  Much of what I learned at Oxy, I've forgotten, but I remember this passionate teacher."

This tribute was added by Susan Riddell Sprouse on 20th February 2014

"I first met Dr Mac in September 1963 when I started Oxy.  I will never forget his classes (I often quoted him to my high school students over the years), or our many Bioxy field trips (especially the one during Easter break 1964 up the California coast in the rain!), but mostly I remember his unbounded enthusiasm for life both in and out of the lab!   I am so grateful that my husband Richard and I were able to spend time with John and Addie in their home on the Puget Sound in 2000.  Whenever I sing “With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm” I’ll think of him and smile!!"

This tribute was added by Marty Giffen on 19th February 2014

"I worked in the alumni office for three years for Mrs. Mac, and I worked in the library with David.  I was in the class of '68, and I grew up in Eagle Rock. I never had the pleasure of having a class with Dr. Mac, (woefully, I was a language major--what a mistake), but his cheerful face was such a pleasure to see on campus.  I am grateful for his long and happy life, and though I know you will miss him terribly, I hope you are grateful for having him in your lives.   From Martha Carriger Giffen."

This tribute was added by Claudia Loy on 19th February 2014

"So sad to hear of John's passing. It was a sad day for those of us on the key Peninsula when john and Addie left to return to California. We own the local garden center, Sunnycrest Nursery, and loved to see the two of them come into the store. There was always a bit of knowledge bestowed on us and a wonderful laugh. And the wonderful job that was done for our Historical Society in the correlation of the History of the Key Peninsula will never be forgotten. He was a gem of a man, a friend and your Dad. Please give your mom a big hug from us. Dale and Claudia Loy ."

This tribute was added by Edward Schoerner on 19th February 2014

"In 1957 a line of dust covered cars drove through the Vandenberg Ranch and ended up at several Point Conception tide pools. Dr. Mac was at the head of that convoy and one of the first things he did (at least in my very selective memory) was to stand in one of the shallow pools and point at a familiar inhabitant. As we all looked down at the algae covered rocks, we looked up to see Dr. Mac imitating Pachygrapsus Crassipes, alternately moving his arms toward his mouth in a slow, regular rhythm. The unmistakable twinkle in his eyes and the subtle grin that developed  on his face will always be one of my fondest memories. "Pachygrapsus", he said, and turned toward another of the multitude of tidepool critters.

Some months later I was invited to the McMenamin house to again witness that twinkle and sly grin as a group of students and friends were enticed into helping him mix and pour some concrete for a small backyard patio slab. He and Addie kept us full of sandwiches and lemonade while we worked the day away. At the end of the project Dr. Mac was just as clean as when the work started, while the rest of the "crew" looked a bit careworn. I realized then that he was not only smart but incredibly clever!

Thanks, Dr. Mac, for those and a thousand more wonderful memories of classes, field trips, and backyard adventures. "Pachygrapsus" indeed..."

This tribute was added by Gordon Marsh on 19th February 2014

"There are a number of heart warming stories that could be told but for me the essence of them all is that that Dr McMenamin had a great and positive influence on my career in education.  He was there when I needed his guidance in Biology 1 and continued to be a resource when I taught biology at ERHS and then in Escondido. His smile and enthusiasm are some of my best memories of OXY.  When my wife Kim (also '68) saw the memorial pictures her comment was, "He was such a happy man!" Addie, thanks for sharing him with us all.
Gordon and Kim Marsh, 1968"

This tribute was added by Penny Clapp on 19th February 2014

"John and Addie - two of my favorite people. The friendship was made sweeter because they were related to my former son-in-law. We've not seen much of them since the move to CA, but our thoughts have always been with them.  RIP John - and love to Addie."

This tribute was added by Sara McMenamin on 19th February 2014

"These tributes are from 3 of John's Great Grandchildren:

John was a “great” great grandfather. –Riley (Age 7)
I really loved John a lot. –Kenna (Age 5)
I am so happy that I got to meet John. He is a very intelligent, nice person. –Charlie (Age 9)"

This tribute was added by Candy Miller on 19th February 2014

"John McMenamin was the true gen in every respect. He had such a love of life and life forms, reveled in the transfer of his extensive knowledge to his students, treasured what he learned from them, and conveyed a sense of joy, wonder and humor every single day. I think back on my years of knowing him with gratitude. To all his family and especially Addie, dearest Addie, I am so deeply sorry for your irreplaceable loss. I have spent a little time in Oceanside almost every year and never knew you were there. Isn't just so ironic?  All my love and best wishes to you. Candy '70 (Alpha)"

This tribute was added by Ed Johnson on 19th February 2014

"I was at the reunion for the Occidental class of '72 in 2002 and while waiting outside the cafeteria, during a mini-reunion of the people  I was with, John and Addie emerged after their lunch. As they were blocked by the group as well, I sidled over to make conversation. I asked them how they liked the food and how it compared to Clancey's fare. They said they had liked lunch and wouldn't compare it to anyone's. I inquired if they had sampled the clam chowder and they had. I asked if they liked it as well as that from the Longbranch Chowder House, the only restaurant in their former home town. They looked a bit confused and asked how I knew about the LCH. We had met a couple of times on previous occasions, but not enough to overcome the distance and context since our last meeting. By the time we were finished talking, the other group of people were waiting for us. Good memories.

My other strong memory of John was sitting through one of his lectures during which he was speaking on the Olympic rain forest. He was admonishing people to avoid downed and rotting snag trees and leave well enough alone the tall stumps left over from the days of tall timber logging. His point was to let them decay at their own rate. I raised my hand and thanked him for the information but that he was talking about my childhood playground equipment, as I had grown up in the north woods. He allowed that he had climbed his share of stumps before studying about the effects.

Ed Johnson '73"

This tribute was added by Gilbert Fellingham on 19th February 2014


Paula and I send our love and condolences.  Your father was a great man.  With Much Sympathy,  Gil"

This tribute was added by Andrew Kratz on 19th February 2014

"I was a student of John's about 45 years ago.  He was one of my favorite professors at Occidental.  Besides my interest in learning about his favorite "spitting bridge", I especially recall a biology class field trip to the desert.  It was a sunny and warm day, with a very light breeze.  John had been on a small rise a short ways from the group, and returned excited to show us all something.  He motioned for us to follow him to the spot where he had been standing earlier.  He asked us to face in a particular direction and to listen attentively.  I didn't think I could hear anything.  But after a minute or so, he explained that we were listening to "the sound of the wind in our ears", which he said was something that we could rarely hear in the city due to all the competing noises.  John had a knack for noticing little things that most people missed.  He was one of only a few professors I kept in touch with for many years after I graduated.  I miss him."

This tribute was added by Carolyn Taylor on 19th February 2014

"With my condolences to his family who I am sure gained lifelong inspiration from his enthusiasm for life and discovery, I always remember one day in particular in 1966 when I was way over my head taking Vertebrate Biology as a Sophomore English major in with mostly Junior science majors, thanks to my friend John McCosker convincing me that it was by far the most interesting way to fulfill my science requirement.  The course meant learning to identify such creatures as hypsoblennius jenkinsi (!) and taking field trips to the desert and to the Palos Verdes Peninsula tidewaters, all of which lived up to my friend's billing of the course as indeed adventurous and far more engaging than the going-thru-the-motions "Com Sci" alternative meant for nearly every other non-science major.  

On the day in question, what to this day comes to mind as indicative of how John McMenamin made science come alive was his own perpetual, almost boylike, joy of discovery as if he were repeatedly looking in a microscope for the very first time.  I was so lame I couldn't even get my microscope to focus properly on this fondly remembered day, and he came over to my lab station to help me focus.  I knew the instant he'd gotten it into focus from the gasp of wonder he emitted as he turned the microscope back to me to behold what magic of creation was now exposed to our eyes. I don't think I'd ever heard an adult show such uncensored joy in the most minute aspect of his work. It remains one of my most memorable "brushes with greatness" in my Oxy years, recalling that sheer delight which spoke volumes about a man who was the absolute opposite of "jaded" and instead spread infectious love of learning and discovery to everyone who had the privilege of studying with him.  I know without a doubt that the past 45 years since I last saw him have been richly lived ones and that his family has this magical legacy his 96 years have left behind.
Carolyn Taylor, MFT, Ph.D."

This tribute was added by Catherine Wolleat Britell, MD on 19th February 2014

"It's with a tear in my eye, that I sing in his honor and memory,  
"For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth. over and around us lies....
The wonder and joy with which he spoke of the web of life and led us out there to swim with the pupfish and gaze at the stars will never be fogotten."

This tribute was added by Randall Schapiro on 16th February 2014

"Dear Dave,
I appreciated receiving this message.  I will relate two fond memories that have stuck over the years involving your dad.  The first was when some of us were tired of visiting every desert in the surroundings and wanted our field trip to go to the mountains.  We knew it was a lost cause so we prepared a presentation that the professors (McMenamin and Wells) only knew was going to be controversial and they prepared to argue against the mountains and for the desert.  Our presentation was that we should visit the Tujunga Canyon and how educational it would be to see the houses, etc there.  The look on their faces was of shock as they realized we were kidding and, or course, we visited the desert, again. The second memory stems from the fact that John lived into his 90's.  In 1965 we were at altitude-likely 1000 feet but I cannot remember where or how high but John looked as if his life were ending that night with breathing problems and weakness.  I look back thinking any day now we would lose our chief.  It only took 50+ years more to get there.  He was one soft tough cookie.  Every adjective applies!  Cathy and my thoughts are with you all as we celebrate one wonderful life.
-- Randy
Randall T. Schapiro, M.D., FAAN
President, The Schapiro Multiple Sclerosis Advisory Group
Clinical Professor of Neurology (Retired)
University of Minnesota"

This tribute was added by Stuart McMenamin on 15th February 2014

"This is from Jake, John's great grandson, now 12.
John Mcmenamin was an amazing person and cool great grandfather. Although I was born when he was 84 years old, I had the pleasure of meeting him and sharing many memories. He taught me a lot of important things about life. He was a very intellegent man and knew a lot about animals and life. I am very happy that that he passed a lot of this information on to me. He had such a sharp mind and and I am very lucky that he was a part of my family. You were a great person, I love you so much John."

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Dave McMenamin
Stuart McMenamin


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