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July 23, 1934 – Aug. 19, 2021
John L Branch obit pic
John Leslie Branch, 87, a former Escalon Times and Riverbank News editor, died in his home in Escalon, CA, after a battle with heart disease. Born in Peterborough, England, the family moved several times during WWII and he was 11 years old when the war ended in 1945.
His childhood was spent in Bristol and he remembered seeing the fires of Bristol during the Luftwaffe bombings, as well as dog fights between British and German aircraft. He and his father would report the action to local RAF command. As a young man, it was his duty to join the Royal Navy, being aboard the HMS Apollo, a mine layer, as well as other vessels, including an aircraft carrier. He discovered that as much as he loved the sea, he found service life as an able-bodied seaman not his dream of sea-faring.
He was awarded a place at prestigious Christ’s College, Cambridge University and graduated with a degree in Classical Studies, which included both Greek and Latin. He was proud of building a canoe, and sailed down the river Wye. Looking for a career, he went to London to become a journalist, and wrote for a magazine about boats and the sea. He met and married Jackie Clements, and together they scraped up enough money to buy their first boat, the Clarinda, (a pilot cutter), and sailed away from England.
Their adventures took them to the North Sea, through the canals of France and visits to Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Italy. They docked in the French town of Menton, while first-mate and wife, Jackie worked in Monte Carlo.
They sailed to America twice, and for a while settled in San Francisco. They made some trips to the Gold Country and picked Placerville as their home around 1968. John was a well-known figure as a reporter and then news editor of the local newspaper, The Mountain Democrat. Divorced from Jackie, in 1974 he met Donna Champion, who was a photographer for the newspaper.
Fifteen years later they moved to Escalon, another small town, where John worked as a reporter and editor of the Escalon Times and later the Riverbank News. A soft-spoken and gentle man, John also had an outrageous, (English) sense of humor. He was a dreamer, who never lost his passion for the sea.
John leaves a loving family: his son Peter Branch of Oregon; his son, Dustin Branch, of Minnesota; his son, Evan Branch of Escalon; his daughter, Shannon McVeigh of Placerville and his sister, Mary Scargill of Oxford, England.
In lieu of a memorial, John wished that his family and friends would take time to sit with each other, share their love, memories, and perhaps to sip a glass of wine, tipped in his direction.
The Escalon (Calif.) Times
Nov. 24, 2021