Former Supervisor Jon Mikels Lionized At Upland Memorial Service

(March 3) Family, friends, associates and acquaintances participated in a remembrance for former San Bernardino County Supervisor Jon Mikels       at the Upland Brethren in Christ Church on March 1.
Mikels passed away on December 31.
More than a hundred attended the memorial service, which was held at the house of worship in Upland where Mikels married Marjorie Musser four decades ago.
Marjorie Mikels and her three children with Jon – Angela Dunning, Jessica Appelgren and Amanda Mikels Vigdal – offered their vision of their husband and father, panegyrizing him as a community leader who had risen to the challenge of guiding an explosively growing community in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.
Jon Mikels was a member of the charter Rancho Cucamonga City Council when that city formed in 1977. At the age of 30, he placed fifth in a field of 36 candidates. He was later selected by his council colleagues in 1982 to serve as mayor. In 1986, he challenged and defeated incumbent Second District Supervisor Cal McElwain.
Mikels made his mark as chairman of the board of supervisors and as chair of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. He took the lead with respect to several regional planning issues, having co-sponsored the effort to approve Measure I, which imposed a half-cent countywide sales tax to pay for traffic improvements. He also sought to protect the right-of-way for what was then called the Highway 20 corridor and which is now the extension of the 210 Freeway from La Verne to San Bernardino.
Dunning, who is now an attorney working in San Francisco, said that as a child she had not realized the magnitude of the public issues her father was involved in. “All I knew as a kid growing up was I had a big, strong dad who was always there to protect us or scare us if we got out of line.”
Dunning said her father “wasn’t interested in being famous or being a politician.” Rather, she said, he “had a vision. He saw what this community could be and he saw what the county could be if we worked together and actually thought about the future and how to plan ahead.”
Marjorie Mikels credited him with instigating progressive action on the board of supervisors, even though he had not always initially embraced the ideas of his more liberal-minded constituents.
Like her daughters, Marjorie Mikels said her husband relished the role of being a “farmer.” After he would return from work and take off his business suit, which she referred to as his professional “costume,” she said he would delight in pruning the fruit trees on their property, many of which he had planted himself.
Among those paying their respects were Jeffrey King, who succeeded Mikels as mayor of Rancho Cucamonga and then went on to become a Superior Court judge and is now serving on the appellate court; former supervisor Dennis Hansberger; and Dennis Stout, who succeeded King as Rancho Cucamonga mayor and went on to become county district attorney.
Stout remembered Mikels as a “larger than life figure.”
Perhaps the most poignant tribute to Mikels was made by his boyhood friend, Don Robertson, who first encountered Jon Mikels, he said, when Mikels was about nine years old and living in the Los Angeles County community of Herman Valley. He said that Mikels was highly competitive, having committed to memory all the defensive and offensive plays possible in a primitive toy football game set they played as youngsters. He said that Mikels was a star basketball player whose skill eclipsed that of another local basketball luminary, Jim Marsh, who went on to play at Pasadena City College, USC and with the Seattle Supersonics.  Mikels’ college and professional basketball aspirations were thwarted, Robertson said, by a vindictive former coach who had Mikels suspended from the high school athletic federation on the basis of his having not met residency requirements at the high school he had transferred to. Basketball would have diverted Mikels from his true calling, Robertson said, which was serving as an elected official.
“The NBA’s loss was your gain,” Robertson said
Robertson then recited two poems that took Jon Mikels as their topic.
The first was one written by Mikels’ friend, Ron Evans, who grew up with Jon and later lived near Mikels in the community of Bandon, Oregon, where he had retired and ultimately passed into eternity.
Robertson declaimed:
“We were not like minded, you and I
Almost polar opposites, truth be told…
I, in my desire for purposes beyond view,
Would in flights of fancy pass through reality’s bounds
Often blurting out what to both of us was nonsense.
We were not like minded, you and I
Almost polar opposites, truth be told …
You, so self assured in the sweep of your grasp
You, not trusting what could not be verified
Restrained by tangible matter
Beyond which we did not speak.
Yet both of us were amazed and speechless
And so we would often sit silently
Just glorying in the truth of now.”
Robertson then recited his own composition, Big Bad Jon.
It goes:
“He stood tall and stout and strong
But one day he finally fell.
Friends once called him Big Bad Jon.
In the end, the weight of living would tell.
He liked to live in splendid isolation
But with arms spread wide to welcome a friend.
The visage of loved ones were his consolation
And their every need he did attend.
He once had been a political man
Who fought to make fairness abound.
One day he took a courageous stand
And a pack of crooks brought him down.
Three marvelous daughters he left behind
Who are jewels of achievement and grace.
A finer legacy one could never find
And they mourn he left in haste.
Jon trudged through his last years a lonely man.
The love of his life was gone.
It was a constant pain he could barely stand
But he carried on, smiling and strong.
Friends came together to say goodbye
In his chosen town, Bandon-by-the- Sea.
We joined with his family to laugh
And to cry and to celebrate
All that Big Jon loved to be.”

Leave a Reply