John G. Piches, a prominent Roseville resident who was a longtime civic and business leader, died April 5 after a brief illness, his family said. He was 92.
A Roseville native, Mr. Piches (pronounced PEA-ches) worked on the railroad as a teenager during the Depression and played sports at Roseville High School. He grew up to be a successful developer and energetic volunteer who led efforts to preserve the community's history and small-town values.
He started a construction company after World War II and built the city's first major residential subdivision, Sierra Gardens. He helped create the original Roseville Hospital, Sierra View Country Club and Roseville Square, the city's first shopping center.
As chairman of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission, he helped form the Roseville Little League. He also built a Little League field and bleachers at Roseville High School.
"He was a man who liked to make things happen," said his daughter Donna Estridge.
With 65 years of perfect attendance at meetings, Mr. Piches was a dedicated member of the Roseville Rotary Club. He helped found and was a longtime announcer for the club's Oakmont Girls Basketball Tournament.
A Navy lieutenant in World War II, he led efforts to honor veterans. He organized memorial ceremonies on military holidays and helped establish Veterans Park.
Besides raising money to erect the World War II and Korean War monuments in Roseville, he worked with Placer County officials to honor Japanese Americans who served in World War II.
"Honoring veterans was an act of love for him," said Phoebe Astill of the Roseville Historical Society. "He was very proud that he had served his country."
The eldest of five children of Greek immigrants, John George Piches was born in 1920. He played baseball and was quarterback on the 1938 championship football team at Roseville High School.
He studied engineering at the University of San Francisco and worked in a shipyard before World War II. Drafted and commissioned by the Navy, he was sent to the South Pacific and was wounded in battle in New Guinea, where the military was preparing to invade the Philippines.
He married his high school sweetheart, the former Erma Claiborne. They had two children and were together for 67 years, until her death in 2009.
Besides construction, he was active in real estate and insurance. He later raised thoroughbreds and raced horses for more than 40 years at the California State Fair.
Proud of his Roseville heritage, Mr. Piches helped organize celebrations of the first town map filed in Placer County in 1864. He was a founding member of the Roseville Historical Society.
He received many awards for community service, including a 2005 commemorative coin from the Placer County Board of Supervisors. The city of Roseville dedicated Piches Park to him in 2007.
"He had a real commitment to the area," his daughter said. "It was such a nice town as he grew up that I don't think he ever wanted to leave."
John G. Piches
Born: Oct. 16, 1920
Died: April 5, 2013
Survived by: Children, David of Fair Oaks, and Donna Estridge of Roseville; sister, Mary Dufour of Roseville; and two step-grandchildren
Services: Memorial, 10 a.m. Friday at St. John's Episcopal Church, 2351 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville
Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Roseville Historical Society, 557 Lincoln St., Roseville, CA 95678, for the Veterans Park Monument.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.