J. Grant Gerson, the founder of the historic Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, died at his home in Agoura Hills last Thursday. He was 92 years old.
Gerson initially purchased 15 acres in Malibu in 1947 and founded Calamigos Covered Wagon Club, a boy’s travel camp. In 1948, he established Calamigos Ranch and became chairman of the board. Since then, the ranch has expanded to 125 acres and remains a prime destination for weddings, parties, corporate events and children's camp.
Camp Summertime, which operates on the property, is a popular summer camp for kids from all over Los Angeles.
"Grant lived by the code of the cowboy–honesty, self-reliance, loyalty, sportsmanship and reverence," Ruth Gerson, his wife, wrote in an email to Patch. She stated that he continued to ride his horse until a few weeks before his passing.
Born in Los Angeles in 1920, Gerson attended UCLA and later served in the Navy.
"His kind heart, his generosity, and his spiritual being were always present as he lived to give to others," Ruth wrote. "During his 40 years of running camp, he led by example, promoting strong morals and a positive attitude."
Gerson co-founded the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council in 1972.
He was involved in the American Camping Association and the Western Association of Independent Camps, even after his retirement.
In 2009, the Agoura Hills City Council honored the Gersons on National Day of the American Cowboy. "[Grant] accomplished his dream of building a successful children's camp while staying honest to his principles ...," then Mayor Denis Weber said at the time.
Until his passing, Gerson had remained active in the ranch, where four generations have contributed to its success and many of his employees have remained loyal for over 35 years, according to Ruth.
"He instilled in his campers and counselors a love and respect for the outdoors that will last their lifetime," Ruth wrote. "His legacy speaks volumes about his character, and it will live on in our hearts and memories. He will be remembered for embracing the joys and adventures of life and the generosity of spirit he shared with family and friends."
In addition to Ruth, with whom he "shared a rich and wonderful life," Gerson is surviced by his son Glen; grandsons Garrett and Garner Gerson; stepchildren Susan Morris, Steve Krohngold, Jon Krohngold; and step grandchildren Jeremy and Mariah Krohngold, and Dane and Carly Morris.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Gerson's memory on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, at 11 a.m. at the Calamigos Ranch. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Grant’s name to:
American Camping Association
5000 State Rd. 67, North Martinsville, IN 46151-7902
(reference Grant Gerson on the check or credit card)