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J. Grant Gerson, Founder of Calamigos Ranch, Dead at 92

Gerson passed away at his Agoura Hills home early Thursday morning.

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)
website: ACAcamps.org

Mary Sue Maurer December 12, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Ruth and family, I am so sorry about the passing of Grant. He was a spirited and kind man that will be remembered fondly.
Morgan Brittany-Gill December 12, 2012 at 07:22 AM
He truly was one of a kind. The kind of man that epitomized America. Honest, funny, adventurous and always ready with a story. A man who at 80 was skiing down the slopes better than any kid! When we lose great people like Grant its hard to replace them. He is what made this country great! Morgan Brittany-Gill
David Uebersax December 12, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Grant was a wonderful, wonderful man, and he andwill his family have made Calamigos an integral part of the communities rounding up this end of the Santa Monica Mountains. Truly a pioneer, he will be missed, but with the examples he's left us, I reckon he's just blazing new trails for us in Heaven!
Bradley Bobbs December 12, 2012 at 10:44 PM
We will all miss Grant. My sympathies to Ruth and family.
Lori Dupuis December 13, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Never met the family , but have enjoyed the location for many events. Over the years we had dinner at the restaurant, attended a beautiful wedding and studio party with a western BBQ theme including a mechanical bull! I don't think another place like this exists so close to the city. Mr. Gerson clearly touched the lives of many with his vision.
Debbie Tos-Colombo December 13, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Ruthie, Both Bob and I and Ken are so sad to hear the news about Grant. He was one special man who did so much good for so many people. He was a character, to be sure, and he will be sorely missed. We are very sorry for your loss and his family's loss. There will only be one Grant Gerson!
Michael Claeys December 18, 2012 at 07:10 AM
Grant was a true gentleman and was so nice to me when my grandparents Jack and Betty Dalmeyer died. He allowed me to go on their old ranch to spread there ashes under their tree. He watched over my mom for a long time. He was a great man, father and leader. God bless - Michael Claeys
Don Schmitz January 02, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Grant was an old school gentleman, a pioneer for our era, who has left a legacy in his family and the community that is without compare. I will miss the connection he brought to a rich history, but more I will miss his easy smile.
Jeffrey Feinberg January 21, 2013 at 11:49 PM
I as well as my mother and Uncle attended Calamigos sleep away camp in both the 50's and myself until its close in 1984. I always looked up to Grant as an amazing role model. I can never thank him enough for all the summer memories he was responsible for. I even went back and married my wife at Calamigas because of the fondness I hold so dear to my heart for the ranch. With fond memories, Jeff Feinberg
Cindy January 28, 2013 at 03:36 PM
I will always remember the joy I had when coming to Calamigos and seeing Grant in his element. I have so many great memories hearing his stories of adventure and his love for nature and the outdoors. He was truly a statesman and held such high moral standards for himself and everyone around him. My brother Brian was a camp counselor there back in the 70s and he looks back at that experience with wonderful memories as well. Thank you Grant and Ruth for being a part of our lives and for giving so many a love of camping and the great outdoors. He will be sorely missed. His legacy carries on in his great family. Lovingly, Cindy Foran (1st cousin, once removed)

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