John Bernard “Jack” Wathen, the last of the Fresno brothers who created Wathen Brothers and Mansionette Homes, has died.
Mr. Wathen, 83, played basketball twice a week with 55-year-old men and biked nearly every morning to the neighborhood coffee shop to chat with friends before he came down with pneumonia early this year. He died April 14 at his Fresno home with family by his side.
“He was a very loyal person to his friends and family,” said Doreen, his wife of 64 years. “He was very quiet compared to some of the others, but he was definitely always there for his children and for me and his brothers and sisters.”
Mr. Wathen was born June 5, 1933, to James and Mary Pearl Wathen. He was the second youngest of eight children and grew up at 4406 E. Washington Ave. where his father built their home planting the first seeds in the family’s homebuilding legacy.
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He was just a really wonderful brother. I knew he loved me dearly. We talked on the phone. He wasn’t ashamed to say that he loved you. He always wanted you to know that.
Pat Wathen, sister
Mr. Wathen attended St. John’s grade school and graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School in 1951 where he was student body president and a football, basketball, baseball and track and field athlete. He earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the UC Berkeley in 1955 and later obtained his general building contractor’s license and real estate brokers license.
In 1952, Mr. Wathen married Doreen Johnson, who he met in the seventh grade. They had six children.
After graduating from college, Mr. Wathen joined his brothers, Spalding and Dick, who in 1953 started Wathen Brothers Homes, also known as Headliner and Mansionette Homes. Brother Jim was a partner for a time and younger brother Ron would later join the business after graduating from college.
“He was in charge of managing the hiring and quality control of employees and designs on plans in collaboration with his brothers,” said son, Mark. He also “handled all of the code updates that are mandatory every four years or so” and “was the real estate broker for the company.”
With the many blessings he gave to us, I will always remember his courage, grace, faith and love for his family.
Eileen Wathen Wilner, daughter
Mark Wathen worked with his dad from 1990 to 2001. “During those years, I was honored with him teaching me and mentoring me with his knowledge of the building business.”
Mr. Wathen loved the outdoors especially spending time in Yosemite National Park or at the family cabin at Shaver Lake skiing, fishing, and boating. One of Mark Wathen’s most treasured memories of his dad was digging for grubs as an 8-year-old to take trout fishing on Shaver Lake. The team, which included brother Gerry, caught their limit and Mark Wathen recalled feeling “like I was on top of the world with the best dad ever.”
John Bernard ‘Jack’ Wathen
Born: June 5, 1933
Died: April 14, 2017
Occupation: partner in Wathen Brothers Homes (Headliner and Mansionette Homes)
Survivors: wife, Doreen; sons Gerry, Mark, John; daughters Janet Wathen Wright, Eileen Wathen Wilner, Ann Wathen; sister Pat Wathen; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren
Services: Recitation of the Holy Rosary and Mass, 11 a.m. April 28, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 355 E. Champlain Drive, Fresno. Reception to follow in the reception hall to celebrate Jack Wathen’s life.