Who Was Jack Tone

LODI – Jack Tone III, grandson of the famed Gold Rush pioneer whose name adorns the longest straight road in San Joaquin County, died at his family’s 156-year-old ranch Friday. He was 97.

Family members said Tone’s health began declining in recent weeks. Even so, he was able to sing “Tomorrow” from the Broadway musical “Annie” on New Year’s Eve to his wife of 74 years, Marjory.

Kathleen Hammer, one of Tone’s five daughters, said her father’s ashes will be kept at the ranch, which has shrunk from its original 1,000 acres to 35 on Jack Tone Road southeast of Lodi. The pioneer’s descendents claim it’s the oldest family-owned horse ranch in the state.

“He just loved the ranch,” said Hammer, who lives there with her husband, Jerry. “He’d say, ‘This is mine and Margie’s little spot on Earth, and it’s owned by us.’ “

Tone, given the nickname “Bud” by his two older sisters, never knew his grandfather, who gave up gold mining for ranching in 1850 and built a road that now stretches 32.4 miles from Ripon to Lockeford. The first Jack Tone died in 1902, seven years before his grandson was born.

But the grandson followed in his family’s farming tradition, growing a wide variety of row crops. During the Great Depression, he invented a tool that allowed him to harvest beans twice as fast as other farmers, boosting the family’s income. It was innovations such as that, family members said, that allowed Tone to hold onto the ranch and develop it into a modern farming operation.

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But it was a horse-breeding program established with his wife that earned international renown, beginning with Fadjur, one of the most honored Arabian horses in history.

Hammer said her father originally didn’t want to raise horses, because in his childhood he considered them work animals. But he gave in to the wishes of his wife and daughters, Hammer said. Tone bought 10-month-old Fadjur from a Washington breeder in 1952.

“He saw we were so horse-crazy that it wasn’t a chore but a love in our lives,” Hammer said. “He helped my mother every step. She didn’t plan on it being a business; she just loved horses since she was tiny.”

Tone was an expert handball player, earning election to the Northern California Handball Association Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Stockton Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.

“There’s only a few times when I saw anybody beat Buddy,” said his nephew, Hank Gibbons, 69, of Lincoln. “When he was in his 70s and some of us got together – friends younger than I was – and he beat them 21-2, 21-3.”

Gibbons, however, said he’ll remember Tone as more of a father figure. Although Gibbons grew up in San Francisco, he said he preferred spending every spare moment of his youth at the ranch, getting there by train, bus or thumb.

“Ever since I was old enough to work, 10 years old, I worked for Buddy at the ranch,” Gibbons said. “He was more of a father to me than my father was.

“Buddy lost a son about my age when he was just a year or so old, and I kind of slid into that slot. We got along great, and he was fun to be around. He also taught me a great deal. Taught me how to work.”

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In addition to farming, Tone served four terms as a director of the Stockton East Water District beginning in 1979, including stints as president and vice president of the agency that provides much of Stockton’s drinking water.

A memorial Mass for Tone is scheduled for 11 a.m. today at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 5882 Ashley Lane, Stockton, followed by a gathering at the ranch, 9749 N. Jack Tone Road.

Contact Lodi Bureau Chief Jeff Hood at (209) 367-7427 or [email protected].

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