Warren in the high chair with sister Paulyne and his parents
Born in Delhi, California, a small neighborhood, now called Santa Ana. The only remains of Delhi is a street bearing the same name. All long forgotten, the dusty village has been absorbed by suburban sprawl.
Once Delhi’s dirt streets were trod by barefoot brown children, much like a small village in Mexico. Many residents were farm workers from south of the border. The Jessee house was a wood cottage with front steps leading through a deep porch to a front door. Inside a lone electric wire ran across the ceiling and a dangling light bulb hung in the center of the room; an after-thought in a house not originally wired for electricity.
His mother Gladys (Gladys McDannald Jessee) enjoyed reading love stories and Warren recalled being sent to the store to purchase new paperbacks for her. He also recalled her gathering up the kids, not only her own, but any of the neighbors or relatives who wished to go, and spending long days at the beach where the kids played while she fished in the surf then BBQ the fish for all to eat.
Named Donald Warren, but always called Warren, and later D. Warren Jessee, by 16 years old he was living and working on “the ranch” as he called it, with Grandma Jessee (Odie Wildey Jessee) and her kids. The boys bunked together, tormented a pet horse, and worked side by side. Grandma knew hard work from sun up until sun down. He recalled her saying “get up, the sun’s a mile high”, a phrase oft repeated.
Warren and his uncles farmed lima beans on land share cropped with the Irvine Family. The better sacks of beans were kept for themselves to sell, feed the family and share with the neighbors. A portion had to be shared with the Irvine Ranch. Americans were hungry during the depression, but Warren recalled there was always enough to eat for the Jessee’s.
Warren’s brother Harold attended Santa Ana College for a time. Also attending the college was a fair haired girl from Iowa, Viviann Gilday who lived with her Aunt in Santa Ana. While attending a football game with Harold, Viviann and Warren became acquainted and some time later on August 21, 1937 they were married.
Soon thereafter, Warren was injured while driving a mowing machine at a golf course. The mower tipped over and his left leg above the knee was severely bruised. Some time after that incident he injured the same leg again in an auto accident.
One night on the long dark roads between orange groves deep in the heart of old Orange County, California, a sailor’s car broke down in the road. With no lights or reflectors to warn oncoming drivers, Warren rear-ended the stalled car, reinjuring his left leg.
Subsequently a giant cell tumor grew in the bruised area of the left thigh and it was surgically removed, however, this was prior to the use of antibiotics. A bone infection developed and a nonhealing wound would haunt Warren for the next 50 years.
He was saddened and somewhat ashamed, when WWII broke out and he was classified 4F. Like his brothers and uncles, friends, neighbors, and all of the USA, he wanted to enlist in the service and serve his county. He was able to serve as an air raid warden, however. He was issued a gas mask, among other items, and retained it in the garage until the mid 1970‘s.
After many surgeries, long immobilizations, much pain, and a lot of determination he got on with is life and lived with this painful and annoying condition. He continued to be active, bowling, golfing, riding a bicycle, swimming, jogging, sailing and boating, fishing, and all the good things a man enjoys.
It wasn’t until 50 years later bone cancer was the cause of this leg amputation. He had a very short stump but he bravely wore a heavy and awkward prosthesis and continued to walk through life. He often fell, even broke a hip bone, and was forced into a wheel chair for a while, but always got up and keep going.
His only child came as a surprise, born after 13 years of marriage when he was 33. A doting, attentive, patient and generous father. He taught her how to work with tools, drive a car, build and sail a boat and countless other important loving things.
He worked for over 50 years as a tool designer and machinist. During the last 15 years of his career he formed a tool shop, retired from the company where he worked for 35 years and was very successful as a businessman continuing to make tools for industry. He reluctantly sold out to his partner when his eye sight began to fail and he could no longer see to work. He was an artisan who could make anything out of metal or wood.
He was born, raised, lived and died within 30 square miles. A quiet man, with strong opinions, witty and quick with a dry smart humor, he always kept his family amused and laughing.
Courtesy of Warren's daughter, Susan Jessee Smiddy.
Warren, forward in the center on his sailboat.
"I can remember clearly Warren's actions that day: I don't remember for sure the wind, but it must have been a light head wind (on a foggy morning). He hoisted only the jib and mizzen, leaving the mains'l for later, after getting out of the marina. He untied the bow line, gave her a gentle shove and calmly stepped aboard.. By the time he got back to the tiller we were just out of the slip and he turned her so that the wind caught the two small sails and we started moving forward — no problem. Coming back in to the marina — the tricky part — it was again under jib and mizzen, we were moving slowly as he swung her into the slip, letting go the sheets and gently easing the boat all the way in with hardly a bump. He stepped off the bow and tied her up — piece of cake!
Maybe he had done it hundreds of times before, I don't know, but considering the size of the boat and its inertia, it was a remarkable performance. I guess at the time we didn't appreciate his skilled seamanship, it all seemed so easy and natural. We should have clapped and cheered!"
Courtesy of Warren's nephew, Dorin, on the left looking back in the picture.
Editor's note: 99% of sailors lower their sails and turn on their engines when approaching a marina in order to power their way through the parked boats to their own slip. It is only the most skilled and talented sailor who can sail without engine power through the marina maze to their destination. Whenever a sailor was doing this, most people on shore would stop what they were doing and watch as this is a rare and beautiful sight. Uncle Warren belonged to this rare group of people who had the amazing skill to bring their boats home under sail without benefit of an engine.