2011-05-12 / Community
John D. Tapking dies at 88
Founding father wanted T.O. to be ‘a beautiful place to live’
Elected to the first Thousand Oaks City Council in 1964, Tapking was a staunch early supporter of T.O. incorporation.
Born March 1, 1923, in Chicago to Jon and Martha Tapking, young Tapking graduated from USC with a degree in urban planning.
In 1948 he married Jeannine Ransier. Eleven years later, Tapking moved his wife and two young sons, Doug and Bryan, to Ventura, where he would direct the county’s planning division. In 1963 the family moved to the drier unincorporated east end of the county for Jeannine’s health.
Tapking, unhappy with the “willy-nilly” way the county was allowing development to proceed, joined with others in an effort to incorporate the town, his son Doug said.
“They wanted it to be a beautiful place to live,” Doug Tapking said of the city’s founding fathers. “That’s why the city of Thousand Oaks, the city of Simi Valley formed . . . why Moorpark developed—they wanted to control their destiny.”
In the 1964 election, John Tapking was one of the top two vote-getters. He served as vice mayor that year.
At the time, most roads were unpaved; grazing sheep would cross the highway that would become the 101 Freeway, and the fledgling campus of Cal Lutheran University began turning chicken houses into offices and classrooms.
But residents still wanted to preserve the area’s scenic beauty and open space.
Doug Tapking said the city and its tradition of managed growth and the preservation of open space are part of his father’s legacy.
City Manager Scott Mitnick agreed.
“Drive through the beautiful neighborhoods, the retail corridor—(John) Tapking’s fingerprints are really throughout the community,” Mitnick said. “He wanted a high quality of life, and that’s what we’re committed to.”
Mitnick said Tapking’s legacy continues with his son Doug, who is the executive director of the Area Housing Authority, a nonprofit affordable housing agency.
Doug Tapking remembers his parents as active members of the T.O. community.
“They were very community-oriented . . . involved in all the political action in Ventura County for years,” he said. “There was probably not a Conejo Valley Days that they were not involved in.”
A strong Democrat, John Tapking nevertheless campaigned for close Republican friends Robert Lagomarsino and Elton Gallegly.
But until contacted Tuesday by the Acorn for comment, Elton Gallegly was unaware that John Tapking had died. Gallegly said he’d lost direct contact with Tapking but had kept up to date with the goings-on in his life through contact with Doug.
“This comes as a real shock, because John was always a real class act and true gentleman,” said Gallegly, who’d known Tapking since the late 1960s.
“I’m really sorry; this will be a loss to the community and . . . all of those who knew him like I did are very sad to hear this.
“He had a presence about him—people enjoyed being around John, because he had a good sense of humor. He was always very attentive to folks.
“He had the ability of making sure that when he was talking to you, he was talking to you and not 15 other people. I think that’s a very important and noteworthy trait in a person,” Gallegly said.
Tapking helped form the Conejo Players Theatre, his son said, recalling performances held in school buildings or someone’s garage.
A USC graduate, John Tapking was a lifelong fan of the Trojan football team. For 15 years, he and Jeannine attended nearly every USC game around the country and the world.
His other passions included collecting stamps and model trains and flying private planes.
Tapking admired Ronald Reagan and enjoyed being a volunteer docent at the former president’s Simi Valley library. He was a member of the Thousand Oaks Elks and a volunteer usher at the T.O.’s Civic Arts Plaza.
He was also a proud army veteran of World War II.
“By God, he always made that clear—it was not the army; it was Patton’s army,” Doug Tapking said.
He also remembers a father who was willing to listen.
“I’m amazed at the number of people that will tell me today, ‘Well, he just took me to lunch; we just sat and talked,’” the son said.
In 1998, Jeannine, John Tapking’s wife of 50 years, died of cancer.
He married Tana in 2003.
Tana Tapking said her husband was a man with a strong will. Aware his illness would eventually end his life, he created a “bucket list.” At the top of the list was taking a ride in a glider plane.
She arranged a flight in Santa Ynez Valley. The night before the ride, her husband fell and badly bruised his back. But he insisted he was fine and would proceed with the flight.
“His eyes were never bigger or bluer. . . . He was not going to die until he took that flight.”
Seven days later, the elderly man went to sleep and never awoke.
Doug Tapking and his stepmother agreed that John Tapking was a kind, generous man.
“Anyone he knew, he was there for them,” Tana Tapking said.
Doug Tapking said his father also loved to dance. He could be found twirling his wife on the dance floor even after turning 80 and did so until he became too frail.
Tapking was diagnosed with adult-onset leukemia about 18 months ago. When the doctor told him he had six months to live, he said, “I’m going to fight; I’m not going to die,” according to his son.
“So 18 months later, he was still around kicking,” Doug Tapking said.
But the illness and the chemotheraphy treatments were taking a toll. John Tapking hoped to live into his 90s, like his mother. His great-grandmother lived to be 103.
“He’s got good stock, but I guess . . . the only thing keeping him going after awhile was whole blood (transfusions),” his son said.
In addition to his wife, Tana, and sons, Doug and Bryan, Tapking is survived by his daughters- in law, Karen and Carol; four grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a sister, Joan Peterson.
When asked about his father’s thoughts on the city today, Doug Tapking said, “I think he was pretty happy with it.”