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December 9, 2009 > History: Maurice Marks - Always There

History: Maurice Marks - Always There

Fremont was fortunate to have a number of individuals who had the vision, integrity and leadership skills needed to make Fremont the great city it is today. Maurice Marks was one of those individuals. Born in San Francisco on July 29, 1895, his family moved across the bay to the Fruitvale area where Maurice played in the hills and attended school. After graduating from Fremont High School in Oakland, he attended the University of California for two years and then served in the United States Navy during World War I.

Maurice married Emma Lesoine in 1925. Her folks were prominent professional and banking people. Maurice became an independent insurance agent, a calling he followed even in his retirement years.

Emma and Maurice bought 21 acres along Palm Avenue and moved to Fremont in 1946. The property contained prune and apricot orchards; Maurice settled down to build a home and raise fruit. He recalled that he was "just minding his own business" when two fellows stopped by and invited him to a meeting. He claimed he didn't want to get involved, but he came away from the meeting as the first president of the Mission San Jose Chamber of Commerce. This position led to his presidency of the Washington Township Chamber of Commerce, local leader for the Centennial Celebration, and involvement with attempts to incorporate the villages in Washington Township.

The first concrete movements to incorporate the entire township were in 1952. Maurice was asked to be chairman of the nomenclature committee. His committee favored the name Mission Valley for the new city but he did not object to the name "Fremont" as he had graduated from Fremont High School in Oakland.

After incorporation, he was appointed to the first City Beautiful Committee and credited with promoting sign control; he began a campaign for good roads, clean streets, and beautiful parks. Maurice and Emma Marks suggested in 1961 that the Fremontia be chosen as the city's flower. Named for John C. Fremont and with five petals representing Fremont's five districts, it was a perfect choice.

Maurice maintained a life-long preoccupation with Fremont institutions and policies and often spoke on issues of interest. His insight and understanding were not always appreciated or recognized by others. During the battle over the location for the Fremont Civic Center he remarked, "The lagoon will be a flood-control project, the civic center will be on the knolls and the land in between will be a park." History proved him right.

Maurice Marks, representing Mission San Jose Chamber of Commerce, in 1956 gave the welcome address at the first meeting of the Fremont City Council in the former Mission San Jose School which served as Fremont's first City Hall.

That year he was a leader in the effort to get better phone service for the south county. The popular Oliver 6 exchange was also known as South Washington which confused residents who were trying to get it changed to Fremont or South Fremont. A resident of Blossom Drive, Maurice fought for the first water pipe down this street and even got a fire hydrant in front of his house!

Maurice was a life-long Rotary Club member. When the Fremont Rotary was formed in 1962, he left the Niles Club to become the charter president of the new organization. He rode BART from Oakland to his last Rotary meeting a couple months before he died. He was a 50-year Mason, a member of the American Legion and served the Chamber of Commerce. He also supported the Boy Scouts, Congregational Church and other worthy causes.

His honesty and integrity sometimes cost him dearly. He once opposed a plan so vigorously that a man cancelled his insurance policies. Maurice was described as tireless, energetic, honest, and a man of vision who always told you what was on his mind. Upon returning from a Rotary meeting in Havana, he once said, "The best thing about it was neither I nor the Mrs. understood a word of it."

He served on the school district Citizen Advisory Committee and helped plan Mission High School on Palm Avenue near his home. He was proud of the school but unhappy with the tidiness of the grounds at times. He was chosen "Citizen of the Week" while he was a trustee of the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District and was selected to serve on the County Grand Jury in 1972.

By 1973, the Marks' estate had shrunk to half an acre in a suburban neighborhood and Maurice and Emma were traveling often. He was an avid photographer who always took his Leica with him and shared his photos with many. Maurice taped a series of interviews with local residents which he called "pieces of the past," to help provide a record of Fremont's history.

Friends threw a party at the Castlewood Country Club for Maurice's 80th birthday. It was such a great party with so many eulogizing speeches that when he died in 1982, Emma said, "We thought the party held for him would always be the best memorial a man could have." The inscription on the plaque they gave him at the party read, "Citizen Marks--Always there."

The Fremont Main Library dedicated the Maurice Marks Center for Local and California History in his honor April 17, 1991. The dedication plaque reads, "Maurice Marks, one of Fremont's founding fathers, devoted countless hours to building and supporting community organizations and services. He was a timeless and energetic man--a man of vision--a light hearted yet profoundly honest man who always told you what was on his mind. He was an effective advocate of local schools, of business and of the environment and heritage of our community."

"Citizen Marks" lived up to his favorite slogan, "Fremont First." He showed us that what we do today makes the community of tomorrow. We are indeed indebted to him. The book, The First Thirty Years, was dedicated to Mark's memory - a fitting tribute to a man who contributed so much in those early years.

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