July 9, 2013 > Viola Odell
April 25, 1921 - July 2, 2013
From Snelling to Manhattan, from KYOS Radio in Merced to the Voice of America in New York City, from the Nile to the Hollywood Hills, Viola Bessie Geary Odell was on a lifelong quest to learn and inspire others until her death at the age of 92.
A third generation Californian whose ancestors were early California pioneers, Viola was born on April 25, 1921, in Merced, California, to James Aloysius Geary and Bessie Alma Halverson Geary of Snelling, California. She was raised on her family's ranch in Snelling with her half-brother, Victor James Geary, near the ranch of her grandparents, John and Sarah Halverson.
In 1941, at age 20, Viola began working at KYOS Radio in Merced and at KHSL radio in Chico as Program Director, Traffic Manager and Broadcaster. She moved to San Francisco to become a radio time buyer; when WWII broke out, she moved to New York City to work for the Voice of America. At the VOA Viola broadcast war information over the world's largest master radio control switch and worked nights as a Hostess at the famous Stage Door Canteen in Manhattan, greeting over 2,000 soldiers each night. She buoyed the spirits of GIs with good conversation and many a jitterbug and conga line as celebrities such as Bing Crosby took the stage nightly.
Viola returned to California after the war, where she comforted wounded soldiers at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco as a Grey Lady for the Red Cross.
She married Robert Leslie Odell on June 19, 1948 in San Francisco and the couple made their home in Merced where she managed her husband's business, Mid-Valley Wholesale Grocers. During their marriage, Viola helped raise Robert's daughter, Sharon Vita Marshak, (newspaper owner, residing in Fremont, California). Robert and Viola had four children during their marriage: Christine Margaret Murphy (business consultant), William Geary Odell (scientific instruments engineer), Leslie Lynn Macchiarella (attorney), Mark James Odell (architect), all now residing in Los Angeles. She was also active in the Merced community, including service as president of the Merced Soroptomist Club.
After divorce in 1964, Viola moved with her children to the Bay Area to become the first woman salesperson for Rykoff Foods. She then went back to school to begin a new career as a real estate broker. In 1976, she and her business partner built and began operating the largest residential facility for the elderly in Northern California, The Ashley Place, in Lodi, California.
As a lifelong student, Viola traveled the world with the National Historic Preservation Trust, including trips to England, Ireland, Turkey and Egypt. She traveled the Nile River, climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid of Giza and rode a Camel in the desert of Egypt. She attended courses at Cornell, Stanford and Oxford.
In 2009, Viola moved to Los Angeles and devoted her attention to writing books, including: "Western Skies and Apple Pie", "While Wandering: A Photo-Poetic Journey Through California Landscapes", "Alive and Kicking", "Buying Time" and "Flight of the Golden Zepher." Viola had six grandchildren: John Wesley Albritton IV of Irvine, Carey Scott Albritton (deceased, of Texas), Carmel Helene Gaddis, of Los Angeles, Lindsey Strickland Macchiarella of Florida, Julie V. Macchiarella, of Los Angeles and Michelangelo Macchiarella of Berkeley. She also leaves one great-grandchild, Cole Nicholas Gaddis.
Viola passed peacefully at the age of 92 in her home in the Hollywood Hills with all her children at her side. Services will be held at the IOOF Rebekah Novara Lodge Snelling on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 11 a.m. with internment at the Snelling Pioneer Cemetery at 12 noon followed by fellowship reception at the family river house on Lewis Street. All friends and family are invited to attend.