John Hiram Bolinger was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on March 4th, 1926. When John was about six months old, the Bolingers left the Dust Bowl for better opportunities in Southern California. The family took up residence in La Jolla, where his father established and ran a neighborhood grocery store known as John’s Market. John grew up in the seaside town with his younger sister, Marjorie, and received his formal education there as well as learning about the grocery business from his father.
After grammar school, John attended Brown Military Academy in Pacific Beach for several years, but later transferred to La Jolla High School to complete his secondary education. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Army, and was deployed to the German Front, where he fought until the end of World War II. After he returned stateside, John moved to Tucson, where he attended the University of Arizona on the GI Bill, and graduated with a degree in Business. It was during his college years that John met and proposed to Patricia Anne Pultz. A native of Tucson, Patricia followed John back home to La Jolla in 1949, and married him in September.
Once he was back home again in La Jolla, John worked at the family market to help with the business, but too soon, that chapter in his life was cut short with the sudden death of his father in December, 1950. At the very same time, the birth of his first daughter, Leslie Anne, also sparked dramatic change, as John soon moved his budding family out of their tiny apartment on the coast into a small inland home he purchased in the College Area. Not long afterward, he formed a business partnership with his childhood friend, Gilio Mattera, and they opened a neighborhood market together on Menlo Avenue in San Diego, naming it Menlo Farms. The original store was so successful that they were able to rapidly expand their retail business venture to include three additional locations. Within five years, John was able to purchase a larger home near San Diego State University to accommodate his growing family of wife and three daughters.
The advent of the supermarket concept prompted the partners to merge their stores with the Big Bear Supermarket chain in the mid 1960’s, where John supervised all of the meat departments within the 33 stores, and Gilio headed up Grocery. Eventually, the two friends grew disenchanted with the corporate model and left the chain for another small business venture together. Around 1983, John took his life’s savings, previously earmarked for retirement, and matched Gilio’s funds in order to build a beautiful gourmet grocery store in El Cajon, California named Harvest Ranch. Their new market opened in 1984, and was so popular that over the next 10 years, two more stores followed; one near La Jolla, and the other close by Encinitas.
During their 20 plus years spent working together in the business, and after their retirement, both John and Patty Bolinger enjoyed playing golf and traveling the world together. They were also avid fans of the San Diego Chargers and the Padres, and rarely missed any games. After 71 years of marriage, John’s wife Patty, mother of his four children, passed away in October of 2020. With the love and support of his two local daughters, John lived on for several more years, enjoying many types of broadcast sports, and almost never missing a Padre Game.
John is survived by his three daughters, Leslie, Susan, and Elizabeth, her husband, Kevin Forrey, and their sole daughter, Shannon. John was predeceased by his only son, Michael, his sister, Marjorie, and wife, Patricia.
John Bolinger will be buried with military honors at Rosecrans National Cemetery on August 7th.