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August 15, 2006 > Irene and Barbara Lesh

Irene and Barbara Lesh

The Lesh family came to the United States from Europe in 1710. Some family members farmed their way west to Nebraska where they also operated a basket factory. Leslie Burns, a Nebraska sheriff, married Clara Koehn and they lived in the county jail residence for a while. Their daughter Irene was born in 1915, and the family moved the basket factory to Idaho in 1935.

Irene played in the civic orchestra and on the radio. She worked at the court house and met Lawrence Lesh at Judge Smith's home. They eventually became engaged. Lawrence came to Livermore to visit his sisters and Irene came to San Francisco to see the World's Fair. They continued their relationship and were married at All Saints Catholic Church in Hayward in 1939. They lived in Livermore where Lawrence opened Lesh Photography Studio. They later moved to Oakland where Lawrence worked in the shipyards. Daughter Barbara was born in 1940 followed by Patricia, Larry Jr., Susan, and Gregory.

Larry moved his family to Irvington to take over the chicken ranch owned by Barbara's godparents, Joe and Molly Maderios. Later he bought their retail business, Trenor Poultry Market. He purchased a lot in Niles on Third Street at the head of Riverside Avenue in 1946 and set about to build a house for his family. His helpers ordered too much cement and he had to call in the neighbors to finish the cement before it hardened. There was so much cement the family dubbed their new home, "the cement house." Irene's parents and all her brothers and sisters lived within a block, creating a family neighborhood. Happily, all siblings are still living.

In 1954 Larry bought the McGinnis farm, established in 1919 as lot No. 1 of the California Nursery. He converted the McGinnis rabbit farm into the Lesh chicken ranch. He raised capons, a favorite roasting chicken that he sold at Trenor Poulty Market in Oakland. He was one of the first poultry men to package his chickens in plastic bags. Barbara helped her dad in the poultry business from age 10 on and had to stand on a box to read the scales. She remembers racing her dad to see who could butcher chickens faster. In 1962, Larry sold his business and went into real estate, graduating from Ohlone College and developing Lesh Home Rentals. Larry became very fluent in the Spanish language. He and Irene spent months each year in every state of Mexico making many friends.

Barbara attended Niles Elementary School where she played the violin. At Washington Union High School she won science awards and also earned a Model United Nations award from the University of California. She graduated in 1958 and began studying nursing. Two years later, she entered the Sisters of the Holy Family at Mission San Jose and served there for seven years taking college courses, doing social work for poor families and teaching children.

Next, Barbara started working for Underwriter's Laboratory as a file clerk and soon became head of the Progress Department. She married John M. Shinn, an electrical engineer and they had two children, Troy Alan, born in 1968 and Johnna, born in 1969. Troy worked in electronic marketing and has returned to school to further his career. Johnna graduated from the University of Santa Barbara and earned a doctorate at U.O.P. in pharmaceutical science and now trains doctors in that field of medicine. She married Alec Cunningham.

Education has been a life long endeavor for Barbara. She studied at several colleges, earned an associate's degree from S.J. City College in 1975 and a bachelor's in management from the University of San Francisco in 1981.

Barbara has enjoyed a varied work career. She taught at a Montessori School in Santa Clara, conducted a rotating school in homes, trained teachers and principals in the state School Improvement Program, operated a graphic business, managed an advertising department for Better Book, was a graphic technician for Hewlett Packard for 10 years and taught art history and arts programs for the City of Fremont. She also published a history of the Lesh family and now operates Lesh Home Rentals.

Barbara still plays classical music and teaches religious education at Corpus Christi Church. She also performs concerts in folk and Irish music. She is a member of the Washington Township Country Club and enjoys neighborhood gatherings.

Irene, now 91 years old, enjoys her family of nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren plus the loving care of her daughter, Barbara.

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