Earl & Jean Leach Estate

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Jean Leach was an amazing woman who was born in 1934 in Minnesota.  As a young woman, she bravely moved to California with some of her girlfriends, taking a job in the insurance industry in Los Angeles.  Earl Leach made his way to Kern County by train from Oklahoma and began a small construction company.  Jean eventually took a job with Earl’s company and moved to Kern County. The rest, as they say, is history.

Earl and Jean married and lived a quiet, faith-filled life.  Their construction company built a tract of homes in McFarland and they kept some of them as rentals. Over time, they acquired 58 properties in McFarland, Delano, and Bakersfield.

Jean developed very close relationships with her tenants, many of whom were Catholic.  Her tenants who were able to send their children to Garces Memorial High School took great pride in the fact that their children were getting a Catholic education. Jean would see the Garces yellow school bus transport her tenants’ children to and from Garces and it reminded her of how important a Garces education was to the families with whom she had become so close. She heard in her tenants’ voices and saw in their eyes what a Garces education for their children meant to them. When needed, Jean helped pay tuition so those children could stay and graduate from Garces Memorial.

When Jean and Earl sat down to write their trust they wanted to support Catholic education, and more importantly, they wanted to support Garces Memorial specifically. They had seen first-hand the impact on the lives of the children who are able to attain a diploma from Garces.  Those children became Garces alumni with a greater connection to their faith along with an excellent education to open doors for their futures.

Earl passed away in 2002 and Jean took over the business and grew the assets – increasing the number of rentals.  She managed every aspect of the business. She was sharp and exacting with a heart of gold for those who were loyal to her. And she was a devout Catholic. Her intention to leave the estate to Garces never wavered.

In 2011, Gordon Westhoff heard that Jean was leaving her estate to Garces and, as a board member of the Bakersfield Catholic Education Foundation, reached out to Jean. What began as a business relationship grew over eight years into a very special friendship. Jean began to rely on Gordon for advice and support eventually naming Gordon as the successor trustee of her estate. Once named as her successor trustee, Gordon resigned as a board member of the Bakersfield Catholic Education Foundation to remove any conflict of interest. During Jean’s lifetime, Gordon assisted her with her employees, rentals, property management, tenants, and business needs. After Jean’s passing, Gordon became the trustee of the estate and acted as Jean instructed and in accordance with her wishes – allowing tenants to purchase their rentals and working with all her tenants so no one was inappropriately displaced.

Due to Jean and Earl’s generosity, the estate will fund tuition assistance scholarships for Catholic families and will establish an endowment to assist Garces with operating costs.  The estate also funded the remodel of a classroom at Garces into a STEM engineering classroom complete with a robotics stadium. Funds are still coming into the Foundation from the estate and it is anticipated that the estate will close in 2022.