Local Family Shares Long History In Community
(Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a special feature focusing on the Bianchi-Giovannoni family and its history in Oakdale; information was provided to The Leader and is drawn from the memories of some family members. It is not designed to serve as a full family tree or official historical record.)
In 1928 LeRoy Giovannoni was born in his parent’s home on G Street in Oakdale and is still with us, at 90 years old, today.
While Dena (Bianchi) Giovannoni was running concessions at Oakdale’s public pool during World War II, her son LeRoy helped to manage it – and that’s just one of his many contributions to the Oakdale community. While his mother was the “adult” at the pool, LeRoy worked hard to maintain the pool as well as serve as a lifeguard.
“They didn’t have filters on the pool, so they would have to drain it every three days and rinse and scrub it, and he’d take that water and irrigate the park,” Lindy Giovannoni relayed of young LeRoy. “But he’d have to do it at night because the water pressure would drop. They were afraid if there was a fire, they wouldn’t have sufficient pressure to put the fire out in time, so he would stay up all night, filling the pool.”
But that wasn’t where his water involvement ended. His son, Kirt Giovannoni, explained that “he was a diver, and he dived for the University of the Pacific.”
Around that same time, he was also one of the youngest men, at 16 years old, to obtain his pilot’s license. He was also attending Oakdale High School, where he excelled in sports.
In 1947, LeRoy graduated from OHS with a football scholarship to St. Mary’s College. However, after the football program was dropped, he made his way to Stockton College to play. After that, he graduated from UOP, altogether earning an A.A., B.A., and M.A. with a teaching credential and was on the diving and water polo teams. According to a 1989 Sports Hall of Fame article, he was “pulled into the Navy right out of college and played for the Naval Training Center in San Diego, where he was also a member of the boxing team.”
He then returned to Oakdale and was married in 1954, where he began to start his family in Oakdale.
He went on to be President of the Oakdale Sportsman’s Club, and was involved in the Oakdale Dinner Club, and Oakdale Boat Club similarly as well. According to his family’s records, he taught at Modesto High School as well as MJC.
His son, Kirt Giovannoni, followed in his footsteps, growing up to become both an athlete and teacher, but Kirt found himself heavily involved in the arts as well. He continued the Oakdale streak, getting his education locally, going to college for sports (football, track, and weightlifting), and returning back to Oakdale.
LeRoy and Kirt were inducted into the 1989 Sports Hall of Fame along with Gary and Ross Giovannoni – all part of the same family.
Kirt spent time as an art teacher and track and football coach at Manteca High School, with his wife Lindy filling in the blanks regarding some of the awards and accolades he received over the years.
In 1996, Manteca High School had a graffiti problem. However, Kirt had a solution: he and his students started the Mural Museum. Students pick pieces from various artists and create their own versions on the walls of the high school, not only did this give them a sense of pride from their own work, but it drastically improved the appearance of the high school.
This led to Kirt being the California State Lottery Hero in Education, American Profile Magazine Hometown Hero, American Profile’s Master of the Murals, News 10’s Teacher of the Year, and a Good Morning America guest speaker on the importance of art in education. All this information was gathered and recorded by Lindy.
Their daughter, Katey Giovannoni, continued the Oakdale streak: she was born in Oakdale, went to Oakdale schools throughout her academic career, and was involved with Oakdale sports, and even received the special Golden Block ‘O’ award upon graduating. The award, Lindy explained, is an award the staff votes on, and goes to “the student who gives back the most to their class and community.”
Currently, Katey is known “throughout the nation in the cheer industry,” reported Lindy. “And as a professional choreographer, Katey has over three hundred national and regional first place titles.”
Even in junior high, she was actively involved in cheer, as part of the OJHS national champion cheer squad.
She and her husband, Bryan Choate, are now residing in Oakdale, where they’ve decided to raise their family.
“Knowing the talent Oakdale possesses in its youth, Katey decided to give back to her community,” Lindy went on to share. “She is currently the trainer and choreographer for Oakdale Junior High, Oakdale High School, and Oakdale Stampede Youth League.”
The decision to come back to Oakdale means that her twin boys, Max and Miles, can now complete the seventh generation of Bianchi blood in Oakdale. While it may have been difficult to predict such a diverse path for seven generations, the dedication to Oakdale and its community is easy to see.
Something about the rolling hills and distant mountains reminded Fiore Bianchi of his home in San Ginese, so he established a ranch and brought his family to a “home away from home,” thousands of miles from Italy. And here they’ve stayed, not just as Oakdale residents, but as prominent members of the community and local change-makers.
Max and Miles Choate may not carry the Bianchi name, but they do share in the legacy that family members hope continues the line of athletes, leaders, and Oakdale blood.
Pictured are the fourth and seventh generation of the Bianchi line. Though surnames have changed, LeRoy Giovannoni proudly holds the Choate twins, Max and Miles, in not only his arms, but also within his family’s legacy.
“LeRoy proudly tells me that he and his bride, Norma Russell, were the first couple to be married in the new (St. Mary’s Catholic Church) on the corner of Olive Street and North Oak Avenue, where it stands today,” Lindy Giovannoni shared. “I can’t verify that as fact but LeRoy swears it to be true as did his wife Norma. She was very proud of that.”
Pictured is Kirt Giovannoni with one of his students, as they help develop the Manteca Mural that will stand proudly for years to come.