Lo­cal Fam­ily Shares Long His­tory In Com­mu­nity

The Oakdale Leader - - NEWS - By AU­TUMN NEAL Leader Cor­re­spon­dent

(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.

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