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VENTURA : At 100, Former Principal Takes Life in Stride

Starting to feel the aches and pains of old age creeping up on him, longtime Ventura resident Lee Ogden now swims daily at the Pierpont Inn pool instead of in the ocean.

Exercise is not what it was when Ogden was a mere octogenarian.

The former school principal, who moved to Ventura in about 1931, turns a century old today.

“Well, it’s not much different from being 99,” said the former principal of Ventura Junior High School, now known as Cabrillo Middle School. “But you know, I’m at that stage where it’s all a day-to-day proposition with me now.”

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Ogden grew up in Norfolk, Neb., the son of a building contractor and a homemaker. The town had about 6,000 people at the time, he said. “For Nebraska, that’s a big city.”

After enlisting in the Marines to avoid the World War I draft, Ogden spent a year tending the peace in the Dominican Republic after civil unrest there. When the war ended, Ogden got his degree from a small Nebraska college, married his college sweetheart and took a job as a school superintendent in Nebraska.

Ogden and his wife, Naomi, moved to Glendale in the late 1920s to follow his parents, who had fled west to avoid the cold. “I saw my first orange groves,” he said, flashing a big smile at the memory. “I had always wondered about them. In Nebraska, we only had some apple trees.”

Ogden soon moved to Ventura for a job, and, except for a short stint in Corona in the mid-1930s, he has lived there ever since. The couple had three sons and eight grandchildren.

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Ogden worked in the Ventura schools for 31 consecutive years, first as principal at Ventura Junior High and then, when he was forced to leave in 1951 because of ill health, as an English teacher at the combined high school-junior college. He retired in 1959, then substituted at the high school for 10 more years.

“Oh, he was such a wonderful principal,” said Ventura resident Nancy Gallardo, who attended the junior high in the mid-1940s. “He was always somebody that would talk to you. He seemed to always know everybody by name.”

John Wolfe, who worked as an administrator at the then-separate elementary school district, said Ogden was a popular school official.

“People thought a lot of him, and they have a lot of praise for him,” he said.

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Today, Ogden has outlived his wife, who died of Alzheimer’s disease 12 years ago, his six brothers and sisters and most of his contemporaries. Nowadays, when he goes to church, he doesn’t recognize most of the congregation, he said.

Still, he plans to spend the rest of his days in Ventura--preferably in his hillside home, with a panoramic view of the city and the ocean shore.

“This is my town now,” he said. “It’s a part of me.”


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