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San Clemente Journal

The Rohans, Building a Legacy

Aug 23, 2019 01:44PM ● By Anne Batty

John & Sally at their home at Capo Beach Cottages.

by Anne Batty

When John and Sally Rohan - owners of Rohan and Sons Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. - met at ages 16 and 14, married at 19 and 17, and began raising their family, they had no idea they were building a legacy.

But build one they did … one laid upon the foundation of an entrepreneurial family business begun in Bellaire, OH in the early 1900s when John’s maternal grandfather, Leo Glaser, began delivering groceries in a horse-drawn wagon. And it would be that meager beginning that would spawn a legacy that today includes a myriad of Rohan family businesses operating today in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and San Francisco Counties.

Journey to a Legacy
During the time Leo Glaser’s grocery business was growing, Leo’s daughter Eleanor met and married Michael Rohan. Upon being introduced to her brother, Ed Glaser (who was in the refrigeration business), Michael was given the opportunity to partner with him. 
That lasted for a few years until 1920 when Michael, seeking a better life for his growing family, decided to relocate to California and take a position as foreman for the Frigidaire Corporation in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t long before he became discontent working for others, and asking his father-in-law, Leo, to be his secretary he opened his own refrigeration company in downtown LA.
Meanwhile, Michael and Eleanor found themselves parenting five sons, Bob, Billy, John, Tom and Michael. As the five sons grew, the business grew, and the company phased from a refrigeration only business to include air conditioning and eventually heating. Taking the name RESSAC (Refrigeration Sales Service and Air Conditioning), in the 1950s they relocated to Glendale, CA. Once the business was well established in Glendale; as the five Rohan sons reached teenage they all began working in the business. Starting in maintenance, graduating to service, and eventually into business operations, they learned the ropes from the ground up.

 Living, Working and Playing Together
Desiring to keep the family close, Michael and Eleanor Rohan purchased a large acreage in La Crescenta, CA. They divided the property into plots upon which each of the boys could build a home. And as each son married and began raising families of their own, they built and moved their families onto what soon became known as the Rohan Family Compound. 

“It was a place where the 18 cousins all grew up, roaming in and out of each other’s homes, and playing throughout the property,” Sally Rohan shared. “We all have many fond memories of those times together, some good, some not so good,” she chuckled. And as the Rohan cousins grew and graduated high school and college, many of them also opted to work in the family business.
As time passed, RESSAC Glendale continued flourishing. Today only two of the five Rohan brothers are living, Bob and John. Bob and his wife Darlene, in their 80s, continue going into the Glendale office daily. But in the mid ‘70s John, became restless. Deciding it was time to branch out on his own, he and his wife Sally moved the family to a home on the river in Parker, AZ in 1973. Once there they established Rohan and Sons Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc.
During the Rohan’s time in AZ, in 1975 their close friends the Battys moved to San Clemente, CA. And after a few visits to their home, in 1976 John and Sally decided to relocate their family and their business to the Spanish Village by the Sea.

“In order for the children to get settled quickly we wanted them to start school on time so we asked our friends, the Battys, if our children could stay with them for a month until we moved into town,” John and Sally shared. “Our good friends cared for our five, as well as their own for a month. The kids had a great time sleeping all over the house and going to school together. But of course Todd, our youngest, broke his shoulder while skateboarding down their hill so he eventually had to come back and stay with us until we moved. Our two families remain very close and our children are like cousins to this day.”

As the five Rohan children, Mark, Kelly Jamie, Dean and Todd grew up and graduated they each began working at Rohan and Sons part-time, and once married many of their spouses and children began working for the business as well. (Kelly’s husband Tom Medina is still onboard).
But like those before them, it didn’t take long before the entrepreneurial bug bit the younger Rohans once again. One by one the siblings, although still very connected to the family business, have sought businesses of their own. Mark opened his own Heating and Air Co. entitled JMR. Kelly opened a beauty salon, Jamie established a Montessori pre-school in her home, Dean chose to remain at Rohan and Sons, recently becoming CEO, and the youngest of the group, Todd, formed Rohan Cooling and Heating Co.

The Couple Behind the Legacy
Patriarch/Matriarch, John and Sally Rohan, have been together for 65 years, married for 62. They met at the Indian Springs swimming pool in Montrose, CA. 

“It was love at first sight,” John explained, “I wanted to get married right away but Sally said she had to finish high school first.” 

Before marriage, John Rohan spent his boyhood years on the Hollywood scene. At six years of age he auditioned and was accepted into the World Renown Mitchell Boy’s Choir appearing in two movies with Bing Crosby, The Bells of St. Mary’s and Going My Way. After being recommended to a private singing coach by Choir Director Bob Mitchell, he dropped out of the choir. Winning 1st Prize on the Hollywood Opportunities show, he gained a part on KTLA’s children’s program, Sandy’s Dreams, working with stars Richard Beymer, Jill St. John, Joan Freeman and Lee and Dee Aaker. He remained on that show for four and a half years. From there he went on to make commercials with Hopalong Cassidy, appearances with Debbie Reynolds and Dennis Day, and movies with Bobby Driscoll.

“I ended my Hollywood days when I fell in love with Sally,” he said, “It was time to move on to marriage and a more normal career.”

Growing up Catholic, John attended elementary school at St. Anselm in Inglewood, CA. Co-incidentally Msgr. Anthony (Tony) McGowan - former Pastor at Our Lady of Fatima Church here in town - was ministering at St. Anselm church and school at that time. So it was a complete surprise when John, attending Mass at Fatima one Sunday morning, encountered his former pastor after the service.

“It had been over 40 years since Msgr. McGowan had seen me, and I was blown away that he immediately recognized me and remembered who I was,” John exclaimed.
Although just entering into their 80’s, in semi-retirement the couple still comes into the office at least three times weekly. Otherwise they spend their time with family, friends, and traveling between their homes in San Clemente at the Capo Beach Cottages, Rancho Mirage, and Parker, AZ. 

The word legacy is defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor. From meager beginnings in a horse-drawn wagon to numerous family businesses, the transmitting of a legacy seems applicable to the Rohan family. And with 16 grandkids, four great grand kids and the hint of more to come, it isn’t likely the end to their legacy will be coming anytime soon.

Editor Anne Batty and husband Bob and the Rohan family have been close friends raising their families at St. James Catholic Church/School, La Crescenta, CA, and in San Clemente, CA, respectively, since 1963 . John’s brother Bob and sister-in-law Darlene are God-parents to the Batty’s youngest son Bobby.