Posted by Cathy Gowdy on Friday, April 14, 2006 at 04:59:59 :
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
John Rosekrans, toy executive, Spreckels heir
by Carolyne Zinko, Chronicle Staff Writer
John Newton Rosekrans, a toy executive, philanthropist and an heir to the Spreckels sugar fortune, died of heart failure in Paris on Saturday. He was 73.
Mr. Rosekrans was born in San Francisco on March 27, 1928, the great- grandson of sugar company founder Claus Spreckels.
Mr. Rosekrans attended Lowell High School and Stanford University, where he lettered in football. He was married to Rosemarie Rousseau for six years during the 1950s and had two sons. After a divorce, he married his current wife, Dodie.
After a brief stint as a salesman for Dow Chemicals, Mr. Rosekrans and a friend from the fourth grade, John Bowes, founded Kransco Group Co. in 1963. Its primary product was floating furniture for swimming pools. Over time, the company grew through acquisitions. By 1994, its products included Hula Hoops, Frisbees, battery-powered Power Wheels kiddie cars, Hackey Sacks, Morey Boogie boards and other water sport toys. By that time, both men had reached retirement age and had their eyes on philanthropic activities. That year, they sold the company -- with $175 million in annual revenues -- to Mattel Inc.
Mr. Rosekrans was a fervent rugby fan and player as well as an arts patron.
His grandmother, Alma Spreckels, who shared the same name as his mother, built the Palace of the Legion of Honor and gave it to the city of San Francisco.
Mr. Rosekrans served on the board of trustees of the Legion of Honor, and donated the Rosekrans Court when the museum expanded in 1995. He might have put more of his own stamp on the museum as the driving force and benefactor behind the proposed installation of a giant, steel-plate Richard Serra sculpture out front, but the controversial plan never came to pass.
At a family property in Woodside, Mr. Rosekrans and his second wife founded a large outdoor sculpture farm known as Runnymede. Some of the 140 works of contemporary art are visible from Interstate 280, and the farm has been toured by art collectors from around the world. Only three weeks ago, said a family friend, Mr. Rosekrans was active in buying sculpture for the farm.
Mr. Rosekrans spent much of his time in San Francisco, but also spent portions of the year in Europe with his wife. The couple were popular with the high society set, and had sumptuously decorated homes in Paris and on Venice's Grand Canal.
"They were very devoted to each other, and their art collections were eclectic, amusing and of the moment," said Fine Arts Museums Board President Dede Wilsey. "They were two people enjoying each other and enjoying the moment, and I'm glad they had their moment."
Mr. Rosekrans is survived by his wife, Dodie; two sons, John Rosekrans of Mill Valley, and Peter Rosekrans of Woodside; two stepsons, John Topham and Ned Topham of San Francisco; two brothers, Adolph Rosekrans of Berkeley and Charles Rosekrans of Houston; and four grandchildren. He was the grandfather of the late Jenica Rosekrans.
A private service will be held in Paris today. A private ceremony and burial are to follow in San Francisco, but no date has been set.
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