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Charles Wister Groff

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Charles Wister Groff (May 14, 1898 – October 25, 1987) was a renowned southern California real estate developer and philanthropist.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Groff was the son of Swiss-American landowner and philanthropist Ulysses Grant Groff and Julia Page Quick (the daughter of Anglican Bishop of Philadelphia, Charles W. Quick). He grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts and upon serving a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy during the First World War aboard the USS Constellation, he migrated slowly westward doing odd-jobs until reaching Los Angeles, California where he met his wife-to-be Virgie Ann McKouwn. They were married at Crown Point, Illinois on March 21, 1921.

The family struggled through the Great Depression with two daughters and many family members living within the immediate vicinity and requiring assistance from time to time. It was only during the mid-1940s, after having taken a contractor's exam and received a license, that Groff became an increasingly successful entrepreneur in the building industry.

By the mid-1950s, his company had built substantial tracts of the cities of Pomona, Los Angeles and Costa Mesa, California. While being noted for quality, long-lasting work and exceptionally economic use of resources, Groff was unusually popular and liked amongst his hired workers and subordinates. This led to a street in the city of Pomona (Groff Street) being named in his honor in 1954. Another street in Costa Mesa, Charlie Street, is also said to have been named in his honor.

By the mid-1960s, he had acquired substantial landholdings and financial resources, and chose to retire and dedicate much of his time to philanthropic causes, including programs to support cultural literacy and learning. Groff was also a financial contributor to the Republican Party and an honored veteran member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Association.

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  • The McKouwn Almanac. Sept McKouwn. Dublin. 2005. (National Library of Ireland)

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