Lester Stuart Hannibal, 1906-2001
Lester Stuart Hannibal, the grandson of two Gold Rush pioneers, was born on May
14, 1906, on a farm in Alviso, California about one month after the great 1906
San Francisco Earthquake. His parents, William and Georgia Briggs Hannibal,
raised apples and other crops to sell in the San Jose area. Lester had an older
brother, Harold, a sister Edna, and a younger brother Arthur. The family stayed on
the farm on Montague Road near the Guadalupe River until 1917 when his parents
sold the farm and moved to Burlingame, California for one year and then returned
to live in San Jose.
Lester's father, William Hannibal, had lost one arm in a hunting accident before Les was born, but it did not hinder him from driving and working on the farm and later in real estate. The family took many trips throughout California and Oregon. Harold and Edna were much older than Les and both attended Stanford University. Harold specialized in geology and studied fresh water mollusks. He found a new species of fresh water clam, which was named for him. Edna studied biological science and received a Masters in Zoology. She taught biology for several years and then worked in pathology. Arthur became an accountant.
Lester like his grandfather, D. D. Briggs, a pioneer who helped build a toll road to Santa Cruz, which later became Highway 17, had a natural ken to build things. As a boy, he built devices with an erector set, dry cells, induction coils, and a hand full of bell wire. He worked on ranches and farms during the summer picking apples and other fruits, and used his hard earned cash to buy radio parts during the winter. His interest started some five years before radio broadcasting caught on with the public, so he wound his own parts and bought tubes or other key items at Prof. Herald's local laboratory and radio station. In those near static free days it was a common occurrence to pick up Denver or Calgary on a crystal set. Les tried every circuit which was published. Building these sets was excellent basic training in electronics, which became a lifetime interest for Les.
Eventually, Les graduated from the San Jose school system, attended San Jose State, and transferred to Stanford University where he received a BA in Science in 1930 and a MA in Science and engineering in 1932. Due to the Depression, it took Les two years to find permanent work at the Union Oil refinery. While there he married Grace Ruhlen in 1934. Later, he obtained a placement with the Shell Chemical Company in Pittsburg, California, and worked with ammonia fertilizer and other products for 15 years. He moved his growing family of three daughters, Carol, Janice, and Dorothy, to Concord and later to Pleasant Hill.
In 1936 Les obtained a few daffodils as well as some of his father's Hippeastrum bulbs. He traveled extensively while working for Shell and visited nurseries in Oxnard and Santa Barbara where he literally fell for the amaryllis hybrids there and obtained samples. From these bulbs he began collecting, raising, and hybridizing amaryllis and crinum lilies. He also became active in the Amaryllis Society. He published many articles about amaryllis and crinum and was awarded the Herbert Medal by the International Bulb society. He became a member of the Sigma XI Research Society.
In 1950, Les took a job with the State of California as a Mechanical engineer, and moved to Fair Oaks. While working for the Department of Public Works Les analyzed the safety of all state buildings, many which were in poor repair. Later he transferred to the Highway Department where he worked in the Highway Research Laboratory. He retired in 1970, and enjoyed his flower and model train hobbies. Grace died on June 10, 2001 at the age of 90. Les developed non Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1998 and died of pneumonia on October 10, 2001.
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