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John Kenneth Alkema

John Alkema, 75
John Kenneth Alkema, of San Clemente, California, died peacefully at his home on March 29, 2020 after a two‐year fight against pancreatic cancer. John was born in Glendale, California on April 20, 1944 to Richard and Janet Alkema, the middle of three sons. He spent his early life in the Cypress Park area of Los Angeles prior to moving to Monterey Park in the early 1950s. He attended Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra and graduated in 1961. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served his country in the Vietnam War. Afterward, he served in the U.S. Army Reserves and received an honorable discharge in 1969.

In 1967, John began his firefighting career with the Covina Fire Department. In 1969, he transitioned to the Los Angeles County Fire Department as a firefighter at Station 3 in East Los Angeles. John worked at stations all across the county, most notably Station 16 in Watts, Station 8 in West Hollywood, and Station 30 in Cerritos. He rose through the ranks over his 37‐year career. His final position was Assistant Fire Chief for Division 1, serving the communities of Carson, Gardena, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Lomita, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates and Catalina Island.

A second career as a paralegal began immediately following his retirement from the fire department. For eleven years John was a part time member of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County team providing free legal services to the community.

John’s sense of adventure was not limited to his work life. In his early years, he was captivated by surfing and moved to San Clemente in 1971 to be closer to T‐Street and San Onofre. He traveled extensively through the four major continents by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, and car. His most notable adventures include the Royal Road in Brazil, the ALCAN 5000, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), and the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage.

Habitat for Humanity was a perfect blend of service and adventure for John. In his post retirement years he participated in HFH projects locally, nationally, and internationally. Within the organization he served as a group leader in the Global Village Program having either participated in or lead groups in Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Boliva, Costa Rica, and most notably the Jimmy Carter build in Vietnam.

John loved to play soccer and was part of a men’s pick up league (FOBD) in Laguna Beach for decades. For 40 years he could be found many a Saturday morning on the San Clemente soccer fields as an AYSO volunteer referee. He was also a dedicated fan of Team USA during the Men’s and Women’s World Cup events.

John is survived by the following: his wife, Linda Verraster and daughter, Gina; his former wife, Cody Chaplin, son, Paul, and daughter, Gretchen; and his younger brother, David, sister‐in‐law Patty, and their daughters, Corinne and Nikki‐Rae. His parents and older brother, Richard, predeceased him.
A memorial gathering will be scheduled later in the year. Donations may be made in his honor to the American Cancer Society.

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comments (22)

  • Although, I didn’t get the chance to see John that often when I did he was so sweet. My fondest memory of him was at John and Linda’s shared birthday party dancing with John and my husband at the same time. We were cracking up so hard. I admire all the time John put into his volunteer work. He lived a full and beautiful life!

  • We are so sorry for you all. John was such an extraordinary person. He really did it all and lived life to the max. He was a great brother-in-law to Jim and me and a fun uncle for Lindsay and Jillian. We have so many great memories of family gatherings and wonderful trips spent together. He will be greatly missed. Love, Jim and Lynn

  • It was a great privilege for me to be one of John’s many friends. He had an outgoing personality that everyone was instantly attracted to, and he had a large following. But, when you were with John, you were his best friend.
    John and I met at Sunday afternoon pickup soccer games in San Clemente about 20 years ago. John often played goal keeper. He sometimes paid a local high school goal keeper to train him during the week. He did this not because he was competitive, but If he did something, then he wanted to do it well. For most of 10 years, John and I carpooled to Sunday morning games in Laguna Beach. When he was in town, he rarely missed a chance to play.
    John preferred not to dwell on the negative side of anything. When we were driving somewhere, and something was bothering either of us, we were allowed about 15 seconds to complain, and then John would change the subject. Usually it was planning another trip. He often used line “We are lucky bastards”, to remind us that we have many good things to be thankful for, and that none of it is of our own doing. Although he was too humble to acknowledge it, John did create his own positive environment.
    John introduced me to the world of off road driving and desert camping. He used to arrange trips with several of us off road newbies, and we would usually take his pickup and jeep. If he was concerned that one of us would damage his vehicles, it never showed. He spent a lot of time in the passenger seat, now and then offering a quiet bit of advice, and making sure that everyone had a chance to drive on the roughest parts of the trip. He was happiest when everyone else was enjoying themselves.
    I am grateful for the time we spent together. My life is richer for having known John.

  • John packed many lifetimes into his “dash”…that man knew how to live life to the fullest!! A truly kind and generous soul – gone from this earth too soon, but not without leaving his mark on all those who knew and loved him. My deepest condolences to his family. He is already missed. Rest in peace John.

  • A giant walked among us motivated by service, love and joy in life – he always made me want to aspire to be a better me – or at least get out more! He never suffered fools and my first introduction to John was him taking to task a less than stellar elected, and I wanted to be in his sphere ever since (though I’m grateful he never got too vexed with me too 😅❤️). We have all lost in his passing, but what joy remains in the memories he created. I’m so sorry Linda for your loss, but thank you for taking such incredible care of John giving us all extra time to laugh, hug and lament fools. Cheers to John Alkema for living and leading the good life – hugs to whole family.

  • Fernanda Regalado Reply

    I was lucky enough to work with John for 10 years at Legal Aid and got a chance to see what a great man he was. Always had a smile and wonderful stories to tell. John loved helping our client’s he was our #1 advocate always came in with a smile saying Good Morning to everyone . Everyone knew when John was scheduled to work because he came in with the most yummy muffins made by his wife Linda ( my favorite banana nut) and he knew it always put one aside for me. such a humble loving person. I will miss him dearly and wanted to extend my sympathies to Linda, Gina and the family. The Hotline will always miss you

  • John was an amazing man and a true character. His work at Legal Aid was something to behold. Every client who called and spoke with John met a man with a keen ear, kind heart, and the ability to deliver advice, no matter how heartbreaking, with an empathy very few people possess. John carried such a sense of service to the community. He considered it his duty to help others and executed it to the fullest extent of his ability.

    Some evenings after a hard day on the phones, John would stick around just to listen to stories while telling very few of his own. He reacted to our stories like they were the most important and amazing events. That’s what I will miss most about John, he believed every person mattered and made them feel it. His ability to connect with people and make them feel needed, loved, and important is something I cherished working with him, and will do my best to emulate in his honor.

    To Linda, Nikki-Rae, and all his family, John’s warmth, kindest, and humor will be forever missed and fondly remembered.


  • A wonderful man, an adventurer, a do-gooder, a mensch!

  • It was always a pleasure to share shifts with John on the Legal Aid hotline. Sure the muffins were good, but he was just a nice guy and graced with a good and kind perspective. John was a rare one and I am sad to learn of his passing. I hope his family is comforted by his memory.

  • John was an amazing person. He was there to help anyone that needed some encouragement in life. My daughter Jasmin was going to graduate from high school; I was talking about it and that she was attending Fresno State when he stopped me in the hallway at Legal Aid Society and stated, “Yolanda I’m so happy you are raising beautiful girls and that’s because of your commitment to be there as mother and father. If you need any help to pay for your daughters books or anything let me know and I will help you just let me know and he reinforced it again.” I told him yes John, if a need help I will let you know. On graduation week he gave Jasmin a gift card to bed bath and beyond. Every time we meet in the break room he wanted an update of how she was doing. That’s the kind of person John was. I called him just to see how he was doing and he turned the call back to tell me he doing find. One thing that I have on my Possession is his 1995 Toyota Avalon that he sold to me 11 years ago and still running. From the Bautista family my condolence to Linda, Gina, Nikki, and the family. You will be missed
    , Gina, and the family

  • My condolences to Linda, Paul, Gretchen, and the rest of John’s family. John was a fantastic neighbor for what has been 50+ years. He was always so kind to the neighborhood kids, and we gave him plenty reason to act otherwise. His warm smile and never-an-axe-to-grind attitude has left an indelible impression on me. I will forever remember and hold dear in my memory seeing John walking down Ave. Cordoba with beach chair, boogie board, and swim fins in hand headed down to T-Street to catch a few waves. RIP, Mr. Alkema.❤🙏

  • My Dear Friend-
    Our saddest condolences from our family. My fondest memories are of your smiles and laughter every time i saw both of you dancing at the parties and whenever you were talking about him at the station. I’ve known you since the first day you got to the OCFA and am so blessed to call you a “dear friend”, Linda. Prayers and love to you.

  • Linda, so sad to hear of the news about John. Even though I did not know him It sounds like he had a very full life, to the point were it makes me feel like a loser. I know he will be missed by you and all that were and are close to him. My prayer for you is that God comforts your heart and the hearts of all grieving his death and to know that Jesus is the key to Gods promise to all. I miss seeing you around the department. Hope you and your family are all well. Take care.

  • Matías López Sancho Reply

    Well, what can I say. In moments like these words are probably not the best way to express the feelings that I have inside (but I´ll try to do my best). I first met John while working at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County hotline. He usually sat in the cubicle right next to me, so that gave me the opportunity to hear him dealing with clients, which was an amazing way to learn what is the right way to help and to treat people (yes: there´s a right and a wrong way to treat people -not all things are relative in life- and John was off the charts on the right side:)

    The more you got to know him (even though I´m fully aware I only scratched the surface) the more you had the chance of realizing how truly humble he was, especially considering he might have had a million (I don´t think I exaggerate a bit) reasons to talk about how many things he knew and he had done throughout his life (and you would only get to know those things either via third parties or -very seldomly- when you initiated a conversation which triggered his willingness to share them with you -most of the times they were accompanied with a reflection, so the story was just a vehicle to teach you something-).

    I know there are many things I haven´t had the chance to learn about him. But I also know I´ve learnt and experienced the most important one of all: kindness and empathy.

    Thank you John (and I´ll see you in eternity 🙂

  • Every year I would attend the annual Christmas party with my wife and in-laws, the Turneys, and John would make it a point to find and greet everyone at the party. Opening his home to the neighborhood and doing so in such a way that was so loving and genuine. I will never forget one time in particular where I was carrying my son who was at the time probably a couple of months old and John saw me walking around with him and was just doting on my son. I could tell that he was thinking about his children when they were little and it was neat to see that. I loved how Linda and John would always be so welcoming of us. John will be missed but never forgotten.

  • I had the privilege of working with John for more than 10 years at Legal Aid. He would come to the office once a week and talk to clients all day. Sometimes I used to just sit a listen to him talk with a client and I would wonder if that client understood just how fortunate they were to be talking to John. He would listen to everything the client said. He did not rush people, but he guided them. He made sure that they understood the legal advice, and then he made sure they understood how the advice could affect their lives. John would spend a few minutes talking heart to heart with the client. He would take his own experiences from his remarkable life and share what he had learned from those experiences with the clients. John did not like to talk about himself, but he did like to talk about the places he had visited. He loved the world! I miss him.

  • I work for Legal Aid and I posted the sad news about John on our internal web page.  Here is my remarks followed by the responses from other staff members:John Cross – March 30 at 10:55 AM I regret that I have some sad news to share with you.  One of our former long-time hotline paralegals, John Alkema, passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.  John left Community Legal Aid SoCal a couple of years ago to start canvassing for local democrats running for office.   He was a retired fire Chief and started volunteering with us because he had spare time and wanted to help people.  I think he really liked it here because he stayed for more than 10 years.   John poured himself into every phone call and treated each client with respect and gave them honest advice based on his life experience.  John is the uncle of Nikki-Rae Alkema, who also worked with us until about a year ago.  In fact, we first met Nikki when John suggested that she would be good on the hotline.  I am sure that there are others on staff who remember John and will have a lot to say about him, as he was kind of famous around here.

    Rachelle M. Neshkes – March 30 at 11:05 AM

    So very sorry to hear this. May he Rest In Peace.


    Norma Concepcion – March 30 at 01:34 PM

    That’s so sad., I remember him so well. He was always so nice. 



    Kate Marr – March 30 at 09:49 PM

    This is a lovely tribute John. I am so sorry to hear this news. I remember meeting John right when I started. His passion for the work was obvious. Please pass along my condolences to Nikki-Rae and the rest of his family.


    Yolanda Omana – March 31 at 09:48 AM

    John was a wonderful man.  I have many good memories of John. 
    The last time we talked was at Chris and Jill’s wedding where he danced the night away. 
    My thoughts and condolences to his entire family.


    Josefina Diaz – March 31 at 12:18 PM

    John was a very friendly & outgoing person. I met John when I started volunteering at the hotline. My condolence to his family. RIP. God bless his family.


    Ana Subias – April 1 at 07:58 AM

    Such an amazing man, prayers to his family. You will be missed, Muffin Man.


    John Cross in reply to Ana Subias – April 1 at 08:37 AM from Android

    I forget about the muffins.  His wife was/is an amazing cook and Baker!


    Ana Subias in reply to John Cross – April 1 at 08:41 AM

    She is a great baker! I remember the line of people that would follow him and his basket of muffins to the Hotline, Fernie and I thought it was such a funny thing to see.


    Mary Lozano – April 1 at 08:32 AM

    I’m so very sorry to hear that John.  He was a very pleasant man. 
    I only spoke to him a few times, over the phone, but he was very kind. 
    My condolences to Nikki and all of his Legal Aid family.


    Yolanda Bautista – April 1 at 09:46 AM

    He was an amazing man. He kept in touch with me and children. RIP John Alkema.


    Fernanda Regalado – April 1 at 05:24 PM

    I’m so heart broken I’m lost for words


    Sarah Yanez – April 2 at 09:24 AM

    I am so sorry to hear of his passing. RIP


    Jasmine Rucker – April 2 at 09:31 AM

    It’s so sad to hear about his passing. May he RIP


    Laura Luu – April 2 at 10:03 AM

    I will certainly miss John.  He was such a joy to work with and I loved hearing his stories.


    Anita Champion – April 2 at 02:45 PM – Edited

    So sad to hear. Best wishes to his family and loved ones.


    Ashton Cooper – April 3 at 11:31 AM

    I remember John very well. He was a pleasure to work with and was always such a positive person (role model). He was also very thoughtful and unselfish in his ways. My thoughts and prayers goes out to Nikki, her family and loved ones. It was a joy to work with
    John, I will never forget the warmth his smile brought to the office each and every day. I always looked forward to doing the Hotline when he was there. He sure made the day seem shorter while still staying engaged with the clients being served. He will be
    missed. The world will be missing an ideal person who affected the lives of many in a positive manner. Rest in peace my good friend.

  • I had the pleasure of having John as my fire captain when I was a young firefighter paramedic. For many years. I loved talking off road with him and I truly thought of him as a father type figure. I learned so much about the fire department and even more about life from him.
    As a subordinate I did not fear John, he did not lead by intimidation but by action.
    Like many firefighters our paths separated as we promoted however it could be 1 year or 5 years since we would see each other and it was like we saw each other every day. We just continued our friendship on from where we left off and in my opinion this ability to continue on is what a true friend is.
    John, the Woyjeck family loves you and your family
    Rest In Peace my friend
    Bless your family!

  • John was a good man who knew how to make you feel welcome. I met John when I ran for school board nearly ten years ago. John was a strong presence in the campaign and I remember driving around San Clemente placing campaign signs throughout the city and talking about politics and life. He did not discuss all the amazing things he had done with his life. Instead, he went out of his way to make me feel like a friend with his easygoing manner. I’m sure he made many others throughout his life feel as I did. John is the kind of man we all need to meet at some point in our lives, the kind of man we all hope our sons turn out to be. I was fortunate to have known him and believe the world is a better place because John was in it. My prayers go out to Linda and Gina.

  • Word of John’s passing hit like a ton of bricks. How John lived his life and his general perspective were things that I always admired and thought should be emulated. He was always welcoming with open arms and heart, and as a friend. He was not one to dwell on the negative and lived life to its fullest. I always enjoyed hearing about his adventures – he lived life to its fullest and you know he was grateful for the opportunities that he had. John’s passing is a loss for all of us and my thoughts and prayers go out to Linda and Gina.

  • Trudy and Derek Podobas Reply

    Dearest Linda and Gina, how deep the sadness has been in our hearts since John’s passing. We extend to you and your entire family our deepest sympathies. Please know that we share in your profound loss. What an extraordinarily kind, caring and thoughtful man John was. We will always remember his warmest of smiles and gentlest of words.
    In all of our gatherings, at the many parties where you opened up your home to your many friends, John was always most humble and always took time to listen to everyone. You always felt as if you were the only person in the room, because John truly wanted to know how you were doing and what was happening in your life..
    John was a true man of the world.. He did more in discovering all corners of the world than any of us could begin imaging to do. I think John wanted to discover more than just all the places of the world. He wanted to meet as many people as he could around the world, because he wanted to learn as much as he could about people. He was truly a lifelong learner – always asking questions to understand the full scope of life and the people in it. All of his volunteering for Habitat for Humanity around the world and driving an old car all the way to Houston, Texas to donate it to a church there showed us how intensely caring and selfless a man he was.
    His commitment to causes was evident by his being out on Del Mar in San Clemente during election seasons at the crack of dawn (or several times in the middle of the night) to bring his Easy Up for our use. He would be right there helping set it all up even when he was sick and going through chemotherapy. John was always there with his tools and his calm support as every loyal friend would be.
    Derek and I remember fondly driving together with John to the Phoenix Club in Anaheim to watch Germany play in the World Cup a few years ago. We had the best time with John experiencing his love of soccer and seeing firsthand his expertise of the game. Beer and pretzels in what was a weekday morning game our time was so very memorable!
    John’s passing leaves a deep void in all of our lives. Each of us have been richly blessed by John’s friendship. He was always there for us with a lending hand and a giving heart. May the Lord bless you with His comfort and His peace..
    Love, Trudy and Derek

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