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The Man (Marco Forster)

Marco F. Tom Forster was born September 14, 1896 in San Juan Capistrano.  He was the second of five children born to Frank and Ada (Haskell) Forster.  His sister Alice (Leck) was the eldest, followed by Tom, Lucana (Isch), Ynez (Romer) and brother Hugo.

Little Tom attended San Juan School where the popular sport at the turn of the century was shinny, a crude form of field hockey.  Among his schoolmates were C. Russell Cook, members of the Rosenbaum family and Paul Arbiso, the Mission bell ringer.

High school was a challenge as there was no school locally.  That problem was solved by living with his uncle, George Forster, who resided across the street from Fullerton Union High School.  After high school, Tom attended Orange County Business College in Santa Ana.

In 1916 a tremendous storm hit Southern California washing out numerous bridges and culverts.  Tom and a friend were on horses patrolling the highway north of town where they discovered a young family isolated in their car on the north (wrong) side of Oso Creek.  A rope was tied around Tom's waist as he tread his way across the raging creek, fed by a cloudburst.  First he rescued the infant son, then the mother and father. Yearly Christmas cards were sent to Tom from the appreciative family in San Diego.  Tom's eventual reward for that deed was when that baby boy became a medical doctor.

Perhaps the lure of aiding travelers caused Tom to operate the White Garage in San Juan Capistrano during the 1920's.  Repair and tow car service was provided between El Toro and Oceanside.

With the aide of his lifelong employee, Barney Ebargaray, Tom ranched the hills south of town near Capistrano Volkswagen, raising cattle, sheep, pigs, barley and beans.

During the 1920's concerned San Juan Capistrano citizens formed the Volunteer Fire Department.  Tom was a charter member of the force and served through the 50's, holding that group's badge #1.

Tom was also a 30 year Rotarian and served as an Air Raid Warden during World War II.

In 1924 Tom married San Juan School teacher, Betty Joyce.  Three children still live locally, sons Pat, and Tony Forster and daughter JoJo Hammer.

1935 saw Marco (Tom) Forster elected to the San Juan School Board of Trustees.  He continued to serve the district until it was unified with the San Clemente and Serra (Capistrano Beach) districts in 1965.  1968 brought the new district's first junior high to the drawing board.  The Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees named the new school in his honor.

In 1939 Tom was elected Justice of the Peace of the San Juan Township.  During a subsequent election, a retired big city judge entered the race, polling well in the populated areas.  However, Forster's political base was in the country where he overwhelmed the challenger 118-1 in the Trabuco precinct.  The defeated judge admitted later he hadn't known of the existence of Trabuco Canyon. Tom retired from the bench in 1953 when the state legislature dissolved Justice Townships.

An avid outdoor sportsman, Tom opened Forster's Trout Pool in 1954.  It delighted local and out of town anglers until the property was taken for the freeway in 1956.

Later that year he was named the manager of the Rancho Mission Viejo.  For the next ten years he directed the operation of this 55,000 acre cattle ranch that stretched from El Toro to Camp Pendleton.

During this era Tom and other town leaders decried the lack of a bank in San Juan Capistrano.  They pooled their resources and formed San Juan Capistrano Bank..  It survives today as a branch of Union Bank of California.

Tom retired from ranching in 1965, moved to town and was elected to the City Council.  Marco F. Tom Forster died December 12th, 1966.  The headline of the day in the Orange County Register proclaimed him as Mr. San Juan Capistrano.

A noteworthy coincidence is that Tom is the great grandson of Don Juan Avila of which Capistrano Unified School District named Don Juan Avila Middle School after.