An individual who played a large role in shaping the City of Rochelle passed away last month.
Surrounded by his loving wife and family in Greenwich, Connecticut, longtime Rochelle resident John Caron died peacefully on Jan. 15. Caron was born on July 1, 1924 in Chicago, but grew up in Rochelle.
His father, O.J. Caron, opened a textile manufacturing company, Caron Spinning, on May 8, 1915 in Rochelle. The factory helped employ over 300 of the town’s residents including John. He grew up working summers at his father’s factory until he was old enough to go to college.
“John would spend summers at his father’s business as a young man,” said Ann Caron, widow of John. “Then, he went to Notre Dame, graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and served in the Navy during WWII.”
After the war, he returned to work at his father’s company, working his way up to CEO. At this time, the company had expanded to four states and five countries overseas. Additionally, the company changed its name from Caron Spinning to Caron International.
John lived in Rochelle during the week for work, but would stay with his sister in Chicago every weekend to enjoy the social life the city had to offer. It was in Chicago where he met his future wife Ann while on a double date with his girlfriend at the time and best friend.
“I lived in a suburb of Chicago and I was dating his best friend,” said Ann. “The next time my boyfriend and I went out, I asked him to bring John for a friend of mine. Once dinner was over, John and I asked ourselves why we weren’t with each other. Then, six weeks later we were engaged.”
Ann said she and John felt and instantaneous connection. The two were married when John was 32 and Ann was 23. The two continued living in Rochelle, had six children and became very involved in many organizations. Some of John’s passions included religion, education and helping those in need.
“John was very generous and devoted to good causes, such as third world poverty causes and the Catholic church,” said Ann. “He was chairman of the board of Technoserve, a non-profit organization that provides business solutions to rural poverty in over 30 countries. He was also chairman of the board of the National Catholic Reporter, an independent weekly newspaper, and chairman of the St. Michael’s Church Building Committee.”
On top of the work that John completed through his time assisting organizations, Caron International had a large impact on the community as well.
When John’s father moved from Quebec, Canada, to Rochelle to start his business, many families followed him to settle in the community.
“The Caron’s had an impact on the community because when John’s father opened the business, families from Quebec followed,” said Pauline (Caron) Brass, John’s cousin. “Families like the Cotes, Plourdes and of course the Carons can all still be found in Rochelle.”
John also sponsored Pauline’s husband, Winston Brass, to come to Rochelle from India. Winston went on to become a Rochelle police officer and eventually police chief for a number of years.
Pauline remembers John as a very nice, fair person and businesslike employer. He made sure to keep the same values that his father had instilled in the business.
“John carried on the traditions of hard work and family atmosphere that uncle O.J. had created when he started Caron International,” said Pauline.
John and Ann continued to live in Rochelle until 1966, when the two moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, to be closer to the business headquarters. Caron International had moved its headquarters from Rochelle to New York.
While in Connecticut, John began to follow his love for the outdoors and adventure. His passions brought him skiing, camping, fishing and cycling around the world with family and friends.
He also loved to read, and he was the leader of the Great Books Discussion group program at the Greenwich Library for many years. He passed away peacefully at the age of 95 years old.
He is survived by his wife Ann and their children; John (Dede), Peter, Paul (Andrea), Mark (Lisa), Elizabeth (Latif) and Cathleen (Woody), and 10 grandchildren, Joe, Frank, Tom, Maddie, Robbie, Ian, Alex, Jessica, Nick and Marley.