With ancestors who fought in the famous Battle of Solferino in Italy in 1859 (between the House of Savoy and Austria), John Garaventa has a strong heritage of standing up for what he believes is right. His father Serafino Garaventa came to Livermore from Caborse, near Genoa, Italy, in 1890 and six years later took a job on Louis DeMartini’s farm near Concord.
Marrying Julia Stagnaro, an Italian girl whose forefathers were also from northern Italy, Serafino took his bride to the Hookston ranch. In 1905, they moved to a farm in Clayton Valley, where they raised their nine children. John, born in 1903, was the oldest.
His parents’ distress over hazards to health and crops from dust emitted by the Cowell Lime and Cement Company and the subsequent loss of a farmers’ lawsuit against Cowell made Garaventa decide early in life to become a lawyer.
After schooling at the Lime Quarry Grammar School in Clayton Valley and graduation from Mt. Diablo High School St. Mary’s College and St. Mary’s Law School, he achieved his youthful ambition.
In 1933, when a second suit was filed by the farmers against the Cowell Lime and Cement Company, young Garaventa successfully defended the farmers’ rights. As a result, the plant was ordered to install a dust arrester to reduce the 100 tons of dust that were emitted daily.
Garaventa held many posts in his long career: city attorney, 1934-1938; Contra Costa County United States Conciliation Commissioner, 1933-1947; deputy district attorney, 1941-1945; Concord’s first justice court judge for the city’s judicial district, 1953.
He became the first municipal court judge for this district in 1957, served as school trustee for Clayton Valley Elementary School District, 1931-1943; was a member and first chairman of the Concord Hospital Board of Directors, 1948-1957, and was active in many other organizations.
He married Amelia Traverso Schenone, widow of Angelo Schenone. Born near Genoa, Italy, she took an active interest in Concord. In 1970, she donated $10,000 to the city for a fountain in memory of her first husband. The fountain, a dramatic hexagon in royal blue, is located in front of the old bank building on the corner of Salvio and Galindo Streets.
Cowell Historical Society