Ruth Benson Grunke
1911 - 1986
Ruth Grunke, a 1932 Conservatory Piano Teacher's diploma graduate from Walla Walla College, now University, and her husband, Leal V., a ministerial graduate, were singing evangelists for Fordyce Detamore, a leading Seventh-day Adventist evangelist in the middle of the 20th century. They served as producers of the Voice of Prophecy in the early 1940's and later started a recording service that became known as Chapel Records.
The Grunkes married shortly after he graduated from WWC and started their ministry in the Central California Conference. By the mid-1940s, he had become procurement officer for the Central California Conference. A member of the Watsonville, California, church would later relate the following:
Capt. George C. Scheppler, M.D., was living in a trailer on my property in Watsonville and I was working at Pep Creameries. One day in February of 1948 Dr. Scheppler came into Pep Creameries and announced that the War Assets Commission (now called the War Assets Administration) had just put Camp McQuaide on its surplus list and it was going to be sold. He wanted to know what we should do. I told him to call Leal Grunke, procurement officer for Central California Conference, and let him know.
Once Grunke had been contacted, he began to explore possibilities for purchasing the property, an effort that would lead to the establishment of Monterey Bay Academy. The following is from a narrative preserved at the MBA website in 2010:
After being notified, Elder Grunke began to investigate the possibility of purchasing the property, and after seeing the location, was impressed with its suitability for a boarding academy. This was the beginning of his vision for Monterey Bay Academy. . . .
Prior to the War Assets Administration putting Camp McQuaide on their surplus list, they had offered the property to Santa Cruz County at a bargain of $1, strictly for the development of a junior college. But it was not to be, due to an intense rivalry between Watsonville and Santa Cruz . . . .
The property was then offered [to the] State Division of Parks and Beaches for the development of a state park. The state put up their portion of the money but Santa Cruz County could not come up with the matching funds needed for purchasing it. Once again the conversion of the property from wartime to peacetime use fell through.
With Santa Cruz County turning down the property, Camp McQuaide went on the War Assets Administration’s surplus list. A general in the San Francisco office was put in charge of disposing of the property to the highest bidder. The oceanfront property was originally appraised at $650,000 but was reduced to $367,000. Contractors with the desire to subdivide the Camp McQuaide property began submitting bids. Fourteen bids came in ranging from $141,000 to $151,000. All were rejected.
It was about this time that Elder Grunke was notified about the Camp McQuaide property, and his vision for a boarding academy began to take root. He put together a proposal and presented it to Central California Conference officials on May 6, 1948, but was met with almost total resistance. There was no support among conference officials for the development of another academy, let alone a boarding academy. The conference already had three academies, and Lodi Academy was already open to day and boarding students. Another school was not deemed necessary. But this resistance didn’t stop Elder Grunke . . . .
Part of the condition for the conversion of the property was a guarantee to improve the property over a specified period of time from the date of transfer. Central California Conference approached the Northern California conference and the two agreed to participate in funding the required improvements. With the necessary support in place, officials in Washington, D.C., were notified by Elder Grunke of Central California Conference’s intent to buy and develop the property for a school.
During this time the Catholic Church learned of the surplus property and the Adventist Church’s negotiations with the War Assets Administration. They wanted the property as well, and felt that it should be given to them because the camp had been named after a Catholic priest, Father John P. McQuaide. The Catholic Church sent four men to Washington, D.C., in an attempt to halt the transfer of the property to the Adventist Church. They did not succeed, but as a conciliation were given the Catholic chapel that was located on the northwest side of the camp.
When everything was thought to be in place, at the last possible moment just before negotiations were completed, the Northern California Conference pulled out of the agreement and left the burden of development to the Central California Conference . . . . With the encouragement and assistance of Mr. John P. Gifford of the U.S. Department of Education, on August 13, 1948, the Seventh-day Adventist Church was awarded Camp McQuaide for conversion into a school facility.
The Grunkes also helped establish Simi Valley Hospital. Ruth was a member of the Temple Trio (women's trio) and Chapel Trio (Grunke, Lolita Moore, and Bob Edwards), two ensembles that sang often and recorded on the Chapel Record label.
Sources: Obituaries, North Pacific Union Gleaner, 6 October 1986, 31 and Adventist review, 20 November 1986; Chapel Trio, Chapel Records, liner; Information provided by Darlene Grunke Sanders, 2010; Monterey Bay Academy website (school history) (2010).