P.O. Box 5202, San Pedro, California 90733 – Telephone (310) 519-0756
For Immediate Release
Contact: Stephanie Mardesich (310) 519-0756 or

Media Alert

80th Anniversary for Victory Arch San Pedro High School Tuesday June 12 at 11 a.m.

Joseph M. Mardesich Innovator & Industrialist Commissioned Unique Monument

Pioneer Of Tuna Canning Industry Extolled “Wisdom, Integrity, Self-Respect”

Mardesich Sisters To Place Floral Tribute To Honor Grandfather & Monument

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, is the 80th anniversary of the of the Victory Arch (VA) erected  on the athletic field of San Pedro High School (SPHS), 1501 S. Leland Street, San Pedro.(SP).  Stephanie Milda Mardesich and Deborah Ann Mardesich, granddaughters of Joseph M. Mardesich, Sr. who commissioned the unique structure will place a floral tribute at the VA to mark the occasion, at 11 a.m.  Slated and/or invited to attend the  informal ceremony are representative of Dr. Richard Vladovic, Los Angeles United School District; Erika Velazquez, harbor director for Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn; Joe Mardesich,  former SPHS history teacher and coach; Lora Caudill, principal of Leland Street Elementary School with her son Jay a 4th generation SPHS graduate;  among other esteemed  civic leaders, educators and SPHS graduates. Because of security issues names must be on a list to be permitted on campus.  Contact Stephanie Mardesich to be added to the list.

This year marks a double anniversary of historic significance. It is 100 years since Mardesich, a pioneer of the California tuna canning  industry, co-founder of French Sardine Company and partners established the fish cannery in February 1918 at the wharf in Fish Harbor, Terminal Island across the Main Channel of Los Angeles harbor in San Pedro (SP); and 20 years later commissioning the VA.

Mardesich purchased the granite archways ( c. 1937) with huge sculpted eagles  of a Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles destined for demolition,   with a grand vision to have a monument erected at the new  SPHS campus designated as  the “Victory Arch.” The VA that stands majestically on the north end of the athletic field, beautifully lit at night, moved from its original location near the gymnasiums when the field was reconfigured about 20 years ago.

There has been an on-going effort to achieve historic monument designation for the VA. In May 2011 then Los Angeles City Councilwoman Hahn District 15  presented a Motion to designate the VA historic cultural monument that passed unanimously. After the vote it was revealed by a representative of the Office of Historic Preservation  that the LAUSD had autonomy over the City and the designation could not be confirmed.

Recognizing the significance of the VA, in 2012 thanks to Board Member Dr. Richard A. Vladovic the LAUSD passed a Motion endorsing the historical designation, launching and “Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Victory Arch”  at a special ceremony April 23 held at the VA with Dr. Vladovic presenting the elegantly framed document to  granddaughter Stephanie, alumna of SPHS, founder of the LA Harbor International

Film Festival, and co-producer with filmmaker Jack Baric of the upcoming oral history projecting Stories Of Los Angeles Harbor: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow representing the family. Among dignitaries in attendance was representative of (then) Congresswoman Janice Hahn, currently Los Angeles County Supervisor for District 4. Jeanette Stevens, SPHS principal, presided over the event that included participation by the school band, drill team, cheerleaders, and JROTC cadets. Subsequently the Mardesich sisters have had assistance in doing research about the genesis of the monument preparing to submit for State of California and National History Registry consideration.

“Our grandfather’s motto was ‘No challenge too great’ that inspires me to this day.  It took immense diligence and fortitude to create this extraordinary monument that is a very European tradition, like the Arc de Triomphe,” stated Stephanie in accepting the LAUSD Motion.  Reflecting recently she adds: “Grandfather wanted to instill striving for excellence and respect for all that America signifies and the longevity of the VA conveys deep sentiment with its powerful presence. It was disappointing when the Motion in City Council was not able to be fulfilled, given such great enthusiasm, however taking up the ‘challenge’ the effort continues with application to a higher level seeking National Registry status actually will offer more prestige and ethos to SPHS and our town. ”

Mardesich and his cannery are featured significantly in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum (LAMM) permanent exhibit “Caught, Canned and Eaten: The History of San Pedro’s Tuna & Canning Industry including his effigy bronze bust commissioned in 1959 and dedicated at LAMM in 2009.  The exhibit preserves and commemorates the venerated industry when Terminal Island was thriving from early 1900s through 80s, providing thousands of jobs feeding the nation, and the world,  tuna being a primary food source.

Born June 10, 1889 he emigrated  to America in 1903,  from Komiza, a town on the island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea off the Dalmatian coast  of Croatia (former Yugoslavia),  to live with relatives in agrarian Cupertino, California. He was 14 years  old with an eighth grade education. Working by day in various jobs he attended night school classes in San Francisco (SF) to complete his high school education. His intention was to go on to higher education and attend the University of California at Berkeley when the business opportunity to become involved in the fishing industry emerged and he left the Bay area for Los Angeles harbor.

The San Pedro Bay Historical Society historic window exhibits at the Croatian Cultural Center in SP feature him in one of three displays of significant Croatian immigrants including photos with cannery workers and the arches of the VA. He was proud and patriotic American citizen. He and his wife Milda (nee Klein, of San Francisco) raised their family including three children  in San Pedro with those same high ideals. He was also quite athletic.

As son Joe, Jr. stated in an article he penned about the origins of the VA, “My father was a very strong sports enthusiast and especially a very strong supporter of ‘Pirate’ athletics. A real ‘Pirate booster’ long before we had a Boosters organization. He encouraged all the school teams enthusiastically, not just the teams his sons were on. You would see him on a Friday afternoon driving up in his big 1936 LaSalle touring sedan, the kind you see in the  ‘Untouchables’ during the Al Capone era. It carried nine passengers with those collapsible mid-seats, and was always available to haul any students without a ride to various athletic events at nearby schools. Something would have to be mighty wrong at the cannery or in the tuna industry to keep him away from that Friday afternoon game or track meet. He didn’t miss many…. always giving little pep talks trying to inspire and motivate players to winning a victory. He meant achieving victory not just in athletics, but in a student’s academic and personal life as well.”

In 1937 Mardesich  learned that a  Federal building (former post office) was being razed in downtown Los Angeles and with  was his sense of patriotism and passion propelling  him, after much negotiation with the government,  he purchased the building  archways and eagles with ambition to erect a unique monument at the SPHS campus., to be called the VA.  It took great effort to gain approval from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)  and repurpose the symbols of America, and all that  represents, with the  foremost intent to motivate to enthuse students with the ideals that excellence should be sought in all areas of life including athletics, academics, citizenship and aspects of personal character. He hired an  architect and also contributed to the design of the iconic edifice. It was imperative  that  the school motto “Wisdom, Integrity, Self-respect” be chiseled in stone to inspire students academically, spiritually and athletically.

As Dr. Vladovic stated, “The Victory Arch is an important resource not only for SPHS and LAUSD, but also the whole San Pedro community. We recognize and gratefully acknowledge the significance of the Victory Arch as a key symbol at SPHS inspiring students academically and athletically reminding them to uphold their school motto and aspire to great accomplishments.”

Mardesich passed away in June 1951. The Franco Italian Packing Company continued to thrive under the leadership and administration of Mardesich, Jr. and responding to “supply and demand” Franco Italian was the first cannery to import tuna from Japan on a  major level beginning in 1957, which helped to build and accelerate trade relations between the U.S.A. and post war resurgence of the “Land of the Rising Sun” among other kudos for the canner.

There is no other entity like the VA on any school campus in the Los Angeles region or the entire state. The massive granite structure weighs over two tons and stands over 30 feet high. It has been featured in numerous news articles and chronicles. The VA is the same age as the famed Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. It has withstood the test of time and  elements of nature to survive for eight decades.

“The Victory Arch is a unique work of public art which has become ingrained in not only San Pedro High School’s history, but San Pedro’s history,” states County Supervisor  Hahn. “I’m proud to support the effort to have this treasure recognized as a national historic monument,” states Supervisor Hahn.

The VA has withstood the test of time and along with the Mardesich family, spans a century of San Pedro life and culture. For decades, students have been motivated  by the landmark;  athletes to compete on the playing field,  graduates passing through the arches  to receive their diplomas, sweethearts lingering,  photographs taken to preserve special moments, and local artists intrigued by its design.  It will continue to inspire and the canneries and noble fishing industry remembered thanks to the LAMM exhibit and efforts of those citizens who care about and preserve history for posterity.

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More about:
Archival references contact:  Stephanie M. Mardesich (310) 549-0756
LAUSD: Dr. Richard Vladovic (213) 241-6359  website:
SPHS: Jeanette Stevens, Principal (310) 241-5801 website: