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Chiriaco Summit Built by Love to Last in the Desert

An American Success Story by Mary Contini Gordon


Book Review from The Desert Independent

March 9, 2018

Anyone who has driven the I-10 between Phoenix and Los Angeles has probably seen if not stopped at Chiriaco Summit, a modern traveler’s oasis. Regardless, this book will take you on a fascinating journey over eight decades through all that goes into a place like this, a place which exemplifies the many family businesses that make up the fabric of America.

“One of the greatest stories of the California desert is that of the Chiriaco family. They like the park rangers understood the daunting challenges of living in the desert, especially as it relates to water.” – Jeff Ohlfs, US Chief Park Ranger (ret.)

“The Chiriaco Story will appeal to those who want to understand how a modern business formed and succeeded against all odds.” – Howard N Stewart, CEO, AGM Containers, US Chamber’s Best Small Business for the year 2009

“Meet the members of this great American family my grandfather came to know who were so crucial to the readiness of our troops in WWII.” – Helen Patton

The story starts in the 1930s in the face of limited water and power, rudimentary roads, and few other amenities. Joe and Ruth Chiriaco, a son and a daughter of immigrants, fueled their vision to serve the world on wheels with a deep but sometimes rocky love. The story moves through the building of aqueducts and roads, the laying of power lines, the development of Joshua Tree National Park next door, social, economic, environmental changes, and the arrival of a new set of immigrants. General Patton enters the story in the 1940s with thousands of troops. He spars with Joe Chiriaco, yet they become respected friends. Today the General Patton Memorial Museum, a nonprofit (501-C3), is an easy walk from the Summit’s modern complex, and the General remains an ongoing influence.

The hard-work ethic lightened by the antics of youth, several love stories, and plain good business sense combine to unfold how and why Chiriaco Summit has not only endured for four generations but flourished despite many obstacles. This book is a history that is fun to read.


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