Maxine Hagen Renaker
Born 10 November 1913
Williston, ND

Maxine Hagen Renaker passed away peacefully at her home in Encinitas on July 17, 2003 at the age of 89. Married for 67 years, she is survived by her husband John Renaker, sons Jim Renaker and David Renaker, daughters Susan Nikas and Mary Renaker, 6 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.
In partnership with her husband John, Maxine co-founded the Hagen-Renaker Pottery in Monrovia California in 1945. In 1965 the company moved to 914 Cienega, San Dimas, California where it now operates.

In her book One Lucky Kid she described their beginnings: "Right after World War II, John and I decided that we would have a business of our own. John was pleased with some crude little figures I had made with some modeling clay, and he encouraged me to make models of little birds and animals. John built our first kiln, which we set up in our garage. This kiln was fired with gas brought to it from the kitchen by way of a garden hose."

With the creative work of other important designers, Helen Perrin Farnlund, Maureen Love Calvert and Nell Bortells, Hagen-Renaker still produces miniature animal figurines that are sought by collectors the world over. For the history of Hagen-Renaker, see Hagen-Renaker Through the Years and Hagen-Renaker Pottery: Horses and Other Figurines by Nancy Kelly and The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Hagen-Renaker by Gayle Roller.

After her children graduated from college, Maxine returned to college to complete her own education at Pasadena City College in 1961. Her teachers soon encouraged her to move on to the new State University campus in Los Angeles, where she graduated with a degree in English in 1965 and went on to teach literature at Bonita High School in La Verne.

Maxine loved animals and nature and donated to many wildlife and conservation organizations.

As an only child, she was an avid letter writer and corresponded with many childhood friends and school teachers. Her father said of her, "she never met a stranger." She was beloved by her family and is sorely missed by her family, friends, and the employees of Hagen-Renaker.

Never fully retiring from Hagen-Renaker, she always took an active interest in the factory, consulting with the designers about all new products.

John James Renaker, Sr.
born March 26, 1915

John Renaker with Ford

John James Renaker, Sr., businessman and author, was born March 26, 1915 and died Nov.6, 2014 at home.

A native Californian, John graduated from Monrovia High School and entered Cal Berkeley at 17 where he got his B.A. in English and met his future wife, Maxine Hagen, to whom he was married 66 years (until her death in 2003).  Graduating at the depth of the Great Depression, John got a graduate degree in Library Science at UCLA and worked there as a librarian.  By the time World War II began, John was the father of three and deferred; he worked as a draftsman at North American Aviation during the war.

When peace was declared in 1945, John and Maxine, with the help of Maxine’s father, Ole Hagen, started Hagen-Renaker Potteries.  In the nearly 70 years since, Hagen-Renaker has gained a reputation for finely-crafted, miniature ceramic figurines.

In the 1970’s, John expanded the business to include a wholesale nursery division, which led him to move to Encinitas, California where he lived for over thirty years.

In the 1980’s John began to combine his life long interest in science and politics by writing a book on nuclear deterrence. Inspired by Stanley Kubric’s film “Dr.Strangelove” his book Dr.Strangelove and the Hideous Epoch: Deterrence in the Nuclear Age  was published in 2000.  He went on to write a series of essays on science entitled; Once More Into the Deja Vu: Essays on Ecology which was published in 2006.

John is survived by his four children; John James Renaker Jr., David George Renaker, Susan Renaker Nikas, and Mary Renaker Brazel  and his two daughter-in- laws, Freya Renaker and Joyce Renaker and son-in-law, Eric Brazel.  In addition John has six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

He was blessed in later years to have a dedicated house-keeper/ and care-giver, Carolina Hernandez.  And in the last ten years, Lydia Balleza has helped him as a night-time caregiver.

He was beloved by his family and friends and will be sorely missed by all.

Maureen Love

While a very well respected artist in her own right, Maureen had become better known to collectors and art lovers through her association with Hagen-Renaker. Hired in 1951 by John and Maxine Renaker, she started there as a decorator, but quickly demonstrated her ability to design and sculpt. While best known for her beautiful horses, she also designed numerous other animals for the company, right up until her death.

Her realistic style was more than just an anatomy lesson in nature. She captured the personality and beauty of the horses and other animals she so deeply loved. Her uncompromising spirit and desire to create the perfect model has left a legacy of incredible artwork.

She not only was a talented artist, but she was a wonderful person, who enjoyed art and nature. She was also a very down-to-earth, spunky woman, very approachable, and took great delight in sharing her creations with others.

It is with great sadness that we wish to announce that Maureen Love, designer for Hagen-Renaker, died in her home on March 31, 2004, at age 81. She will be greatly missed.

Helen Perrin Farnlund

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Helen Perrin Farnlund on September 29, 2007 in Mancos, Colorado. She passed away at home, of natural causes, at the age of 95.

Helen was hired as a decorator in the early days of Hagen-Renaker. Maxine Renaker designed the first few figurines that launched Hagen-Renaker Miniatures. But when she saw Helen’s talent, she said that she knew that these were the designs she wanted. She was always very proud that she encouraged Helen to be a designer. And Helen was the first in a group of talented artists who worked for Hagen-Renaker who were encouraged by Maxine.

Laurrie Perrin, Helen’s daughter, called to give the news and to say that Helen had still been working on pieces at the time of her death. So, Helen has worked for this company, on payroll and free-lance for over 60 years. We are so grateful for her talent, her kindness, and friendship over the years. She is survived by her daughter, Laurrie, and her grandchildren, April and Damien.

Pictured are(left to right): Tom Masterson, Maureen Love, and Helen Perrin (circa 1957).

Monrovia, CA (1950's)
William (Bill) Nicely

We here at Hagen-Renaker are saddened to announce the death of William (Bill) Nicely on Sunday, September 30, 2012 from heart failure.

Bill liked to tell the story of meeting John Renaker crossing the railroad tracks that ran between two early buildings of Hagen-Renaker. He was seeking a job for the time he was off high school for Easter Vacation when he was 16. John hired him as a temporary worker, and Bill was associated with Hagen-Renaker as John's right hand man, general manager, and finally as institutional memory of the company for the next 64 years.

Bill is survived by his wife, Cecilia, his daughter Lenore, and his sons Denny, Allen, and David. He was very beloved and will be sorely missed. He is likewise survived by his work "family" here at Hagen-Renaker who will also miss him greatly.

Nell Bortells

Nell was born on May 26th, 1926--the same day as John Wayne. We had to say that because Nell always did. Nell was born in Monrovia, California to her parents, Sallie and Phillip Bortells. Nell loved being an only child, but that didn't last long. Four and a half years later her brother Phillip was born. Nell was always so proud of her little brother. One of their favorite shared memories were their carefree summers spent on Catalina Island with their grandmother.

After Nell graduated from Highschool she attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles with a full scholarship. However, the serious nature of formal Art School was too much for this creative spirit whose art was whimsical and filled with humor. As Nell said, "I studied all the masters, but the art that came out of me had to make me laugh."

Nell's work life was eclectic and varied. One of her first jobs was for Hagen-Renaker Potteries creating small ceramic figurines called miniatures. She was most proud of her creations known as The Horribles which became a best selling line for Hagen-Renaker in the 1950's and are prized by collectors to this day. When Hagen-Renaker fell on hard times, Nell went to work for the telephone company as a customer service representative. Nell's art found its way into this job as she was often asked to create posters for work related events. Nell was also active in various civic organizations such as Quota and Art in the Park where her artistic talents were requested and admired. When Hagen-Renaker recovered in the 1980's, Nell went back on payroll and began designing pieces again. Two of her designs that are still in the line are Papa Pig(#2078) and Turtle (#2000); both of which show her whimsicality.

Nell is survived by her sister-in-law Joan Bortells, her nieces Sallie Teaderman, Susan Corsi, and Kate Bortells, and her nephew John Bortells and their families.

Nell was truly an amazing, fiercely independent woman who lived life her way. She will be greatly missed, we have lost someone special.

©2012-2022 Hagen-Renaker Inc.