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In the News - Friday, March 18, 2011


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Rain, snow in forecast

  Even though spring begins officially Sunday, March 20, Old Man Winter is planning to linger in these parts a little longer. The unstable conditions that brought Wednesday’s .31 inches of rainfall to Three Rivers will return again by tonight (Friday, March 18), and rain is likely in the foothills through the weekend.
   The cooler air aloft will bring snow levels down in the local mountains to 3,500 feet. As much as two feet of new snow could accumulate in the nearby mountains at elevations above 8,000 feet.
   The longer-range outlook calls for at least a chance of more precipitation on seven of the next 10 days. As of March 17, the local rainfall totals at 1,000 feet for the current season are 24.50 inches.
   One year ago on March 31, in yet another above-average season, that total was 20.93 inches. In 2009, the March 22 total was 13.08 inches.
   Currently, the Mineral King valley is reporting 84 inches of snow on the ground with more on the way. Statewide, water officials are expecting some of the biggest April 1 numbers since 1984.

RV owner burned in propane explosion

  A 61-year old guest at Kaweah Park Resort was burned on his face and arms after a propane leak ignited and exploded. The explosion, which totally destroyed the man’s ca. 1990 Winnebago Warrior, occurred Monday, March 14, at 10:25 p.m.
   The victim said he heard a clicking sound just before the blast but was unsure what sparked the explosion. He was treated at the scene, then transported to Kaweah Delta Hospital.
Firefighters reported that the man had recently removed his refrigerator to be repaired and that the exposed tubing probably caused the gas to escape.
   Tulare County firefighters from Three Rivers and Lemon Cove doused the blaze and mopped up the scene.

EDC recognizes Three Rivers artists, entrepreneurs

by Brian Rothhammer

 Each year since 2005, the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation has honored select Tulare County businesses at their annual Recognizing Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards Luncheon. Among the 2010 honorees was Ja Nene Natural Body Products of Three Rivers.
    For 2011, three of the 11 nominees for the award are based in Three Rivers. The luncheon was held at the Visalia Convention Center on Friday, March 11.
Bill Haxton of Mountain View Realty expressed surprise at his nomination.
  “That they would nominate me for my involvement with an arts-based nonprofit [Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute] indicates how important the arts are for the economic development of Tulare County. I am really honored. Our overriding goal is to bring very high-caliber chamber music to Three Rivers and other small communities and to present it in an affordable manner for all to enjoy.”
   At the luncheon, Bill was presented with the “Spirit Award.”
Nadi Spencer, a well-known Three Rivers artist who operates Nadi’s Studio, was nominated for her innovative 1st Saturday program.
  “It is an honor… 1st Saturday started out as an idea just to keep my head above water. It was successful at my studio, then expanded to become a way for the artist and business communities of Three Rivers to come together. Three Rivers has such a wealth of artistic talent. To bring these talents to light so that they can be shared with and enjoyed by others has been very satisfying.”
   Reimer’s Candies rounds out the local nominations, and Lynn Bretz, who with his wife Mary Anne purchased the well-known candy store in 2005, acknowledges the hard work of employees at his two locations: Three Rivers and Avila Beach (opened in 2008).
  “It is an honor to be nominated; it just goes to show how hard work and dedication can pay off.”
   Lynn, Mary Anne, and staff serve up some of the finest handmade candies and ice cream this side of anywhere along with a wide selection of gifts and Bavarian clocks.
   Be it appreciation of paintings, world-class music, or a divine piece of handmade chocolate, Three Rivers is the real winner with Haxton, Spencer, and Bretz in our midst.

Tony Rohrkemper (1951-2011)

remembered by family and friends

Ain’t no mountain high enough

  On what would have been his 60th birthday, friends and family members rode and walked along the BLM-Skyline Trail in honor of Tony Rohrkemper, a legendary Three Rivers mountain-biker who died November 24, 2010. On the morning of Sunday, March 13, mountain-bikers were out in force to honor the local patriarch of the sport who would certainly have chosen to be celebrating this milestone birthday exactly this way if cancer wouldn’t have taken him away too soon.
   The BLM-Skyline Trail is an old truck trail that traverses the Salt Creek canyon then merges with several spurs that go north over the ridge to the Mineral King Road or south to the upper South Fork road. It was granted public easement when landowner Ollie Craig, who passed away in 2005, deeded it to the Bureau of Land Management. This generous gift has since become a favorite destination of local residents, from mountain bikers to dog-walkers.
   Although the original plan was for Sunday’s riders to top out at Case Mountain (elevation 6,800 feet), this year’s above-average snowpack diverted those plans. However, some of the group made it to Cinnamon Gap (elev. 4,350 feet), a strenuous feat in itself, consisting of about 15 miles roundtrip and 3,000 vertical feet gain.
   Several family members, including Tony’s wife of 30 years, Beth, walked the road in memoriam. Perhaps it’s time for the BLM to consider a place-name change: the Tony Rohrkemper Memorial Trail...

Half Dome quotas create permit rush

  With nearly the speed of lightning striking high country granite, the first March 1 go-round of permits for hiking Half Dome on weekends for May and June were grabbed in less than five minutes. The permits for weekdays were gone in 23 minutes, causing park officials to take another look at how they might distribute the highly sought permits in the future.
   The July permits go on sale April 1 at 7 a.m. and, according to one hiker, that upcoming scramble might be the most intense two or three minutes of the summer vacation season. The fortunate ones, for a fee of $1.50, will able to snag four permits. On the first day last season, when Yosemite required permits for weekends only, they were gone in 32 minutes.
   This year, the times are staggered on April 1 for July, and again on May 1 for August dates. Park rangers believe that by planning closer to one’s hiking time, more will be actually used.
The Half Dome experience, Yosemite’s most popular hike, rivals Mount Fuji in Japan and  Mt. St. Helens in Washington as the most popular treks on the planet.
   In past seasons, so many spur-of-the-moment day-hikers decided to climb Half Dome on certain days, there was serious gridlock on the cables. Nobody moved up or down for minutes at a time.
   The hike is no picnic, at least until you reach the summit, something akin to a couple of mostly flat football fields placed side-by-side at 8,500 feet. After hiking 4,800 vertical feet in 8.5 miles (the climb up the cables is a steep 440 feet), seeing the sheer drop to the Valley floor is one of the most incredible views anywhere.
   By requiring permits, a spokesperson for Yosemite said, the numbers of people on the cables at any one time is reduced while increasing the level of planning and expertise of the average climber.
   There is a proposal on Superintendent Don Neubacher’s desk for a lottery system similar to what is used for Mt. Whitney. The current way that Yosemite does it, according to Tom Stienstra, outdoors feature writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, enables hawkers to get the permits for resale.
   If you want a permit, the hot tip is establishing a reservation profile in advance and go online with the reservation service at 7 a.m. on April 1 or May 1.
   The cables traditionally go up the weekend before Memorial Day, weather permitting.   Updates and more information are available at nps.gov/yose; reservations at recreation.gov.

News of the Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute

The rise of Colburn

By Bill Haxton

  For the past century, Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute and New York’s Juilliard have engaged in a mostly friendly rivalry for the uttermost pinnacle of prestige in the rarified atmosphere of highest altitude music schools.
   But for the last decade, the Colburn Conservatory in Los Angeles, initially viewed as a West Coast upstart, has been quietly rising through the ranks until it now holds its own with its East Coast rivals.
   Its faculty is second to none, its graduates have gone on to win top prizes in major competitions, and a rising tide of concertmasters and principal instrumentalists in major orchestras have secured Colburn’s place in the pantheon of great conservatories.
Colburn’s rapid ascent is no accident. The story reads like a movie script and involves the ghost of Jascha Heifetz, the generosity of a Los Angeles philanthropist, and the willingness of the world’s pre-eminent teacher of violin to stick around even though he’d been offered an extremely tempting opportunity elsewhere.
   Let’s start with Heifetz. In 1917, when the Russian Revolution broke out, the 16-year-old was already widely recognized as one of the most gifted violinists ever to pick up the instrument. That year, his family escaped Lithuania and emigrated to the United States. By 1930, with his career spanning the globe, Heifetz moved to Los Angeles and ultimately purchased a home in Beverly Hills. In 1947, he hired architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. to design a cozy and acoustically magnificent music studio for his backyard.
   Jascha Heifetz would call Los Angeles home for the rest of his life, combining an intense concert schedule with a parallel career teaching violin in the music school at USC. During this time, his little music studio became legendary, partly because of the students he taught there, partly for the world famous musicians who privately played there, but mostly for the time the great master himself spent there.
   In 1974, a promising young violinist named Robert Lipsett landed a private session with Heifetz. Lipsett was understandably nervous as he approached the Heifetz studio. He had come to perform the difficult but deeply moving Bach Chaconne.
  “I was scared out of my mind,” Lipsett said.
   A second storyline began to unfold in 1980, when a small preparatory music school, which for three decades had fed students into Heifetz’s teaching orbit, severed its ties with USC and set up on its own. But lack of funding soon had the school on the ropes.
   Enter Richard D. Colburn, wealthy Los Angeles businessman, amateur violist, and passionate advocate of classical music. In 1985, Colburn generously opened his wallet and provided the school enough resources to ensure its future. In return the school renamed itself the Colburn School of Music. At the time, the school was operating as it had for three decades, out of an old warehouse across from the Shrine Auditorium near the USC campus.
   A few years later the same Robert Lipsett, who had survived his initial encounter with Heifetz, by now had become one of the foremost teachers of violin in the country and joined the faculty at the new Colburn School. Then, in 1987, Jascha Heifetz passed away.
Here begins a third storyline. During the settlement of the Heifetz estate, Hollywood actor James Woods purchased the Heifetz home in Beverly Hills but didn’t want to keep the music studio. He did, however, fully appreciate its cultural value and offered it to anyone who wanted it. Joseph Thayer, Colburn’s dean at the time, aksed Lipsett if the new music school should acquire the Heifetz studio. Lipsett didn’t hesitate.
  “Absolutely!’” he said.
   Thayer then asked, “What are we going to do with it?”
   Lipsett said, “I don’t know, but we should get it.”
   They did, and the Heifetz Studio was carefully dismantled board by board, crated up, and put into storage.
   Fast forward to 1998. By then, Robert Lipsett had become a teaching legend in his own right, and benefactor Richard D. Colburn was putting the finishing touches on a new state-of-the-art facility for the Colburn School of Music just across the street from Walt Disney Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
   As part of the original design for the new Colburn School, a space was created for the Heifetz Studio; an inside space. Board by board the same crew that had disassembled the studio 11 years earlier now reassembled it on a second-floor mezzanine where it resides today, very much a shrine to the violinist whose unearthly gift for music still inspires violinists everywhere.
   Since then, the Heifetz Studio has served as the office and lesson room for the Colburn School’s Jascha Heifetz Distinguished Violin Chair, a position now held by Robert Lipsett, that once nervous student who had a personal lesson from Heifetz in that very same studio.
Richard Colburn passed away in 2004. The school he endowed has grown since then in faculty, students and prestige. All along, Colburn believed his school would someday become the Juilliard of the west.
   Under the watchful guidance of Robert Lipsett and the ever-present spirit of Jascha Heifetz, the Colburn School is adding its own constellation of breathtakingly talented artists to the musical firmament.
   Bill Haxton is the founder of the Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute.

Speaking Out:

Buffalo Soldiers in national parks

by Dianne Feinstein

  This month, I introduced legislation commemorating the Army’s first all-African- American units — we know them as the Buffalo Soldiers. I believe we must recognize the very important role these individuals played in our history, and especially their often-overlooked service in the early years of our national parks.
   The brave Buffalo Soldiers were, in essence, our nation’s first park rangers, and they left a rich historical legacy in California.
   The “Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act” is a key step in memorializing the role the Buffalo Soldiers played in shaping the national parks that we all care for so deeply today.
   We must ensure that the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers — who bravely served our country at home and overseas, often in the face of intolerance and segregation — are remembered and honored by all.
   A number of those Buffalo Soldiers patrolled Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park from their base at San Francisco’s Presidio, protecting the parks from loggers and poachers.
   The bill (S. 544), which has also been introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1022) by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), directs the Secretary of the Interior to commission a study that will do the following:
  —Evaluate the feasibility of establishing a national historic trail commemorating the route the Buffalo Soldiers traveled between their post at San Francisco’s Presidio and Sequoia and Yosemite national parks.
  —Identify pertinent properties to be considered for the National Register of Historic Places or National Historic Landmarks.
  —Develop educational initiatives and a public awareness campaign about the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers.
   I thank these brave individuals for their contributions to our country and invite my colleagues to join me in support of the Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act.
   Dianne Feinstein (D) is California’s senior U.S. Senator.

Buffalo Soldiers arrive in Sequoia

From The Kaweah Commonwealth archives

  Congress is currently considering recognizing the significance of the Buffalo Soldiers in California (see previous article), something Kaweah Country has realized for a long time.   Here is the back story...
   Sequoia National Park was created in 1890 — only the second in the nation after Yellowstone (1872) and mere days before General Grant (renamed Kings Canyon in 1940) and Yosemite. Before the Park Service was created in 1916, the U.S. Cavalry watched over the new federal lands.
   From the summer of 1891 through 1913, it was military officers assigned by the War Department who supervised Sequoia and the other national parks, except for one year, 1898, when a civilian was appointed due to the Spanish American War. The U.S. Cavalry was charged with eliminating poachers, grazers, loggers, miners, and more from the park lands.
   These acting superintendents never served more than two summers, although most were at the helm for just one season (approximately May through October). Captain Charles Young (1864-1922) supervised Sequoia National Park during the summer of 1903, the first and, so far, only African-American to do so.
   On June 4, 1903, the Tulare County Times reported: Troops I and M (colored) of the 9th U.S. Cavalry arrived in Visalia this morning en route to the Sequoia National Park. The two troops are under the command of Captain Charles Young… a colored man and the only officer in the United States Army of his color and rank. He is a graduate of West Point and is a man of brilliant parts. His career has been one of hard struggle against the prejudice of race. He has, however, risen above all these difficulties by force of character and inherent ability.
   Captain Young and his mounted cavalry troops are credited with the construction of the first access road into the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, completing the project begun by the Kaweah Colony.
   The Visalia Delta wrote in June 1903 that Captain Young would soon have the road “smooth enough for automobiles and bicycles.”

Art scholarships now available

  In the spring of each year, the Arts Alliance of Three Rivers awards scholarships to several deserving Three Rivers students from the Lorraine Young Scholarship Fund. This fund was established by the Arts Alliance in honor of the many years of service artist Lorraine (1929-2005) gave to both the Arts Alliance and the community of Three Rivers.
   Students graduating from local high schools are eligible, as well as Three Rivers students who have been home-schooled, graduate from other high schools, or those who have completed some college and are continuing their education in the arts.
   The criteria for the scholarship are the following:
  —Student plans to continue their education.
  —Student plans to study art.
  —Three Rivers students will be given preference, but other qualified students are encouraged to apply.
  —Student must show evidence of college enrollment in order to receive the award check.
   In considering applications, the Arts Alliance uses a broad definition of the arts. In the past, the group has considered young people who have an interest in graphic design, architecture, music, performing arts, and culinary arts, as well as drawing, painting, and ceramic arts.
Seniors at Woodlake High School are encouraged to submit applications at the school.    Obtain an application by calling 561-3315 or at www.artsthreerivers.org/pdf/scholarship.pdf.
   The deadline to submit an application is Tuesday, April 26.


Robert Blaszak
1918 ~ 2011

   Robert Edward Blaszak, 93, a former resident of Three Rivers, passed away peacefully on Friday, March 15, 2011, surrounded by his loving family. He fought a courageous battle against cancer for a number of years.
   Bob worked on the family farm, served in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and was a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II, where he served in the training command for B17s and B29s.
   He married his childhood sweetheart, Helen, in June 1946. Bob and Helen had grown up together on neighboring farms near Canby, Minn. During World War II, Helen was also part of the Greatest Generation, working as a “Rosie the Riveter” for Northwest Airlines.
   In 1959, Bob and Helen left farm life in Minnesota and moved their young family to Torrance, Calif. Bob became a successful machinist for American Standard and Helen worked first for swimsuit designer Rose Marie Reid and then as a design seamstress for Barbie dolls with Mattel Inc.
   In 1984, Bob and Helen retired to Three Rivers, where they built their riverside dream home and enjoyed entertaining friends and family. In 2010, the couple relocated to Auburn to be closer to their daughter, Linda.
   Bob’s homemade eggnog will be missed by the entire family during the Christmas holiday.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Stanley and Clara (Zinda) Blaszak, brother Frank, sister Leona Drietz, and grandchildren Heather Lynch and Scott Johnson.
   Bob is survived by his wife of 64 years, Helen (Shaikoski) Blaszak; daughters Romayne Anderson of Torrance and Linda Lynch of Auburn; sons Robert of Wasilla, Alaska, and Luvern of Kingsburg; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
   He will be laid to rest with full military honors at Veterans Cemetery in Dixon, Calif. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org/#/waystohelp/donate/).

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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