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In the News - Friday, May 11, 2012

This week's front page



1st Saturday event

could be history

Founder steps down, citing

lack of interest by artists and patrons

  People are feeling the pinch when it comes to buying their groceries or gas, so how do you get them to give away their money for an original painting or other creation by a local artist? For a few years, Nadi Spencer of Three Rivers thought she had found the answer.
   Since May 2009, Nadi was the impetus behind 1st Saturday, a monthly open house of artists’ studios and any other local business or individual who wanted to join the fun and welcome the public. For a monthly fee of $7, which paid for the publicity via website, print media, and posters, anyone could participate.
   Organizers of other events in town found it lucrative to coincide their activities with 1st Saturday as well, knowing that the monthly event was a draw for local residents and visitors.  But now, exactly three years later, Nadi has announced that she is quitting as organizer of the event, citing waning involvement by local artists and the general public.
   She is not taking the concept or the name with her. She welcomes anyone to step in and take over the event.
   On every first Saturday of the month, Nadi was at her studio where not only were her colorful paintings on display, but she cooked up a vegan dish to share, the recipe of which was printed onto her own line of artistic recipe greeting cards.
   By the end of 2009, 31 local businesses were a part of 1st Saturday, offering exhibits, performances, events, free food, giveaways, raffles, and plenty of discounts. On the May 5, 2012, 1st Saturday the participation had dwindled to half of that number.
  “1st Saturday had a dream that we could wake up the town,” said Nadi. “Who wants a town with no galleries, shops, or restaurants? If you want those things, then you have to support them occasionally. Every month for three years, we invited people out for some fun, food, and art. Every month we cleaned our house, set the table, lit the candles, opened the wine. And no one shows.”
   Nadi did mention appreciation for the small group of regular patrons who always came out for 1st Saturday. But they just weren’t enough to make the investment of time worth the effort.
  “Quitting as coordinator of 1st Saturday is not about the amount of work or the amount of help from the participants,” she explained. “I would do it indefinitely if anyone cared. Our small group of constant dreamers, which included restaurants, hotels, and galleries, worked hard to make a small change.”
   Nadi still has a vision of Three Rivers being the “Art Mecca” of Tulare County, attracting a steady stream of visitors from near and far. Artists, she said, have a role to play in slow economic times.
  “The rest of the world is having a bad time, so why can’t we make their lives a little more interesting,” she said. “And if we can, shouldn’t we?”
   That’s what 1st Saturday was all about. And now it’s not.

Edison swimming hole to close weekends

  Jim Kennard, manager of Southern California Edison operations for the Kaweah-Tule powerhouses, announced at the Monday, May 7, Town Hall meeting that the popular “Edison Beach” swimming hole would be closed every Friday morning until Monday morning throughout the summer. Last summer, the area owned and maintained by SCE was closed during busy holiday weekends, but this season the closures are being extended.
  “Events that occurred at the end of last season really left me no choice but to close the area for more hours, effective Friday, May 25, the start of the Memorial Day weekend,” said Kennard. “I really don’t want to close the area permanently.”
   In the terms of the SCE license agreement to use Kaweah River water, there is a mitigation measure that directs the company to provide recreation for the public. The Edison Beach area is undeniably a local treasure but sometimes it has attracted what Kennard calls a “disrespectful” element.
   There will be lots of caution tape at the Kaweah River Drive swimming hole and new signage, Kennard said, and neighbors and the community will still have to keep a watchful eye out for violators.
  “My hope is that the new policy will be a workable compromise,” Kennard said.
   Tourist dollars— Rita Woodard, county auditor-controller, treasurer-tax collector, and registrar of voters, explained how the Transit Occupancy Tax (bed tax) works and how the money is allocated.
  “If you count the Wuksachi revenue with Three Rivers that means this area generates 80 percent of all transient tax collected in the county,” said Woodard.
   Supervisor Ishida introduced Eric Coyne, the county’s tourism manager and head of the film commission. Coyne explained that the entire budget for promotion of tourism comes out of the bed tax.
  “Five years ago that was not the case,” said Eric. “We didn’t have a tourism program until Allen [Supervisor Ishida] introduced the idea when he was the board chair.”
Geoff Glass, a local bed and breakfast owner, asked if the county’s efforts actually help operations like his.
   Eric displayed several publications and told of Internet sites that are tools for promoting all that Tulare County has to offer.
  “In everything the county does, Three Rivers is always the priority,” Eric said. “You have the park, the art galleries, a world famous candy store, and the things most tourists want to do.”
   Mignon Gregg also had an update on the town center project to promote pedestrian safety.   She said the Village Foundation, after conferring with Caltrans, agreed to scale back their plans slightly and now are rethinking the crosswalk idea.
  “We agree with Caltrans that a crosswalk might give pedestrians a false sense of safety,” Mignon said. “Now we are proposing better signage and speed indicator lights, and that should be a big improvement.”
   The project would utilize state tax dollars and Measure R funds and is expected to take two to three years until it is implemented, Mignon concluded.
   The next town meeting is scheduled for June 4. For information, call Marge Ewen at 561-1234.

Dutch bikers seek

California adventures

  Two bike campers from Holland made their way from Lemon Cove-Sequoia Campground to Buckeye Flat Campground in Sequoia National Park on Saturday, May 5. They stopped briefly at Village Market to stock up on groceries and to study the map.
   The map they were using is actually a guide to the roads and trails of California available through the Adventure Cycling Association (adventurecycling.org), rapidly becoming the go-to authority for adventure travel for cyclists. The maps highlight the best routes, must-see attractions, food stops, campgrounds and more and contain everything the adventure cyclist needs to know in a lightweight, easy-to-carry format.
   The maps for this region tout Sequoia National Park and its renowned Giant Forest and steer bikers here because of the user-friendly Kaweah canyon and generally all-around excellent camping.
   According to the recent bike tourists, Godelieve Broelander and Henry van Stiphout, the maps are accurate in their routing information and descriptions. The couple from the Netherlands flew to San Diego with their bikes and gear, visiting Borrego Springs, Idyllwild, Red Rock Canyon, and after their ride through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, they planned to take Hwy. 180 to Fresno.
  “There (Fresno) we will take the train to San Francisco where we will fly home after our four-week biking adventure,” Godelieve revealed.
   What is incredible about the cycling experience is that a four-week vacation of a lifetime is possible without ever having to ride in an automobile. Now that’s a real adventure.

Spring in the high country

(Photo caption) The Mineral King valley in Sequoia National Park is virtually snow-free below 9,500 feet elevation. Despite an impressive battery of storms in March that delivered the most snow of the season, followed by a wet April, it was not enough to raise the season’s snowpack to near normal levels.

No injuries reported in North Fork crash

  A Tulare real estate agent was shaken but unhurt after a single-car accident on North Fork Drive that totaled the 1999 Mercury Marquis that he was driving. The solo vehicle accident occurred Wednesday, May 9, at 12:10 p.m., adjacent to a fenced pasture one-quarter mile from Sierra Drive.
   The motorist told a CHP investigator that he was headed down-canyon when the vehicle’s right front tire ran onto the shoulder. He then over-corrected and skidded across North Fork Drive.
   That’s where he hit a sign and crashed into a large sycamore, coming to a stop wedged against the tree on the river side of the roadway. The vehicle came to rest 20 feet from an occupied mobile home.
   The driver, Daniel Freitas, 51, was cited for driving with a suspended license. Frietas’s license was suspended in 2003 and, according to Officer Wright of the Visalia CHP, this is not the first time he has been cited for the same offense.

Rodeo queen is Woodlake's pride and joy

  And the winner is… Woodlake’s own Matlyn Matta. Sweet 16, gracious, bubbling over with excitement, the 2012 Woodlake Lions Rodeo Queen can’t wait to strut her stuff on Saturday in the annual parade and for the opening of one of the truly great hometown ranch rodeos anywhere on the planet.
   But her road to being crowned as this year’s queen was no easy ride. In fact, it was the first competition of any kind that this homeschooler has ever entered.
   The annual competition for Woodlake’s rodeo queen comes down essentially to horsemanship. Of course, a generous helping of self-confidence and composure can enhance a contestant’s chances at the traditional coronation ceremony.
   This year it was a tale of two contestants – Meg Johnson of Three Rivers and Matlyn Matta of Woodlake, both girls born and raised in their hometowns. Meg, 17, was trying to become just the third Three Rivers girl to be crowned queenin the contest's 64-year history: Barbara Brewer (Ainley) was chosen as the first Woodlake Rodeo Queen in 1949 and Julie Johnson (Hawes) presided over the festivities in 1982.
   The arena riding competition was intense. As family, friends, and Woodlake Lions watched from the stands, the horseback riding included some nifty rail work, a separate heat where horse and rider must execute precise reining patterns, and then a faster paced “Queen’s Salute.”
   In that grand finale, each of the girls gallop their mounts around the arena as fast as they can while in symmetrical posture saluting the grandstands with timing and grace. One false step can be a critical deduction, especially when more than one rider executes the riding program to perfection.
  “Meg is a tremendous rider, and it was obvious when the riding was all over, the competition between us was too close to call,” said Matlyn.
   Through the weeks leading up to the coronation, all five of the candidates became friends, Matlyn said, and more like a team than competitors. Meg practiced her riding around the demands of being a senior at Woodlake High School while playing sports and attending classes.
   Matlyn, who is homeschooled by her dad, rides every day on the family ranch, herding and gathering cattle and just plain joy-riding. Her idea of a good time is the family branding she attended last weekend.
   She admitted that the riding comes natural, and all the riding she does on a working cattle ranch with 100 head might be an advantage. But she had huge learning curve to overcome, especially mastering how to speak and ride in front of people.
  “On the ranch we ride comfortable, which is a sort of a slouch,” Matlyn said. “What was difficult for me was to learn to sit up straight and tall in the saddle with good posture.”
Matlyn said Pam Whiteside and the other rodeo queen coaches were a huge help in preparing her for the competition.
  “Everyone, especially the other girls and the Woodlake Lions, was so warm and friendly to me, so I never felt uneasy,” Matlyn said. “What was the tie-breaker in the competition was my huge ticket sales.”
   Matlyn admits that her extended family, especially her sister Katie and friend Mark Lyons, were behind her right out of the gate and supported this incredible quest to become rodeo queen. They all sold lots of raffle tickets… literally thousands of tickets.
  “I have a large family and we are good, hearty people,” Matlyn said. “Between all of us we know just about everyone.”
   To her family and best friends, Matlyn is affectionately called “Weda.” That’s Spanish for her fair complexion that comes from her ethnic heritage — three parts Mexican and one part German.
   Her parents, Robert and Rosalie Matta, couldn’t be more proud of their daughter being chosen as Woodlake’s 2012 Rodeo Queen.
  “When I grow up, I want to be an amazing rancher like my dad, and a professional photographer, because I want to capture the happiest times in life, those moments when dreams come true,” Matlyn said.
   So this weekend have those cameras aimed and ready to shoot one great parade and rodeo and, like this rodeo queen longs to do, capture some of life’s special moments. For this Woodlake cowgirl, picture-perfect dreams really do come true.

Grand Marshal devotes

time to community and family

  Frances Sotomayor Ortiz is this year’s Grand Marshal, overseeing the Woodlake Rodeo Parade. The parade will be held Saturday, May 12, beginning at 10 a.m., and officially marks the start of the anticipated Woodlake Rodeo weekend.
   Frances was raised in Arizona, where she graduated from high school, but followed her family to Woodlake in 1966 at the age of 26. She is the eldest of nine children, so she assisted around the house while also working at her parents’ small grocery store.
   Frances was a star softball player, earning a name for herself as a pitcher. When she was a senior in high school, she traveled with her team to the World Tournament in Bridgeport, Conn. While pitching there, she was clocked at 93 miles per hour, which really filled the stands.
   Frances played softball from the age of 11 until she was in her 40s. In 1990, she was inducted into the Tempe High School Hall of Fame.
   In 1970, Frances married Cornelio Ortiz. The couple has five grown children, four daughters and a son, all of whom were raised in Woodlake and graduated from Woodlake High School.
   Frances has worked for the Head Start Program, Community Service and Employment Training, Proteus Adult School, Woodlake Elementary School District, Sun Pacific Packinghouse, and the Tulare County Area Agency on Aging. She was a police reserve officer in Woodlake for nine years and served for two years as a police dispatcher.
   She has been on the Woodlake City Council since 1994. She served as mayor from 2002 to 2004.
   These days, she spends many hours volunteering. She has served on the board of the Woodlake Family Health Care Clinic, Self-Help Enterprises, and the Woodlake Elementary School board. She has served as a court interpreter and is currently a notary public, a HiCAP volunteer, and an AARP driver education instructor.
  “My life has always been dedicated to my family, friends and the community,” Frances wrote in her biography upon being named Grand Marshal. “My greatest joy has been that of my family, including my husband, five kids, 20 grandkids and four great-grandkids.”


Jim Howell
1920 ~ 2012

   James Warren Howell, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Sunday, April 29, 2012. He was 91.
   Jim was born October 4, 1920, in Harrison City, Penn., to Earl and Katherine Howell. In 1925, Jim’s family moved to Lansing, Mich., where he attended the Lutheran Church School and Lansing Central High School.
   In his younger years, Jim enjoyed Scouts, playing tennis, and running for his school’s cross-country team. Jim went on to attend Michigan State College from 1939 to 1941.
   Following a job at the Reo Motors plant making parts for Army tanks, Jim joined the United States Army in 1943 and served overseas during World War II. After his service ended in 1946, Jim returned to Michigan State and graduated in 1947.
   During college, Jim met his future bride, Jeanette Ewing. They married in December 1948.
Jim later received a master’s degree in Forestry and began his career with the National Park Service. Jim’s first duty was as a park ranger at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Soon, Jim and Jeanette welcomed daughter Linda (in 1950) and daughter Laurie (in 1954).
   Jim worked in the National Park Service’s Washington, D.C., office before being transferred to Sequoia National Park in 1965. For the next decade, Jim worked as the management assistant to the superintendent, retiring in 1975.
   Jim and Jeanette enjoyed their retirement in Three Rivers, but sadly, Jeanette lost her battle with breast cancer in 1978. Jim remained in Three Rivers where he spent many wonderful years enjoying the company of family and friends and volunteering at Community Presbyterian Church.
   For several years, Jim was in charge of compiling the Community Presbyterian Church’s monthly newsletter. He took this task seriously, and the publication was filled with member news, history, birthdays, anniversaries, upcoming events, and more.
   Jim spent many years hiking the Sierra and attending plays and symphonies with his dear friend Mabel Sparks. In 2002, Jim moved to Quail Park Retirement Village in Visalia. He spent his days attending activities there and enjoying visits and meals with his family.
   Jim’s final days were spent surrounded by his loving family. He will be remembered for his kind heart, his love of music, his beautiful photos of nature, and for his famous minestrone soup!
   Jim is survived by his two daughters, Linda Whitney of Visalia and Laurie Nutter and husband Curt of Placerville; granddaughter Traci Davis and husband Steve; granddaughter Joey Nunnelee; granddaughter Sara Whitney and husband Christian; granddaughter Stephanie Whitney; grandson Adam Nutter; three great-grandchildren, Parker, Peyton, and Angelique; sister Vera Elaine Kavish of Mountain View; and numerous other extended family and friends.
   A memorial service for Jim was held at Quail Park on May 4, 2012. Donations in Jim’s memory may be made to the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) or to any church youth group.

Jim Yates
1923 ~ 2012

   James E. Yates, M.D., of Three Rivers died Friday, April 20, 2012. He was 89.
Jim was raised in Boston, Mass., and went to high school at Rindge Tech and then received a scholarship to Harvard University.
   Jim’s mother was a trumpeter in an all-woman band that traveled throughout the U.S. and his father was a medical doctor in Sherman, Ark.
   During World War II, Jim fought in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division (Ski Troops, see article below) for the liberation of Italy from the Nazis.
   After the war, he returned to Italy to attend medical school at Universita di Bologna.  With classes entirely in Italian, he quickly became fluent and within five months was translating medical literature. 
  He later worked as a physician for three years in Surabaya, Java.  During this time, he traveled throughout southeast Asia, captivated by the people, traditions, and beauty.
   In 1960, Jim volunteered for the maiden voyage of Project Hope, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, which traveled the Indonesian islands for a year.
   A residency in Psychiatry at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco brought him back to the U.S. As a psychiatrist, he opened successful offices and clinics in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
   In 1972, he had a daughter, his adored Natica, from his first marriage to Carol Mihalik. They lived in Lafayette, Calif., then Oahu, Hawaii, before moving back to Boston. In Oahu and Boston, as a physician, he served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. military.
   In 1992, in Three Rivers, Jim married Maxine Poutsma, whom he had known from his years in Java. Until recently, he practiced psychiatry in Visalia and for the State Department of Corrections at Corcoran State Prison and volunteered at the Samaritan Clinic in Visalia.
   Jim and Maxine hosted guests from around the world (and next door) at their home in Three Rivers, where he entertained with stories of his exciting and rich life. Jim’s passion for learning new languages and staying informed politically and socially never wavered.
   He was a self-sacrificing humanitarian who advocated “health care for all.” Jim was compassionate, warm, witty and extremely liberal.
   Jim is survived by his loving wife, Maxine; his adoring daughter, Natica; son-in-law Emiliano; and his two grandchildren, Nikolai, 2½, and Mila, 8 weeks old.
   For information regarding the memorial service, contact Natica at naticayates@gmail.com.

Ski Troops

  During World War II, the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division served in combat for only four months, but it had one of the conflict’s highest casualty rates.
   The division started out as an experiment to train skiers and climbers to fight in the most difficult, mountainous terrain in Europe. Their training at Camp Hale, near Pando, Colo., included skiing, snowshoeing, and rock-climbing. They also learned cold-weather survival tactics, such as keeping warm by building snow caves.
   The men lived in the mountains for weeks, working in altitudes of up to 13,500 feet, in five to six feet of snow and in temperatures that dropped to 20 degrees below zero at night.
   At the end of 1944, the 10th Division was finally deployed and began the first of a series of daring assaults against the German army in the northern Apennine Mountains of Italy.
   Mount Belvedere was the highest mountain in the Apennines, and the Germans had stymied the U.S. Army there for nearly six months.
   On Feb. 18, 1945, the 10th Division took Riva Ridge — to prevent the Germans from being able to survey U.S. positions below — in a nighttime operation. The steep mountain was covered in snow and ice. At night, the Germans did not bother with guard patrols, because the conditions were so difficult that they did not believe any American unit could climb the ridge — day or night.
   But the Germans were wrong, and the soldiers of the 10th climbed, silently, to the top and secured Riva Ridge with minimal casualties.
   The next day’s operation, the assault on Mount Belvedere, would prove to be very different. The American soldiers ended up victorious, but not without a price: Nearly 1,000 of the 13,000 soldiers in the division died.
Excerpted from “Battle on the Slopes: World War II’s Ski Troops,” a five-part series that was broadcast on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Clyde Blyleven

1931 ~ 2012

  Clyde C. Blyleven died Monday, May 7, 2012, at his home in Lincoln, Neb. He was 81.
Clyde was born March 13, 1931, in Downey, Calif., the first son of Gladys and “Curly” Blyleven.
   After graduating from Compton Junior College in Southern California, he began his training in the Naval Reserves, which led to a 48-year career in communications, eventually bringing him to Telex in Lincoln. His aptitude for technology and ability to connect with people made him a leader in his field.
   Clyde’s work took him all over the world; he visited Europe, Asia, and Africa. Clyde also loved to travel with his family, driving motor homes first with his children and then grandchildren all over the U.S.
   Boating and flying planes were also favorite pastimes. Clyde gave generously to the communities in which he lived, volunteering in Scouts and 4-H.
   In 1971, Clyde began his term on the Woodlake City Council. He served as mayor beginning in about 1974 and continued in that leadership position until his resignation when he relocated to Lincoln for his job.
   In Lincoln, Clyde served on the Parish Council and as an usher, acolyte, and eucharistic minister at St. Joseph’s parish. He was active in the Knights of Columbus, serving as a Grand Knight, Faithful Navigator, district deputy, and state council director, developing other new councils in the Lincoln area.
   Clyde is survived by his wife of 57 years, Trudie (Schouten); his brother, Gary, and wife Ruth; his son, Clyde, and wife Debbie; daughter Angie and husband Bob McGuire; daughter Elaine amd husband Keith Gero; daughter Patty and husband Kent Richard; and his 10 grandchildren: Scott and Melissa Blyleven, Koree Blyleven; Mike and Chris McGuire; Kyle and Eric Gero; and Jessica, Deidre, Justin, and Derek Richard.
   Memorial donations may be made in Clyde’s name to Catholic Social Service and the Villa Marie School.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
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