In the News - Friday, May 20, 2011
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Park packers have sights set on Bishop Mule Days
The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Employee Association is sponsoring a fund-raiser dinner and dance this Saturday at the Ash Mountain Recreation Hall. The benefit dinner and dance will hopefully raise some badly needed funds to cover travel expenses for the parks’ award-winning packers’ team.
“The budget is really tight this year so we’re looking for some funds to help the team from the parks who are going over to Bishop for Mule Days during the Memorial Day weekend,” said Greg Feltis, the NPS corrals manager and event organizer.
On Saturday, May 28, Greg will lead a string of NPS stock in the traditional Mule Days Parade, billed as the longest running non-motorized parade in the world. The local parks will transport five mules and three horses to participate in this event, the 42nd annual Bishop Mule Days festivities.
The local national parks will have a booth on-site and Karen Taylor-Goodrich, parks superintendent, is also planning to attend. But the main reason for Sequoia-Kings to attend Mule Days is the Packer’s Scramble events for both teams and individual.
There are at least seven other teams that will be competing for bragging rights of best packers in the business.
“We had the team event won last year but our latigo strap came loose,” Greg said. “We’re not looking to get disqualified again.”
But this year will be a challenge to win the timed event that includes gathering your stock and equipment that’s all mixed together with the other teams’ stock and equipment. It can be a wacky, frenzied event to watch and with the clowns on hand to scare the mules, there are always lots of laughs too.
“We’re starting over this year with two new team members and two new animals,” said Dan Baker from Squaw Valley, who at 40 is the eldest packer on the team.
It will be interesting, Dan said, to see how the team performs in the arena. In addition to Dan, who is the parks’ Kaweah packer, the other team members are Beth Lasswell, 28, of Three Rivers, Kern packer; Nick Knutson, 34, of Woodlake, Hockett packer; and Tyler Willis, 20, of Visalia, Hockett assistant.
The primary job of the packers is to supply the trail crews that spend the entire season in the backcountry. Nick has been competing at Mule Days for 10 years while Dan has been on the team for the past four years. Beth and Tyler are the rookies in the competition, and Beth is the first woman to compete on the Sequoia-Kings Canyon team.
“It’s a great experience going over to Bishop, and we sure hope it can continue,” said Feltis. “Every ticket sold and the donations we collect are for a good cause and will help us preserve packing in these parks and in the Sierra.”
Missing backcountry skier located
As of Thursday morning, May 19, a Sequoia and Kings Canyon search-and-rescue helicopter crew was attempting to locate a skier in the Kern backcountry, missing since Monday. But the would-be rescuers soon learned, Russell “Rusty” Sammon, 34, from San Francisco had walked out on his own.
The backcountry solo traveler had been on an extended trip on the Sierra High Route when he decided to hunker down during the stormy weather on Sunday and Monday.
His last known whereabouts were at the Kern Ranger Station in Sequoia National Park, from where rescuers had received a signal from a locator beacon. After the storminess blew over, the park helicopter was able to land in the Kern Canyon on Thursday.
The rescuers did not locate the man but found a note at the ranger station that said he was heading back. Just before noon on Thursday, Sammon telephoned from Quaking Aspen to report he was okay and had walked/skied out on his own.
As of Thursday, May 19, there was still 54 inches of snow on the valley floor at Mineral King (elevation 7,800 feet), meaning the traditional Memorial Day opening of this section of Sequoia National Park will be postponed until after June 1.
Donald Brewer: Copilot on the ‘Desert Lily’
by Gary Whitney
This is the third installment in a four-part series to honor the three Three Rivers men who were killed during World War II. A plaque will be placed at the Three Rivers Cemetery in their honor during a special Memorial Day service.
* * *
Everything that I have found on Second Lieutenant Donald D. Brewer indicates he was a man of great character and conviction.
His pastor, J.A. Lovell, wrote a letter to Donald on February 2, 1944. Unknown to Pastor Lovell, however, was that Donald had been killed three months earlier.
They knew that Donald was missing. The Army had sent a telegram to the family on November 22, 1943, to inform them he had been missing for 20 days.
I think the pastor’s letter was not only to show hope for his friend, but to comfort the family as well. The first line of his letter thanked Donald for his faithfulness to the church by sending his monthly tithe from Europe.
He stated in the letter that he loved Donald as if he were his own brother and how proud he was when Donald was promoted to lieutenant. He then talked of Donald’s music and how it always inspired him because, he said, “I know behind your music is character and consecration.”
Before war erupted and after graduating from University of Redlands, Donald was a piano player for NBC. This was a dream job for a musician back then. Music was used to create the mood for all the radio shows of the day.
Donald also played piano at his church. He was a fine young man with a bright future.
Then war came. Upon entering the service, the Army decided Donald would be a dental technician. Donald would have none of that and, after a time, convinced the Army that he should fly airplanes instead.
On September 9, 1942, Donald was selected for flight training and reported to Gibbs Field at Fort Stockton, Texas. Upon completion of flight training, Donald advanced to even more training at Yuma (Ariz.) Army Airfield, where he would learn to fly the famed B-24 “Liberator” Bomber.
As best as I can ascertain, Donald and his flight crew arrived in Enfidaville, Tunisia, in late September or early October 1943. Donald would become the copilot on the “Desert Lily,” a B-24 that had already seen one crew through their cycle of missions.
The airfield in Tunisia had first been used to fight the Germans in the battles for North Africa but now had begun flying missions deep into Europe. After the fall of Italy, the 512th Bomb group would move there, thus closing the Enfidaville airbase.
The Desert Lily, under the command of pilot 2nd Lt. Harold Schick, had flown four missions against the Germans; her fifth would be her last. The mission on November 2, 1943, targeted the Messerschmitt airplane factories in Weiner Neustadt, Austria.
This area was extremely important to the Germans and thus heavily defended. The 800-plus miles to the target was primarily enemy territory and potentially fraught with danger.
The MACR (Missing Aircraft Report) issued by the Army had three witnesses to the demise of the Desert Lily, two of whom were survivors from the plane itself. The third, Technical Sergeant William H. Linton, had this to say about the Lily:
“Ship 23 was trailing behind the formation until after we hit target and she was about 1,000 to 1,500 feet below our ship. After the target was bombed, she started to catch up with the formation. Ack-ack bursts were very close to her, and the ship was possibly hit. One fighter dove at her from two o’clock. Shortly after, she started into a spiral to the left of us and spiraled out of sight.”
Further information came from the two surviving members of the Lily crew, 2nd Lt. William King Jr. and Staff Sergeant Bryan Vaughn, both of whom spent the remainder of the war as German prisoners of war. In the MACR report, Lt. King gave an account of what he saw prior to leaving the aircraft.
The plane was on fire and they were spinning. King made it to the escape hatch with Lt. Carl Simon directly behind him. He had no idea why Lt. Simon was unable to exit the aircraft. He located fellow crew member S/Sgt. Vaughn on the ground about three hours after the crash. After being taken prisoner, the Germans informed him that the remaining crew members were killed in the crash.
S/Sgt. Vaughn had more detailed information about the incident.
Vaughn saw T/Sgt. Dascalakis fall out of the top gun turret; he did not know if he was hurt or not. He got a good look at the back of the plane upon leaving where S/Sgt. Rundle would have been; it was badly shot up. He saw 2nd Lt. Schick and 2nd Lt. Brewer out of their seats with parachutes on, trying to get the door open between the flight deck and bomb bay, but it would not open.
He stated that while in captivity with the Germans, they showed him the dog tags of Lt. Schick and S/Sgt. Gish.
As mentioned previously, the family was told that Donald was missing 20 days after being shot down. It would take another four months for the family to have their darkest fear realized.
On February 16, 1944, the telegram that no family wanted to receive came to Mrs. Lula E. Brewer:
Your son, Second Lieutenant Donald D. Brewer, who was previously reported as missing in action, was killed in action two November in European area.
A more compassionate letter would follow nine days later from the commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Corps, General “Hap” Arnold, but either way, Lula had lost her beloved son.
Not until August 9, 1949, would Donald’s body and those of his comrades be returned to the United States. The individual crew members could not be identified, so on January 18, 1950, the crew was buried together at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Mo.
Please join me on Memorial Day (Monday, May 30), 10 a.m., at Three Rivers Public Cemetery as we honor Donald Brewer and two other Three Rivers men for their sacrifices to our country.
Women wanted for summer softball league
Signups are currently ongoing for a women’s summer softball league in Three Rivers. The first game of the season is scheduled for Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m.
Sponsored by the Three Rivers School Recreation Committee, games will be played Monday and Wednesday evenings on the softball field at TRUS. All women from completed eighth grade and older are invited to participate; all abilities are welcome.
The cost for the season is $25. A per-game rate of $5 is also acceptable.
For additional information or to register for the league, call Eme Price, 280-2691.
FHCN breaks ground on Woodlake clinic
It was a festive occasion for city officials and the business community too as Family Health Care Network (FHCN) began work on its new Woodlake clinic. The groundbreaking for the new and enlarged facility was held Thursday, May 5.
The new clinic, on the southeast corner of Lemona and Lakeview, will replace the current facility at 101 N. Palm Street. The new 10,000-square-foot clinic will include 18 exam rooms and nine dental rooms.
In the future, it will be used as a model for new FHCN projects. Construction on the Woodlake clinic is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
FHCN is a private, nonprofit, community-based provider established in 1976 with clinics in Three Rivers, Springville, Porterville, Visalia, Ivanhoe, Goshen, Hanford, Cutler-Orosi, and Woodlake.
Swim, softball, golf teams highlight season
When 141 student athletes finish a season as members of eight teams, it’s testimony to lots of practices, games, meets, matches, tournaments, travel time, studying on the fly, and keeping those grades up to stay eligible. Now more than ever it’s a privilege to play sports and it takes hard work, dedication and commitment — not only on the part of the students but commitment from the coaches, the school district administration, parents, and the entire community that supports the athletic programs.
This season there were lots of wins and losses and championship-caliber performances. As you peruse this special sports section celebrate the accomplishments of these student-athletes who in addition to sports, juggle schoolwork, community service, and responsibilities at home.
Keep in mind, as these athletes and their coaches do, it’s not only about winning but how you play the game.
SWIMMING— When the season began there were some unanswered questions. How would the swimmers respond to the coaching change as the youthful Tammy Dye officially took over from the legendary Craig Baker? Would the Tigers’ seven-year league dominance continue?
“The team overall was smaller than what we had in the past, but I did know that we had some great [returning] swimmers and athletes that were not going to let their fate change with a change in coach,” said Coach Tammy Dye.
This season answered all the questions, the winning streak continued and swim team had a blast.
“The team unity we have made it easier on me as a coach because instead of conflict amongst the swimmers, we play, have fun, cheer each other on, and keep coming back for more,” Coach Dye said.
A great deal of the credit for the team unity, Coach Dye said, goes to Chris Spahn, senior captain. Spahn set the example for the other swimmers as to the work ethic required to succeed.
“Chris worked hard all season and helped motivate the team and keeps pushing himself to better and better times,” Coach Dye reported.
Coach Dye cited Paris Carlsen, a sophomore, as her outstanding girl swimmer.
“The Tigers are lucky to have two more years with this young talent as she will continue to shine and improve her times,” Coach Dye exclaimed. “I’m looking forward to next year and its exciting possibilities.”
In addition to their undefeated East Sequoia League (ESL) season, 13 swimmers qualified for the divisional meet. Chris Spahn and Paris Carlsen both qualified for two individual events as well as relays. Those results will be published in the upcoming WHS graduation issue on June 3.
VARSITY GIRLS’ SOFTBALL-— A successful season came to a heartbreaking halt Tuesday, May 17, when the Tigers lost 4-3 to Selma at home in the opening round of the playoffs. The Lady Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning but couldn’t push across the two runs for the walk-off win and a chance to move on and face rival Exeter.
The Lady Tigers won the ESL championship, finishing 11-1. Their overall record was 20-4.
Coach Ramon Lara, in his fourth season as the head softball coach, attributed much of their success this season to strength up the middle. He cited outstanding players Tila Hagen, senior center fielder, and Rhyanne Rochin, senior pitcher, as keys to the Lady Tigers’ winning season.
JV GIRLS’ SOFTBALL— Coach Sophia Nunes said she was pleased with the progress of her JVs and that the future bodes well for Tiger softball. The JVs were 8-4 in ESL play, good for a second-place finish.
“We had a strong battery with pitcher Karina Rodriguez and Clare Berry at catcher,” Coach Nunez reported. “Karina was our workhorse. She pitched every inning of every game.”
GOLF— Eddie Dominguez, who in the winter season coached JV girls’ basketball, began his first year as golf coach. Coach Dominguez took over for WHS teacher Art Jenkins, who recently retired from coaching.
The team carded lots of good scores this season and went 6-0 in ESL match play. That record translated to another league title for Woodlake. Four of the six low-score medalists in the league tournament were from Woodlake: Ryder Rochin, first; Foster Hengst, fourth; Matt Hirni, fifth; and Shawn Fox, sixth.
“We don’t have any seniors on the team so look for Woodlake to have a real impact on area golf in the future,” Coach Dominguez said. “We’re making progress and I expect we will show some big time improvement next season.”
TRACK AND FIELD— Head coach Jamel Carter had 29 on his final roster so the numbers coming out for this recently revived sport at Woodlake High are growing. More athletes are waiting in the wings if and when the new track is constructed.
Voters approved part of the money (Measure C) to install the state-of-the-art track along with other improvements but the district has yet to come up with a match of approximately $80,000. Want to see how Robinson Field might look someday? Go to Lindsay and check out their new facility at the high school. It’s what every district should and could do if only they could find the money.
Connor Beck qualified for the Sectionals in the long jump. His best jump of the season was 20 feet, 2¾ inches; Meg Johnson qualified for the sectionals in the high jump and long jump but was unable to compete because of a season-ending back injury.
VARSITY BOYS’ BASEBALL— The Tiger boys finished their season May 18 in Fresno after a first-round loss in the playoffs to Fresno Christian. Their league record was 5-6 in league, good for third place. The top offensive players were Gabriel Rodriguez (.414, nine extra-base hits, 23 runs scored, 10 stolen bases); Curtis Beedle (.324, 22 runs scored, 10 stolen bases); and Guy Berry (.337, team-high 14 RBIs). The ace of the pitching staff was Miguel Reynoso (3-3, 3.45 earned run average).
JV BOYS’ BASEBALL— The JV boys, coached by Monte McKean, finished with a 14-5 overall record. Top hitters were Philip Woods, Ezra Graber, and Jaykob Rodriguez. Top pitchers were Jaykob Rodriguez and Cade Headrick.