the News - Friday, June 12, 2009
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
IN THE JUNE 12, 2009, PRINT EDITION:
RIVERS UNION SCHOOL
Photos • Awards
one last look or launch a canoe
the water by Western Holiday Lodge
only linger awhile longer as
Lake Kaweah begins
its downward trend.
Exeter man rescues
at Horse Creek
In the chilly waters of Lake Kaweah, sometimes even
good swimmers get into trouble. Add alcohol and pitch
darkness into the equation, and trouble can change
to tragedy in a heartbeat.
“I always wondered what I would do if I ever
found myself in a life-or-death situation,”
said Matt Bibey. “The adrenaline takes over
and you just do what you have to do.”
That’s how Lake Kaweah’s
latest hero described what he was going through just
after 11 p.m. last Saturday. Matt, 28, an off-duty
paid-call volunteer firefighter from Exeter, just
happened to be on the shoreline near Horse Creek Campground
at Lake Kaweah when a potential tragedy started to
happen approximately 100 yards offshore from where
he, his wife, and two boys were doing some nighttime
“I could hear this houseboat partying just offshore
from where we were, and there was a male and a female
in a loud argument,” Matt recalled. “I
was thinking right then I should call the Sheriff’s
But the next thing Matt heard was swimmers
entering the water, then some frantic splashing and
a call for help that at first he thought might be
a joke. Matt shined his spotlight on the scene and
couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“One swimmer was trying to get free from another
who was already starting to slip under the surface,”
Matt said. “I knew I should enter the water,
but not without some sort of flotation device.”
Next, Matt dispatched his wife to drive
far enough down the hill to get cell phone service
and call 911. Looking around for a flotation device,
he located the next best thing.
“I emptied my ice chest, jumped in the water,
and started paddling out to the struggling swimmers,”
Matt recalled. “When I reached them I was able
to grab the guy who was in the most trouble.”
Matt draped the nearly drowned victim
over the ice chest while he had two other swimmers,
who also had jumped off the houseboat, hold onto the
cooler’s handles. It was quite a sight that,
due to the darkness, nobody saw — Matt paddling,
determined to deliver his quarry safely on shore.
Within 15 to 20 minutes, Matt had everyone
out of the lake and out of danger. He was leaning
on his truck still trying to catch his breath when
emergency personnel arrived on the scene.
The rescued declined the services of
the fire units and ambulance personnel who arrived
on the scene; they were obviously intoxicated and
obviously underage. Matt and his rescued victims were
all okay and thankful to return home safe on a night
at least one off-duty volunteer firefighter and his
family will never forget.
Town Hall features updates
before adjourning for summer
At last Monday’s Town Hall meeting
(June 8), Lee Goldstein announced that the Three Rivers
Village Foundation will take its annual summer hiatus.
So mark your calendars, Lee said, for September 14
— that’s when the informational and sometimes
controversial monthly meetings are scheduled to resume.
The June 8 meeting was of the informational
variety and featured updates on an array of topics.
Arlin Talley spoke on behalf of the Sequoia
Foothills Chamber of Commerce, announcing the newly
elected slate of officers, which includes Tony Moreno,
president; Arlin Talley, vice president; Catherine
Launey, secretary; and Chris Schlossin, treasurer.
Deb Schweizer, Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks fire education specialist, and Norma
Sosa, interim public information officer, made announcements
relative to the summer season in the parks. Sosa said
there will be some one-lane traffic delays now that
rehabilitation of the Generals Highway near Wolverton
Sosa also indicated that recent marijuana
busts just inside park boundaries were at grow sites
above 6,000 feet. She said these were the highest
elevation sites discovered to date and may indicate
that growers are desperately trying to elude detection.
Lori Ontiveros, Three Rivers postmaster,
explained some of the new products and services of
the post office. Contrary to what most folks believe,
she reported, the post office is not subsidized. The
level of service is dependent on local revenue so
with declining income, some services like window hours
have been cut.
“When it comes to your local post office it
can really make a difference to buy your stamps and
postal products locally,” she said.
Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general
manager, furnished an update on the initial reaction
to the new boat ramp. He said things have been running
smoothly for the most part.
The congested traffic on Highway 198
during busy weekends, he said, presents a difficult
situation but will not be a factor in a few weeks
when the lake level drops. He also announced plans
to promote some wellness activities at Lake Kaweah
like Frisbee golf and a trail that would encircle
the lake’s perimeter.
Kevin Marks, County of Tulare emergency
services coordinator, previewed the county’s
new Disaster Preparedness Guide. The 32-page booklet
contains useful resources in the event of a disaster.
Marks also said the reverse 911 system
was tested recently and from all indications it is
an effective tool to immediately contact all land-based
phone lines. Most Three Rivers residents in the audience
mentioned that they were not contacted during the
initial test of the system.
More disaster and risk reduction information
is available by calling the Office of Emergency Services,
Water contest winners announced
In a wacky rainfall season that as recently
as June 5 produced .62 inches of rainfall in Three
Rivers (the first significant rainfall in June since
2000), the high water marks in the Kaweah River and
Lake Kaweah held true to form and occurred within
a week or so of where they have for most years in
the last 30-year cycle.
What’s different this year is that
THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH asked for serious water watchers
and even the not-so-serious to hazard a guess of when
those two high water marks might be reached —
all for fun and a $50 Gateway Restaurant gift certificate.
Now that both the Middle Fork and Lake
Kaweah are for certain in the throes of their annual
downward trend, the winners can be announced.
The peak flow for the Middle Fork was
approximately 2,241 cubic feet per second and that
figure was recorded on May 19 at 11 p.m. The winning
entry was submitted by Sue Schwarz of Three Rivers
— she guessed May 15 at 8 p.m.
The highest fill level for Lake Kaweah
this season was an elevation of 714.36 and that occurred
on Tuesday, May 26, at 8 p.m. The winning entry was
submitted by David Lowe of Three Rivers, who incredibly
guessed May 26.
Thanks to all who entered, and if you
didn’t, be sure you do next year. There’s
really nothing to it but to do it.
up at Three Rivers School
by Brian Rothhammer
Raising kids in the best of times is
a challenge, but imagine trying to raise twins. Maybe
it’s the water or the country living, but there
is an upward trend in the number of twins in town.
Three Rivers Union School will have four
sets of twins enrolled for the 2009-2010 year. In
the 2008-09 year there were also four, including recent
eighth-grade graduates Elizabeth and Evelyn Lewis.
Statistically, that’s nearly twice
the national average twin birth rate of 322 per thousand.
Two of the sets are in the same grade and when school
resumes, they will be in the fifth grade.
Fortunately for Mrs. Jami Beck, the fifth-grade
teacher, she’ll be able to tell the twins apart
because like all the twins at Three Rivers School,
the four fifth-graders are not identical.
The TRUS twins are commonly referred
to as fraternal or dizygotic twins. Identical or paternal
twins, the ones that have to wear their hair slightly
different to be recognized or who in extreme cases
can pass for each other, are monozygotic, meaning
from the same ova or egg cell.
These fraternal twins won’t be
doing any corny chewing gum ads or be plagued by the
most common stereotypes, but still the parents of
these local twins have endured some silly questions
One parent related that once while she
was changing the diapers of her children a neighbor
asked: “Are they identical?” while it
was obvious that one is a daughter and the other a
With fraternal twins there is no more
or less genetic connection than with other siblings;
they merely share the same birth date. One set of
the Three Rivers twins even came as a complete surprise.
“The doctors didn’t even know, until the
delivery. They rushed around for a time without even
telling me what was going on,” said one of the
Naturally, the families are delighted
with their children, but what about the kids?
As with any siblings, there are loyalties
and rivalries. One mother expressed that her kids
do get a bit too much of each other with the same
class at school as well as sharing time at home, but
just being around these twins for a few minutes, it’s
obvious that this bunch consists of happy, healthy,
For the fall semester, the twins at TRUS
are Ramsey and Sophia Vincent (kindergarten), Clayton
and Callie Vincent (grade 4), Zafina and Liam McElroy
(grade 5), and Eric and Daniel Fireman (grade 5).
(The two Vincent sets are not related.)
Why this high incidence of twins at Three
Rivers? Nothing unusual about the parents….
Or is there?
The highest rate of twinning on the planet
is among the Yoruba people of West Africa, and that
has been attributed to their diet which is rich in
a certain white yam that packs a punch of phytoestrogen.
No evidence of excessive consumption of white yams
in the local diet.
However, there is one common thread among
the parents and students alike.
They all seem to like living in Three
Rivers twice as much as living anywhere else. That
must be it.
When living in Three Rivers where folks
come from all over to vacation, it’s easy to
double your pleasure and your fun. Just ask the proud
parents of all these twins.
1925 ~ 2009
William Stroh, a former longtime Three Rivers resident,
died Sunday, June 7, 2009, in San Luis Obispo. He
Bill was born May 24, 1925, to William
and Jessie Martin Stroh in Los Angeles. In 1943, Bill
enlisted in the U.S. Army, taking basic training at
Camp Roberts. He served in World War II and fought
on Saipan from 1944 to 1946.
Returning from the war, Bill moved to
Three Rivers where he and his father built the Canyon
Lodge Motel (present-day Sequoia Village Inn).
Soon after, Bill went to work at Sequoia National
Park, which is where he met his wife-to-be Denelle
Perce. They were married on April 17, 1948. Together,
Bill and Denelle ran the Canyon Lodge Motel for the
next 20 years.
Bill was highly skilled in construction
and his assistance was always in demand. He helped
build the Mountaire Motel (present-day Sierra Lodge)
and other prominent structures in Three Rivers and
In 1958, he designed and built the Stroh family home,
located on the river just below the Pumpkin Hollow
Bill worked at Sequoia National Park
for 38 years, building lookouts and entrance stations,
plowing snow, and fighting fires. He always enjoyed
telling stories about his numerous adventures in the
backcountry while he was building and maintaining
Some of his most cherished memories were
the helicopter rides he took to Mount Whitney several
times each season to open, maintain, and close the
facilities. Bill retired in 1986 as the parks’
maintenance foreman and was honored for his dedicated
During his retirement, Bill volunteered
as project manager to oversee the construction of
the new Foothills Visitor Center at Ash Mountain for
the Sequoia Natural History Association. He served
as a director on the boards of the Valley Oak Credit
Union and the Three Rivers Cemetery. The current Three
Rivers Cemetery sign was hand-carved by Bill.
Bill and Denelle were inseparable and
enjoyed their retirement living alongside the Kaweah
River, entertaining family and friends, and traveling.
In 2001, they left the Three Rivers home in which
they had lived for 43 years and relocated to San Luis
Bill is survived by his loving wife of
61 years, Denelle, and their two daughters, Karen
Stroh Meers and husband Bill of San Luis Obispo and
Kathy Stroh Glenn and husband Chuck of Visalia; grandson
Casey Stroh Glenn; step-grandchildren Steven and Ryan
Ballew; and step-great-grandson Trevor Ballew.
A memorial gathering is planned for a
future date. In Bill’s memory, the family suggests
donations in his name be made to Sequoia Natural History
Association, 47050 Generals Hwy. #10, Three Rivers,