In the News -
Friday, JUNE 30, 2006
After six foothills river fatalities in the 2004 and
2005 seasons, it is evitable that the dangerously swift water would soon
lure another victim. Apparently, Chastity Dorn, 21, of Tulare, is that
victim and the first Kaweah River fatality of 2006.
Last Saturday afternoon, June 24, Chastity was wading with
family and friends in a chilly pool just above the historic Oak Grove
Bridge, 6.5 miles from Highway 198 on the Mineral King Road. According
to a witness at the scene, Dorn lost her footing, fell into whitewater,
and quickly tumbled down two small waterfalls.
Her brother dove in to assist her and took the same short
tumble, then grabbed onto a rock and barely managed to climb out. His
sister had disappeared in an instant and, despite an air and ground search,
has not been located.
Jim Fansett, Three Rivers resident deputy sheriff who coordinated
the initial search, said this area is some of the steepest and most treacherous
terrain on the river. Because of this, it is not possible for rescue personnel
to enter the water to search.
Repairs to begin
Sequoia National Park officials announced Wednesday that
a contract for the next phase of the reconstruction of the Generals Highway
has been awarded to Agee Construction Corporation of Clovis. The $11.5
million project could begin by mid-July.
That’s contrary to a start date for the project that
was stated in the Commonwealth last week (“Park road project will
impact 3R”) for the summer of 2007. The conflicting startup date
was caused by a misinterpretation of “fiscal year 2007.”
The Federal Highways Administration, the agency that will
oversee the contract, views this one-and-a-half miles of roadway between
Big Fern Springs and Amphitheater Point as the steepest and most dangerous
section of the 80-year-old highway.
The roadwork is expected to continue for 18 months and, weather
permitting, be completed by the end of 2007. Construction work will be
ongoing Mondays through Thursdays, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fridays, 5 a.m.
to 5 p.m. No work is anticipated for Saturdays and Sundays or on federal
Traffic delays will be one hour with vehicles being allowed
to pass through the construction zone at the top of every hour.
According to Alexandra Picavet, parks information officer,
rangers at the visitor centers will assist in coordinating departures
to minimize delays.
“We will also be
coordinating our efforts with the new Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce
visitor center in Three Rivers,” Picavet said. “Without permitting
these delays, the cost and length of time needed to complete this phase
of the project would increase tremendously.”
The ongoing Sequoia foothills hazard-fuel reduction project
is expected to conclude today (Friday, June 30). Ignitions will occur
near the Ash Mountain helibase and at the Hospital Rock Picnic Area.
Park fire crews are also working to suppress a 12-acre lightning-caused
fire in the Redwood Mountain area. The Horse Trail Prescribed Fire is
ongoing in Cedar Grove and the Arrow and Woods lightning-caused fires,
also in Kings Canyon park, are being allowed to burn naturally.
She’s seen thousands of students come and go. She’s
assisted legions of teachers and parents who have entered her office.
She’s analyzed dozens of budgets and crunched more
numbers than H&R Block at tax time. And Valerie Abanathie has worked
under three of just four superintendent/principals that Three Rivers Union
School has ever had.
But she’s got the other one covered, too. Mary McDowall,
the school’s first administrator, was Valerie’s teacher for
the seventh and eighth grades.
Now, after 34 years of employment at TRUS, Valerie will officially
retire today (Friday, June 30) as the school district’s Business
It was on the eve of the December 1955 flood that Valerie
moved with her parents to Three Rivers. After this torrential welcome
by Mother Nature and once they had maneuvered their way into town despite
a washed-out bridge, the family set up shop at the Mountaire Motel and
Restaurant (present-day Sierra Lodge). Valerie entered the seventh grade
at Three Rivers School, never realizing that she would make a career out
of attending this school.
In September 1971, Valerie was sent to the school office
and, except for a one-year leave of absence, has not been excused since.
She trained for one year with Charlotte “Billie” Hicks, the
school secretary for 13 years.
“Billie was my
mentor,” said Valerie. “What a wonderful year I had working
Upon Billie’s retirement in 1972, Valerie became the
office secretary and also served as the secretary to the Board of Trustees.
At that time, the office was in the original school building, located
where the bus barn and McDowall Auditorium stand today.
“I was the only
one in the office for three years,” she said. “Then Judy Fiscus,
who was an aide, started working part-time in the office and it grew from
In 1976, the current administration building was constructed.
“The main office
was in the area where I have been working,” said Valerie. “Judy
and I shared a small area behind the counter for nine years.”
An expansion project in 1986 added the current main office
and new entryway.
“Judy and I had
fun taking turns sharing the desk, the counter, the typewriter and, of
course, the phone,” she continued.
Valerie took a leave of absence during the 1985-1986 school
year when she relocated to the Vacaville area. While there, she worked
for Solano Junior College.
“I really enjoyed
working there and seeing the business office in a different perspective,
at a college level instead of elementary,” she recalled. “The
change was good for me.”
In July 1992, Valerie relinquished her board-secretary responsibilities
upon being appointed TRUS business manager.
“The workload became
too great to also continue doing minutes for the board,” she explained.
In addition to her duties as a member of the office staff,
Valerie raised two children, both of whom also attended Three Rivers School.
Appreciation of Valerie’s contributions over the years
has come from students, parents, and staff. In 1980, the TRUS yearbook
was dedicated to her with the following inscription written by the eighth-grade
“In all our years
at Three Rivers Union School, one person has consistently shared in our
triumphs and in our tragedies… She has cared for us when we were
ill and has allowed us to pay our lunch money late without being impatient
In 1996, the Three Rivers PTA presented both Valerie and
longtime associate Judy Fiscus with the annual Honorary Service Award.
And so it is that today this Three Rivers School mainstay
— who has worked long enough to see students graduate, then return
to register their own children… and grandchildren — will exit
through her office door one final time.
“For 34 years,
my life has been TRUS — this school, the staff, the students, and
all the parents. What a wonderful place to work and grow and retire. The
staff is like a family. I love it and all the memories.”
After all these years, Valerie has just one regret.
“I wish I had written
down everything that the kids have said when they come into the office,”
she said. “What a book it would be because kids really do say the
Fourth of July
early in Woodlake
The 11th annual July 3rd Blast is bigger and better than
ever and everyone is invited to jumpstart their Fourth of July celebration
the night before.
The Kiwanis Club of Woodlake, the event’s principal
sponsor, will give an American flag to the first 200 ticket holders who
enter via the west gate of the Robinson-Painter Memorial Stadium at Woodlake
High School. Gates open at 6 p.m.
In addition to a fireworks display, live music will be performed
by The Spirals. There will also be a rock-climbing wall, 4-H petting zoo,
food, games and more.
Adult tickets are $5 at the gate. Children ages six to 12
are just $1 when accompanied by a paying adult; children under six are
free. Presale discount tickets for $3 are available at Woodlake Growers
Supply and City Hall.
Lawn chairs and picnic blankets are encouraged. No coolers
or outside food is permitted.
Proceeds from the event will be used for Kiwanis community
projects. For more information, call 564-1441.
After more than two years of fundraising and planning, Woodlake’s
skateboarders finally have a place to grind and get some big air. The
community’s newest recreational facility was officially opened on
Wednesday, June 21.
North State Playgrounds of Redding packaged the kit of five
structures that have been placed in Woodlake’s Miller-Brown Park,
located immediately south of the First Choice shopping center and across
from the local YMCA. The YMCA assisted the City of Woodlake, the skate
park’s owner, with finding a suitable design that fit the $25,000
“When it comes
to our kids we always want the best possible recreational opportunities,”
said Bill Lewis, Woodlake’s city manager. “This design is
a practical step in the right direction.”
The grouping of five skating structures is situated in an
80-by-35-foot area. Central in the design is a ramp with two three-foot
ledges connecting at the top with a two-foot level surface. Attached at
the opposite side of the ramp is a 12-inch grind box.
Placed several feet away around the ramp is a two-foot quarter
pipe, a 12-foot curved grind rail, a skateable bench, and an eight-foot
rectangular grind rail.
Toni Lenz, a community volunteer, first proposed the skate
park project at a city council meeting in 2003. The local skate club staged
several “demos” that raised funds and convinced Woodlake officials
that there was an urgent need for creating a skate park.
The new skate park is not fenced and is always open. Minors
are required by law to wear helmets, and protective gear for all skaters
1913 ~ 2006
Robert Francis McBratney, formerly of Three Rivers, died
Friday, June 23, 2006. He was 93.
Bob was born in Tarentum, Penn. Being of Irish descent, his
birthdate was, appropriately, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day), 1913.
He was a medical doctor specializing in urology and had a
private practice in Los Angeles.
In 1959, Dr. McBratney and his wife, Jane, purchased property
on upper North Fork Drive and named it the Trinity Ranch in honor of the
Kaweah River’s three forks and also the three large fig trees behind
the ranch house.
Following retirement from private practice, the McBratneys
relocated to Three Rivers, residing on their Trinity Ranch. Bob worked
as the deputy director of the County of Tulare Department of Health Services.
In the early 1970s, the couple sold the ranch and moved to
Visalia. Following the death of his wife of 49 years, Jane Marie McBratney,
Bob returned to Three Rivers in 1997.
He resided here until 2005, when he moved to Haskell, Okla.,
to be near family.
Bob is survived by his two children, Robert T. McBratney
of Haskell, Okla., and Patricia M. McBratney of Santa Barbara; and five
grandchildren, Bryan and Bret VanDerhyden of Santa Barbara, Colleen Christensen
of Colorado Springs, Colo., Brendan McBratney of Dallas, Texas, and Morgan
McBratney of Tulsa, Okla.
NOTICE OF DEATH
John “Jack” Ennis
John “Jack” Ennis Jr. of Three Rivers died Saturday,
June 24, 2006. He was 82.
Viewing will be today (Friday, June 30) from 3 to 7 p.m.
at Evans Miller Exeter Chapel. Interment will Saturday in Chatsworth.