this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
It’s been 20 years
since a careless smoker tossed a cigarette
from Generals Highway near Hospital Rock
and sparked the Buckeye Fire, which threatened
to consume the Giant Forest before it
was finally contained. A half-dozen other
fires along the highway have been extinguished
since but none as large or as damaging
as the 1988 blaze.
So on Monday, Aug. 18, when
an Amphitheater Point interpretive ranger
called park dispatch to report a fire
burning upslope from Deer Ridge, there
was more than a little cause for concern.
The most recent fire started
when a mother of infant twins pulled off
the Generals Highway on the east side
of the roadway near Deer Ridge. The woman’s
mother, who was also a passenger in the
2000 Volkswagen Passat, helped get the
infants out of the car after they smelled
“something weird” and started
to see smoke.
“Hey lady,” a passerby called
to the driver of the Volkswagen, “your
car’s engine is on fire.”
In a few seconds the vehicle
was engulfed in flames. The stranded Pomona
motorist and her family got a ride back
down the road where they spotted the ranger
at Amphitheater Point.
Engines from Ash Mountain,
Lodgepole, and Grant Grove were immediately
dispatched to the scene and arrived shortly
after law-enforcement rangers. A parked
helicopter was also dispatched to the
incident and made a bucket drop that helped
firefighters on the ground establish a
hose perimeter and soon snuff out the
NPS investigators believe
the fire started when tinder-dry brush
along the roadside burst into flame from
the radiant heat of the burning vehicle.
Sequoia park rangers closed the Generals
Highway for two hours while the area around
Deer Ridge was scoured for potential flare-ups.
“We take fire on the Generals Highway
very seriously because of the safety of
our visitors and the infrastructure that
exists within the highway corridor,”
said Deb Schweizer, Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks fire information
Schweizer said that this
time NPS personnel were able to get the
jump on the fire so no outside resources
were needed. It’s a busy time for
human-caused fire, she reported, as other
small fires were extinguished this week
at the General Sherman Tree parking area
in Sequoia National Park and at Azalea
Campground in the Grant Grove section
of Kings Canyon National Park.
“Fire danger is extreme now along
all our roadside areas,” said Schweizer,
“so we are reminding everyone to
be extra careful with fires and to dispose
of all smoking materials properly.”
The Tehipite Fire, a lightning-caused
fire that has been burning in the backcountry
of Kings Canyon National Park since mid-July,
is continuing to grow. It has nearly doubled
in size in the past week from about 500
acres to 1,000.
The Tehipite Valley trail
from Simpson Meadow to the park’s
west boundary has been closed for two
weeks. This week, the Blue Canyon Trail,
which is north of the Tehipite Valley,
is also closed.
Backcountry travelers will
receive alternative backpacking options
from rangers if their itineraries include
this area of the park.
Another lightning-caused blaze
in Kings Canyon National Park is burning
slowly in a remote area between Cedar
Grove and Roaring River. It is currently
at about an acre in size and has not shown
much growth in the past week.
These types of slow-burning,
natural-occurring fires are healthy for
forests, thinning them, reducing the amount
of dead and downed debris, and opening
the canopy. A human-caused, raging wildfire,
on the other hand, puts forests and humans
at greater risk.
play Three Rivers
Three Rivers has attracted
its share of show-business types and musical
personalities. They come to revel in the
quietude and be recharged in this awe-inspiring
place known as Kaweah Country.
When their busy schedules
permit, some of these renowned visitors
might perform or play a set at an intimate
Three Rivers venue. Last Saturday night,
Aug. 16, the distinguished players were
Randy Sharp and Jack Wesley Routh; the
venue was the Three Rivers Arts Center.
The fact that a glorious
full moon cloaked Three Rivers and its
rustic Arts Center in shimmering splendor
was no accident. It was the perfect setting
for Dennis Melkonian of Three Rivers to
present an evening with two Grammy award-winning
Melkonian — who with his brother,
Milton, has owned and operated Lake Elowin
Resort since 1977 — often hosts
some really exceptional folks. But his
old friend Randy transcends being a guest;
he’s more like family.
“I first met Randy in 1970 after
hearing him perform at one of the Wesak
festivals staged by John Holden and Adrian
Green,” Dennis recalled. “I
couldn’t believe the amazing talent
and how this guy sounded.”
The Melkonians, who were
introduced to country rock during their
high school days at Mt. Whitney in Visalia,
invested time and money in the music business
and along the way helped to preserve its
“We formed a production company
that helped Randy become one of most successful
songwriters in country music,” Dennis
said. “In the 1980s, we met Jack
in the studio and the two artists have
teamed up ever since.”
A two-hour set of some of
the duo’s incomparable songwriting
was on display at the Three Rivers show.
Randy, who opened the evening with some
solo numbers, confessed that this is one
of the first times he’s felt rehearsed
while playing Three Rivers.
The duo’s music is
part swing, a dash of Brazilian, a hefty
dose of Texas, and deeply rooted in the
San Joaquin Valley’s Bakersfield
tradition, with the Beatles all over it.
“We always try out some new songs
here in Three Rivers,” Randy said,
“because if anybody’s going
to put up with us, it’s going to
be you guys.”
Two of the duo’s songs
currently getting a lot of airplay are
featured on the latest release by Emmylou
Harris. In the past Randy said, Emmylou
has won a Grammy for one of Randy’s
songs and she’s probably going to
win another for Jack’s composition
“Beyond the Great Divide.”
“A songwriter only kind of wins
the Grammy,” Randy explained.
Jack’s hauntingly beautiful piece,
written with J.C. Crowley, epitomized
all the best that these songwriters bring
to country music. Randy and Jack played
the guitar lines crisp and sang with the
harmony of a hot cup of coffee at a chilly
“I guess the first artist who really
noticed Randy’s talent was Ray Stevens,”
said Dennis. “And later it was Randy
who taught Nashville five-part harmony.”
There have been Sharp songs
recorded by Glen Campbell, Reba McEntyre,
Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless, Clay Walker,
Alabama... and the list goes on to include
nearly all of Nashville’s hottest
Among the songs he played
last weekend was his “Dreams of
the San Joaquin,” which was recorded
by Linda Ronstadt. Not too shabby for
a kid whose Dust Bowl parents landed in
Woodlake before Randy graduated from Redwood
High School in Visalia during the late
“The reason Randy is not more popular
because he never played the music industry
game,” Dennis said.
“What he wanted to do was write
great songs, and that’s the measure
of his incredible success.”
The huge iron wheels that
sat for years on the former Ogilvie property
adjacent to Old Three Rivers Drive were
recently donated to the Three Rivers Historical
Society. The wheels were used on an old
steam traction engine when sections of
Three Rivers were dry-farmed a century
Fred Ogilvie (1900-1988) and Rena Alles
Ogilvie (1904-2001) were lifetime residents
of Three Rivers and longtime employees
at Three Rivers Union School.
New retail shop
Ja Nene Natural Body Products,
Three Rivers’s own natural and organic
skincare company, has opened its first
retail location at 41667 Sierra Dr., next
to the Cutting Room in the shop recently
vacated by My Sister’s Closet.
Previously, the Ja Nene inventory,
which is created by Janene Lasswell, has
only been available online or at periodic
“Finally, I have a public store!”
said Janene, owner and product developer.
“I’m so excited to offer a
convenient place for shoppers and the
space to expand product lines. Residents
and visitors who love our area for its
natural beauty will love the natural,
safe, quality products offered in this
Ja Nene Natural Body Products
is the only manufacturer in Tulare County
of natural skin care products sanctioned
by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, an
industry watchdog sponsored by the Environmental
Working Group and Friends of the Earth.
Janene invites everyone to
visit her at the new store.
“Come by and take advantage of the
free samples, have a mini-facial, enjoy
some healthy snacks and a cold drink,
and ask me about our custom gift baskets
that are perfect for special occasions,”
she said. “Hope to see you soon!”
Ja Nene Natural Body Products
is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11
a.m. to 6 p.m.
NEWS: WOODLAKE HIGH SCHOOL
WHS sophomore hones skills
in nation’s capital
by Kathryn Keeley
Poet Maya Angelou once said,
“Because of our routines we forget
that life is an ongoing adventure.”
I realized this is true after I changed
my routine by doing something adventurous.
I traveled across the country
to attend a two-week class in Washington,
D.C. — a journey unlike all others
I had ever taken.
I was nominated to participate in the
2008 National Student Leadership Conference,
and I chose to attend the Journalism and
Mass Communications course. It took place
at American University with 107 other
high school students from around the country.
I was to participate in the Environmental
Communication class, one of many categories
in which to specialize.
When I picked my class, I
had no idea that I would learn one of
the most important lessons of my life:
“The one thing we cannot recycle
is wasted time.”
For my two weeks there, the
time went by so unbelievably fast.
From day one, our schedules were
busy from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
In the mornings, I had my
environmental class, with visits to the
Environmental Protection Agency and interviews
with Greenpeace’s executive director.
Then we’d board buses for a fantastic
and educational field trip, visiting illustrious
places such as The Washington Post and
the Smithsonian museums.
In between trips and journalism
classes, we had leadership lessons with
topics such as “Conflict Resolution”
and “Team Building.” There
we engaged in fun, and sometimes ridiculous,
activities and heard phenomenal and inspirational
Another precious highlight
of the trip was the people. They were
as dedicated and determined as I am, and
it was great to be with them. These people,
my peers, were not judging me but accepting
and appreciating me. Despite being with
them for only two short weeks, deep friendships
Attending this conference
not only benefited me. The insights gained
will help me give back to the community.
Because I am part of the
Woodlake High School journalism team,
I will contribute my new reporting skills
to help build a better paper.
Furthermore, because WHS journalism goals
are to create a student-driven newspaper
with relevant information that connects
our communities and our school, I am energized
to forge a new linkage between our communities.
I believe I have gained abilities
that will benefit me for the rest of my
life — in high school, college,
and my future career.
Throughout my stay at our
nation’s capital, I learned that
leadership is about character. And I am
pleased to report that I have found myself
and am proud of my potential.
It was an adventure I will
never forget and an education I can apply
to the rest of my life. I have no doubt
whatsoever that this conference was the
best experience I have ever had.
This program had an immense
impact on my life and I am extremely thankful
for it and those who made it possible.
I enormously appreciate the Three Rivers
Woman’s and Lions clubs for their
generous donations to make this a dream
3R senior selected student senator
Woodlake High School senior Jordan Vieira
of Three Rivers was selected as the student
senator to represent California’s
18th Senatorial District at the 2008 session
of the “Sacramento Leadership Experience”
which was held from Tuesday, Aug. 5, to
Friday, Aug. 8. Conducted at the state
capital, SLE is a four-day event where
selected high school students from throughout
the state act as California state senators
as they engage in a living laboratory
about government, public policy formulation,
Participants at this conclave
learn about California government operations,
the legislative process, public policy
development, and study major issues facing
our state’s citizenry. As the week
progresses, the student senators will
take up pieces of mock legislation aimed
at solving some of California’s
significant problems. Working to represent
the best interests of the constituency
in the Senate District they represent,
student legislators convene their own
Senate Committee Hearings and determine
whether or not their legislation moves
to the Senate Floor.
The climax of the week’s
activities is the convening of a general
floor session of the student senate in
the State Senate Chambers of the State
Capitol, where student senators debate,
argue their points of view, lobby fellow
senators, and ultimately vote on the mock
legislation that was moved to the general
session by committees. The overall experience
is designed to increase understanding
of government functions and policies,
create awareness of major issues facing
the state, and stimulate interest in becoming
active, concerned, and participatory citizens.
The Sacramento Leadership
Experience is the first and only student-leadership
development activity of its kind where
students literally operate as legislators
for a week in the state capital. In operation
since 1995, the conference was created,
and is presented, by the student success
and motivation experts at Excellence in
This year’s legislator
host at the State Capitol was Senator
Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) of the 21st Senatorial
District. Senator Scott currently serves
as the chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Students competed for a seat
at the conference through an application
procedure that includes consideration
of academic achievement, breadth of involvement
in school and community activities, demonstrated
interest in government, politics, and
public policy development, extent to which
this educational experience contributes
to the student’s future plans, and
recommendations from school faculty and
administrators. Student senators are selected
by a committee comprised of representatives
from the conference presentation staff
at EIP, representatives from various financial
sponsors of the event, and representatives
from legislator offices at in Sacramento.
The 18th Senatorial District
is geographically the largest in California.
It includes Kern and Tulare counties and
portions of Inyo and San Bernardino counties.
Competition was stiff for Jordan as he
competed for a spot against students from
Visalia, Bakersfield, Tulare, Porterville,
Bishop, Lone Pine, Barstow, Big Bear City,
Needles, 29 Palms, and dozens of other
How local little tikes are
playing and learning
By Melissa Alberti-Araujo
It’s back-to-school time, but the
kids of Three Rivers have happy memories
of summer. Many of the community’s
youngest were busy each week with activities
made possible by community volunteers
and service organizations.
Each Friday at Our Place
playground, there was water play and bubble
fun. With a couple of wading pools, extra
hoses, tarps, and sprinklers, the playground
was converted into a water park.
Two new canopies have been
installed at Our Place. One is strategically
placed over the sandbox and one is in
the corner over one of the hand-hewn benches.
The canopies were generously provided
by the Three Rivers Community Services
District and through the continuing support
of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club.
On Thursdays, kids caught
“The Reading Bug,” courtesy
of Three Rivers librarian Sonja Hoogeveen.
During Storytime, there was record attendance
and entertaining presenters.
Oklin Bloodworth, renowned
children’s musician and recording
artist, returned to sing and dance with
the kids. Joel Despain, National Park
Service cave specialist and author of
Hidden Beneath the Mountains, gave a presentation
about cave creepy-crawlies and autographed
copies of his book. Kristie Martinez,
Child Development instructor
at the College of the Redwoods in Humboldt
County, who was here on vacation, read
bug stories. Local mother of two, Jalene
Vincent, shared the very popular Animal
Yoga. These along with others made the
library the place to be each Thursday
On Wednesdays, it was all
about the Three Rivers Swim Club. At 11
a.m., children met at the Three Rivers
Bed & Breakfast, where owner Catherine
Launey volunteered her pool. Many, many
thanks to Catherine for being so gracious.
Although the summer activities
are over, the fall program started yesterday
(Thursday, August 21) at Three Rivers
Library. This was the first day of the
26-week “Alphabet Days.” Each
week, a new letter will be presented in
stories, sign language, yoga, music, and
arts and crafts. There is also the ongoing
“Reading Club,” where reading
five books five times is rewarded with
a prize from Sonja’s prize basket.
Fridays this fall will be
more fun than ever because the Our Place
Playschool is back with great activities
planned for each week. August and September
begin the preschool year with presentations
on Alaska, the changing seasons, a mini
nature walk, and plaster-of-Paris handprints.
All of the above activities
are always free of charge and open to
any child. The only requirement for both
programs is that children must be accompanied
by a responsible adult. Keep an eye on
the Kaweah Kalendar each week for all
For more information or to
volunteer or contribute to “Alphabet
Days” and Storytime, contact Sonja
Hoogeveen, librarian, 561-4564, or Melissa
For information regarding
the Our Place Playschool, or to volunteer
as a presenter, call Amy Dolcourt-McElroy,
1921 ~ 2008
Verna Curtis, a former resident of Three
Rivers, died peacefully Thursday, March
27, 2008, surrounded by her three children
and friends in her apartment at Friends
House in Santa Rosa. She was 86.
A Quaker memorial meeting
will be held this Sunday, Aug. 24, at
10:30 a.m., at the Visalia Friends Meeting,
17208 Avenue 296, Visalia.
Verna was born Oct. 13, 1921,
in a small county hospital in Nanton,
Alberta, Canada to Rachael and Earl Godsey.
Her mother, Rachael, grandmother Rebecca,
and aunt Ethel raised Verna and her brother
in an extended maternal family home.
Verna graduated at the top
of her class from Amboy High School in
Illinois and attended Indiana University.
In the summer of 1941, Verna and her brother
drove to California to visit relatives.
She decided to stay in California and
graduated from UCLA in 1943 with a degree
Verna then moved to Washington,
D.C., and worked at the Department of
Land Resources. On Mother’s Day
1943, she met her future husband, Russell
Curtis, at the Florida Avenue Quaker meeting
in Washington, D.C. They were married
Oct. 3, 1943, in the care of the Meeting.
This began their adventurous
life together of working and traveling
around the world. As newlyweds they came
to Three Rivers for Russ’s alternative
service during World War II. On a beautiful
spring day, they rode their bicycles from
Exeter to Three Rivers and instantly fell
in love with this Sierra town and its
people, a love that spanned more than
After the war they volunteered
with the American Friends Service Committee,
a Quaker relief organization that took
them to India. Verna’s assignment
was to be a neutral presence in the violent
clashes between the Muslims and Hindus
and to help organize village-weaving cooperatives.
The highlight of their two years in India
was their “breakfast with Gandhi.”
Verna would later write an account of
In 1949, they returned to
Three Rivers with a baby son, George.
While in Three Rivers they published The
Current of Three Rivers and operated a
mail-order book cooperative. The Current
was a six-page newspaper, printed on a
small offset press in the chicken house
behind the Curtis home on Dinely Drive.
In 1951, Verna and Russ were
selected to work in Micronesia. They sold
their printing press for $100 to Virginia
Williams of Three Rivers and began their
35 years of dedication to these island
people. Verna taught English at the first
inter-island high school, ran a hotel
resort, was the main purchasing agent
for the cooperative store, and acted as
postmaster on Yap. Verna encouraged the
local population to produce quality island
handicrafts to promote exports and economic
growth. The family now included two daughters,
Ginger and Kate.
Russ and Verna returned to Three Rivers
in 1960. During this time, Verna was active
in the school community with her three
young children. Russ worked with migrant
farmworkers in the valley.
In 1963, they returned to
the islands of Micronesia to continue
their work in economic development of
that area. They were instrumental in establishing
several locally-owned companies in the
early days of the newly formed nations
Verna and Russ’s third
return to Three Rivers was in 1986 to
retire. They were members of the Visalia
Friends Meeting and involved in various
In these later years, Verna
was active in the Three Rivers Woman’s
Club, Redbud Garden Club, Three Rivers
Senior League, and was a founding member
of the Three Rivers Historical Society.
In 1994, Verna and Russ moved to Friends
House in Santa Rosa. In 2000, after 57
years of marriage, the love of her life,
Verna is survived by her three children,
George of Visalia, Ginger of Three Rivers,
and Kate of Petaluma, and five grandchildren.
Remembrances in Verna’s
name may be sent to American Friends Service
Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia,
1936 ~ 2008
Irva Mary Leal of Three Rivers died Thursday,
Aug. 14, 2008, at Kaweah Delta Hospital
in Visalia after a courageous seven-month
battle with brain cancer. She was 71.
Irva was born Dec. 28, 1936,
in Fresno to Paul and Katherine Lencioni.
When she was seven, her family moved to
Lindsay, where she was raised and educated,
graduating from Lindsay High School in
Irva attended the College
of the Sequoias in Visalia and spent the
first portion of her working life as a
bookkeeper for local citrus packinghouses
in Lindsay. When she was in her mid-40s,
Irva’s business-savvy mind and adventuresome
spirit led her to embark on second career
in the grocery business.
As a business partner with
her eldest son, Irva utilized her accounting
and managerial skills in their Grocery
Outlet store. After three years in Ontario,
they seized the opportunity to transfer
the business to a local Grocery Outlet
Store in Visalia and return to the family
and friends she loved so much in Tulare
Irva was a 13-year resident
of Three Rivers. She retired in 2007.
Irva was a devoted mother who always proudly
identified herself by the title “Mom”
and “Grandma Irva.” She was
active in her community, including the
altar society at Sacred Heart Church in
Lindsay and, later, St. Clair’s
Catholic Mission in Three Rivers. She
was a volunteer at St. Anthony Retreat
in Three Rivers and dearly loved her Red
Hat Society chapter.
Irva was an industrious member
of the Tulare County Grand Jury from 2006
through 2007 and incredibly proud to serve
her community in that capacity.
Irva is survived by her husband,
Tony Leal of Three Rivers; four devoted
sons, Quinn and wife Carrie Blue of Visalia,
Vahnn and wife Lori Blue of Lindsay, Shann
Blue and fiancée Kristen Atkins
of Visalia, and Carson and wife Elisabeth
Shearon of Chicago; daughter-in-law Doreen
Blue of Lindsay, 13 grandchildren, beloved
step-grandchildren, and brother, Paul
Lencioni Jr. of Fresno.
Two services have been held
to celebrate Irva’s life; a rosary
at St. Clair’s in Three Rivers on
Monday evening, Aug. 18, and a funeral
mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church
in Visalia on Tuesday, Aug. 19.
Remembrances may be made
to the Sequoia Regional Cancer Care Center,
in care of the Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation,
216 S. Johnson St., Visalia, CA 93291.
Condolences mat be sent to
the family at www.myersfuneral.com.
1946 ~ 2008
Roger Paul Jennings, formerly of Three
Rivers, died Monday, Aug. 4, 2008, at
his Bishop home. He was 61.
Friends are invited to gather
tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 23), 5 p.m.,
at the Cort Gallery in Three Rivers to
reminisce and reflect on his life.
Roger was born in Bakersfield
on Sept. 28, 1946, the only child of Paul
and Faye Jennings. Roger was educated
at the University of California at Berkeley,
receiving his B.A. in Art and, in 1972,
his M.A. in Design.
After college he was employed
in various occupations in the Bay Area,
such as designer, options trader, and
welder in a shipyard.
In the late 1970s, Roger
moved to Three Rivers with Carol Lieder.
He worked as an artist, craftsman,
laborer, and carpenter.
Roger strove to put the very
best of himself and his skills into whatever
he did, whether it was an original painting
or installing a window frame. He will
be remembered by many for his spiritual
He spent many hours a day
in meditation, and toward the end of his
life used meditation instead of medication
to relieve pain.
Mercurial and volatile, Roger was passionate
about many things and never stopped searching
or reflecting. His kind and gentle spirit
will be greatly missed by his friends.
Roger resided in Three Rivers
until about five years ago, when he moved
In the late 1990s, Roger
was preceded in death by his longtime
partner, Carol Leider. He is survived
by no immediate family.