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In the News - Friday, JANUARY 14, 2005


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Mother Nature proves that

this will always be the wild West

   It was windy, it was wet, and it was definitely some wild winter weather that barreled its way through California this past week. On Sunday, Jan. 9, local residents in Three Rivers who awoke to the roaring thunder of a suddenly swollen Kaweah River wondered just how high that water might go.
   By mid-afternoon local temperatures were nearing 60 degrees and in the nearby mountains it was raining all the way up 7,500 feet. And even though there was a six-foot snowpack already in place, as if on cue the rain began to temporarily taper off and so did the meltdown.
   Evening temperatures in the lower elevations remained in the 50s as the turgid waters of the Kaweah began to gradually recede. On Monday, more rain and snow began to pelt the entire state, but this time ushering in a cooler mass of arctic air that, by Tuesday, lowered local snow levels to 5,500 feet.
   By Wednesday, a record-setting series of storms gave way to a general clearing all across California with residents dealing with the aftermath of mudslides, dramatic rescues, power outages and road closures.
   In Three Rivers, more than four more inches of rainfall was recorded from the recent storms, bringing the season total to 14 inches. That’s slightly more than an inch less of what the area received during the entire 2003-2004 season.
   That’s not even close to what some other California communities experienced. The more than 20 inches of rainfall to date in downtown Los Angeles is the most precipitation that city has had since record-keeping began in 1877, while the 19 feet of snow in Lake Tahoe is the most since 1916.
   Relative to the Sierra Nevada snowpack that furnishes one-fourth of California’s electrical power and a large proportion of its drinking and irrigation water, the news is uplifting. In the Central Sierra region from Yosemite to the Kern County line, the local mountains are packed with more than 101 percent of its full season average.
   After six consecutive less-than-normal years for water users, river rafters, and tourist-related businesses, that snowpack is like a nice fat bank account. Though it’s misleading to say the recent deluge is all that’s needed for a return to normal, don’t expect these storms to be the end.
   More than 60 percent of the so-called “rainy season” remains that traditionally winds down with the month of April and ends officially on July 1.

Bullene Vineyards

and tasting room closed
Local design firm acquires property

   The recent sale of Three Rivers’s only commercial vineyard might mean the end of Bullene wines but it doesn’t mean that the 33.7-acre property won’t be put to some “innovative” uses. That’s because Innovative Structural Glass, Inc., purchased the 7,000 vines and the parcel that contains the former tasting room, which is located on Pierce Drive at its intersection with Sierra Drive.
   Renowned for their modernistic glass designs adapted to some impressive public and private building projects, the local six-year-old company can barely believe the chain of events that led to the purchase of the only M-1 zoned property in Three Rivers. Property zoned M-1 may be used for manufacturing and light assembly.

  “Last month, we were faced with a rent increase due to an insurance hike, so it was time for us to make a move,” said Cindy Marinos of Three Rivers, who along with her husband Manuel are the firm’s principals. “We looked down in the Exeter area but nothing was available that suited our needs for offices and assembly.”
   Prototypes and actual parts used in construction are assembled in Three Rivers for Innovative’s clients before they are transported to projects like ones they have completed on the Embarcadero in San Francisco and the Mondavi Performing Arts Center at U.C. Davis. Some space in the former winemaking buildings now will house the structural materials as they are prepared for transport.
   The offices of the company are in the former Bullene Vineyards tasting room.

  “We still have visitors driving on the property expecting to taste Bullene wines,” said Marinos. “For the time being, we’re exploring options of what we might do with the vineyards part of the property.”
   One of those options might be to find someone to lease the vineyards and continue to produce wines from the three varietals that were planted in the early 1990s by Dan and Sharon Bullene, the former owners of the property. But the clock is ticking on finding a partner because the 7,000 vines need to be pruned by the end of February.

  “Getting this beautiful property in Three Rivers for our business is a dream come true,” Marinos said. “We never could have closed the deal so quickly without the help of the Bank of the Sierra and Diana Glass at Century 21.”
   The purchase price of the vineyard property and tasting room was $870,000.

Comings and goings

at Sequoia-Kings Canyon
Three retire; two arrive

   In the past several weeks, officials at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have announced the retirement of three longtime local employees as well as the arrival of two new employees to fill other vacancies.

   The first among the retirees to leave was Scott Ruesch, maintenance supervisor. His last day at Ash Mountain was Dec. 3, 2004.
   Ruesch is the third generation in his family to work for the National Park Service. Horace Albright hired his grandfather, Walter Ruesch, in 1916, the year the Park Service was created. Along with Scott’s 33 years, the Ruesch family members have dedicated more than 100 years to working for the NPS.
   Scott Ruesch was first hired in 1970 as a seasonal laborer at Mount McKinley (present-day Denali) National Park in Alaska. He worked there four years and then transferred to Zion National Park in Utah where he worked as a motor vehicle operator for the next two years.
   In 1977, Scott began a permanent full-time position in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as an equipment mechanic. He then transferred to Glacier National Park, Mont., in 1979, where one year later he became shop foreman.
   Throughout the next decade, Ruesch worked at both Yosemite National Park and Grand Coulee Dam National Recreation Area. In 1989, at Crater Lake National Park, he first became a division chief of maintenance.
   Finally, in 1991, Ruesch made the transfer to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks where, for the past 14 years, he has worked as chief of maintenance and construction. His wife, Melanie, also an NPS employee who formerly worked at Sequoia-Kings Canyon, is currently stationed at Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.

   Bob Griego, a resident of Three Rivers, retired on Monday, Jan. 3, after 35 years with the National Park Service. His most recent position was as program manager at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and he would serve as interim superintendent as required.
   Griego began his career as a seasonal laborer stationed at Lodgepole. During those early years, he attended San Jose State where he received his bachelor of science degree in business administration.
   After he graduated, Bob was appointed to his first permanent position at Pinnacles National Monument in California, which he describes as the “best little park” in the National Park System.
   After an appointment in Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area in Montana, Griego worked at some of the system’s most famous parks including Mount Rainier in Washington and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
   For the last 18 years. Bob has worked at Sequoia National Park and lived in Three Rivers. Bob and his wife, Denise, who recently retired from Three Rivers School where she worked as an instructional aide for more than a decade, will continue to reside in Three Rivers.
   The couple plans to travel to San Diego frequently to visit the families of their two grown children and to Botswana, Africa, where they had previously lived while working two years for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

   Frank Bleggi, who worked in maintenance and construction, retired Thursday, Jan. 6, after 21 years of service with the military and the NPS. He also is retired from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), of which he was a member for 28 years prior to working for the NPS.
   Bleggi was first appointed to the local parks in May 1987 after he worked on the construction of Grant Grove’s wastewater treatment plant. His wife, Cathy, currently works in the parks’ Resources Division.
   Bleggi said he plans to hitch up the RV and find some good fishing spots. He also plans, he said, to visit a daughter who lives in Brazil.

   After more than two years, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks once again has a new chief ranger, James “JD” Swed. Swed, who most recently was in a similar position at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Ind., arrived at Ash Mountain last month to fill the vacancy created when former Chief Ranger Debbie Bird was appointed as superintendent of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in Washington.
   Swed and his wife, Maureen, have purchased a home in Three Rivers.

   NPS officials also announced the appointment of Richard Huffman as the new concessions specialist. Huffman, who arrived at Ash Mountain last month, replaces Peggy Williams, who worked at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks for 14 years until her death due to cancer in June 2003.
   Huffman brings a wealth of educational background and private-sector experience where he worked as a certified public accountant. He worked as a seasonal during the past year at Grand Canyon National Park and it was there he decided that his move to the NPS was the right choice for a second career.

  “I applied for a summer position with the National Park Service to see what it would be like living in and working to preserve the beauty and character of a national park.”

Michaelyn Mathy, humanitarian,

caregiver, mother of 19
1917 ~ 2005
   Michaelyn O’Day Mathy died Friday, Jan. 7, 2005, at her Three Rivers home where she was surrounded by many of her children and grandchildren. She was 87.
   A service was held at Church at Kaweah on Tuesday, Jan. 11. Burial was at the Church at Kaweah cemetery.
   Michaelyn was born Feb. 25, 1917, in Lyons, Neb., to James H. Tryon and Louesa B. Harding. She moved to Three Rivers in 1959 from southern Oregon.
   In 1960, Michaelyn married Eric L. Mathy. From the couple’s home on La Cienega Drive in the Alta Acres area of Three Rivers, Michaelyn operated Michaelyn’s Mountain Manor Care Home for 20 years.
   Since 1964, Michaelyn has been a member of the Church at Kaweah. She has also been involved in the local organizations of Lady Anglers, Three Rivers Senior League, Comfort for Kids, and Three Rivers Hospice.
   In 1969, Michaelyn received the annual Honorary Service Award from the Three Rivers PTA for her commitment to the betterment of children.
   And better the lives of children she did. In addition to her 19 children, throughout her life Michaelyn sheltered and cared for a large number of other children who were in need of her care.
Michaelyn was preceded in death by her parents, two brothers, husbands Claude Finck and Eric Mathy, and seven children, including Bonnie Landrum and LeiLani Johnson.
   Michaelyn is survived by her children, Betty Lou Price of Vancouver, Wash., Patricia Fisher of South Carolina, Becky Montgomery of Pasco, Wash., K.J. Smith of Reno, Nev., Jim Fawkes of Prospect, Ore., Donna Wyant of Talent, Ore., Vallerie Tuman of Vancouver, Wash.; Michaelyn Knowles of Lemon Cove, Evangeline “Nonie” Summers of Three Rivers, Debra Finfrock of Porterville, Jon Mathy of Lemon Cove, and Sue Guinn of Lemon Cove; 91 grandchildren and great-grandchildren; her brother Floyd N. Tryon and nephew Jim Tryon of Milpitas.

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