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Three Rivers,
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Kaweah Kam

In the News - Friday, november 3, 2006

There's a new

tow truck in town


  He’s been called a lot of things during his 40 years of local roadside service — humorous, unselfish, a living legend, an angel with a heart of gold, good neighbor, handsome Irishman, the ambassador of Three Rivers and, recently, a shoo-in for the Tow Truck Hall of Fame. After the events of this past week, also call him shocked and thankful.
   That’s because Pat O’Connell, Three Rivers’s one-man emergency road crew, received a totally unexpected gift of gratitude — a new tow truck. It all started early last month when his old tow truck experienced serious mechanical problems and the resulting fire rendered Pat O’Connell’s Service out of service.
   Several family members and friends suggested to Pat that maybe it was time to end his 24/7/365 tow truck calls and devote more of his leisure time to the magnificent landscaped park he has created adjacent to his Sierra Drive service garage. After all, the still young-at-heart Pat turned 79 recently, an age when most would retire, not scale steep hillsides trying to figure the best way to extricate the vehicle of an errant off-road motorist.
   But for Pat to quit doing the one thing he likes most is unthinkable. So three weeks ago, he began a statewide search to find just the right truck.
   A proponent of old-school towing that requires special equipment for mountain jobs, Pat knew his task would be a formidable one. His search took him to Woodlake, Visalia, Sacramento, Petaluma, and Ontario.
   Finally, he found his way to San Jose and the lot of Diamond Sales in Milpitas. There he located a stylish 1985 Ford tow truck painted black with turquoise striping that met all his requirements.

  “The sticker price was $7,999 so I called them up to offer $7,000,” Pat recalled. “They countered with $7,200, so I agreed and we had a deal.”
   The salesman called back the next day to say that they had encountered a minor snag getting the vehicle’s smog test for licensing. For the delay, he said, they’d be willing to drop the price to $7,000 “out the door.”
   Finally, the highly anticipated day — Tuesday, Oct. 24 — arrived and Pat, with his good friend, Julius Sermuksnis, made the four-hour drive to Milpitas to take delivery. Before they left Three Rivers, Pat stopped at the bank and withdrew the cash to pay for his new truck.
   After Pat had signed all the paperwork at the dealer’s, he pulled out his envelope with the cash to seal the deal. That’s when he got a shock he’ll never forget.

  “You won’t be needing to pay for the truck,” said Mike Tovar, sales manager. “The town has already made the purchase for you.”
   Pat looked at Julius incredulously. There really wasn’t much to say. Pat was in awe of Three Rivers and its residents, many of whom he had helped by just doing what he loves.

  “I’ve heard of towns buying ambulances and fire engines, but a tow truck?” Pat said later.
   In the past week, Pat has already made several runs in the new truck. He did a job pulling out a stuck trailer at the Lazy J recently that wouldn’t have been possible in his old truck.

  “I’m real pleased with the new truck,” Pat said. “It’s all set up with everything I need.”

Weather takes a

turn to the seasonal

   What’s typical this time of year in Kaweah Country is the atypical. In recent Novembers, we have experienced a flood caused by three inches of rain in an hour following an early snowfall, Thanksgiving temperatures in the 80s, and smoky atmospheric conditions caused by an extended fire season.
   Weekend showers are in the California forecast as far south as Yosemite National Park. Closer to home, daytime temperatures will reach the upper 70s and nighttime lows will dip into the low 40s.
   Election Day will be seasonably warm, but on Wednesday conditions will become considerably cooler as a low pressure trough begins making its way across Northern California, bringing with it a chance of precipitation, especially in elevations above 7,000 feet.

3R history celebrated

   It’s the true story about a peaceful river valley nestled beneath snowcapped mountain peaks. It’s an exciting story about cowboys and Indians. It’s the story of Three Rivers.
   And tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 4), Three Rivers residents have the opportunity to step back in time and experience the early days of Kaweah Country.
   In this re-enactment and exhibit of Three Rivers’s fascinating history, Living History Day at the Three Rivers Historical Museum seeks to educate and entertain while bringing the past to life. Volunteers will wear period dress and ongoing demonstrations will allow all visitors to be introduced to the Yokuts chores of basket-weaving, grinding acorns, and starting a fire. The skills of early settlers will also be taught, such as lassoing and churning butter.
   Storytelling begins at 1 p.m. with lifetime Three Rivers residents Jim Barton and Earl McKee, accompanied by Charlie Castro. Jim, 82, and Earl, 75, will describe life in Three Rivers during the first half of the 20th century, a time when going to school may have involved walking across a swinging footbridge dangling precariously above the Kaweah River because a flood washed away the old bridge.
   Back then, going to work was walking out the backdoor and onto the ranch, and commuting meant taking the herd to and from the high country each year.
   Charlie, a longtime Three Rivers resident, is a Native American who was raised in Yosemite Valley. He is retired after a long career with the National Park Service.
   Living History Day is free and all are invited. Vittles will be available for 19th-century prices including beef and beans, apple pie, ice cream, and cider.
   A tour of the displays at the museum will also tell the story of Three Rivers and those who helped settle this special place.

Jack Slater
1961 ~ 2006

  Jack C. Slater of Three Rivers died Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006, in Astoria, Ore. He was 45.
   Jack was born to David P. and Janine M. Slater in Fullerton on May 18, 1961. He was raised in Newport Beach where at a young age he developed a love for fishing, boats, and the ocean.
   When Jack was 13, his mother married Robert Chilcott. Jack was moved inland to Norco, Calif, and although he formed bonds there with some of his closest friends to this day, he found he was not cut out for the life of a dairy farmer.
   At 16, Jack passed the G.E.D. test, left high school, and moved to San Diego to work on sport-fishing boats. At 17, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard, and after serving his country for exactly one month and six days, was given an honorable discharge.
   He returned to San Diego to work on sport-fishing boats and, while there, met his wife-to-be, a deckhand named Suzy Lane.
   Needing adventure and wanting more boat experience, Jack went to Louisiana and worked in the oilfields of the Gulf of Mexico. While there, his brother, Jeff, invited Jack to join him on a trip to the Virgin Islands.
   Jeff had to leave the islands after a week, but Jack stayed for eight months before returning to San Diego and sport fishing.
   He and Suzy became close friends and both worked toward earning their captain’s licenses.
   Skilled at operating boats, fishing, and running a first-class operation, Jack earned an outstanding reputation in the fleet. He ran trips varying in length from a half day to 16 days, preferring the longer trips and the opportunity to fish some of the most remote, pristine, and plentiful waters off Baja California.
   Jack found his niche running long-range whale-watching adventures in the lagoons of Baja.
   On Jan. 10, 1988, Jack and Sue were married. Soon after, they welcomed their first daughter, Jaime, to the family. Their second daughter, Megan, was born a year later.
   A doting, unique, and creative father, Jack had an incredible bond with his firls. He loved to take them on adventures and once took a job running a tour boat in Prince William Sound so they could spend the summer together in Alaska.
   It was from Alaska that the family moved to Three Rivers in 1992. Jack returned to long-range fishing boats in San Diego, commuting home to Three Rivers betwee trips.
   By a fluke, Jack was asked to deliver a newly-built commercial fishing boat from Alabama to San Francisco. Always ready for a new adventure, and relishing the oppturnity to go through the Panama Canal, Jack accepted.
   The owner realized what an exceptional captain he had in Jack and encouraged him to stay and run his boat. Jack became a commercial fisherman and was quickly accepted into the elite albacore-fishing group called the “Hyenas” and given the handle “Ultimate.”
   The name started as a joke, but Jack was able to pull it off; it just suited him. The albacore fishery was conducive to family life at sea, so Sue and the girls joined Jack on some fo his trips and on several different boats, eventually logging over two years of sea time together.
   Jack fished the entire Pacific Ocean and visited ports in exotic locations ranging from the Aleutian Islands to New Zealand. Frequently in Hawaii, Samoa, and on the Columbia River, Jack visited many of the Pacific island groups and recently even delivered a load of fish to Manta, Ecuador.
   Loved, respected, and admired by those who knew and worked with him, and cherished by his family, Jack died suddenly after bringing in a full load of albacore tuna and delivering it safely to the port of Astoria.
   Jack spent the last evening before he departed this world enjoying a wonderful meal surrounded by close friends. Being Jack, he even picked up the check.
   Jack was preceded in death by his father, David P. Slater.
   In addition to his wife of nearly 19 years, Sue, Jack is survived by his daughters, Jaime, 18, and Megan, 17; his mother, Janine Chilcott of Three Rivers; sister Judy Buckingham of LaGrange; brother Jeffrey Slater of Kona, Hawaii; his Chilcott stepbrothers and stepsisters; and many aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, and his extended family: his friends and colleagues at sea.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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