In the News -
Friday, november 3, 2006
truck in town
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
real pleased with the new truck,” Pat said. “It’s all
set up with everything I need.”
Weather takes a
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.
BACK IN TIME:
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
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.
1961 ~ 2006
Slater of Three Rivers died Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006, in Astoria, Ore. He
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
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
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,
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
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.