In the News -
Friday, november 24, 2006
in death of Rob Stone
The plane crash that killed Battalion Chief Rob Stone and
George “Sandy” Willett took another tragic turn with the arrest
of Patrick Courtney of Tulare on Friday, Nov. 17. Courtney, 29, is charged
with two counts of homicide and three counts of aggravated arson.
Courtney, who was arraigned on the charges Monday, Nov. 20,
is facing his third strike due to his conviction of two previous violent
felonies. According to law-enforcement records, those convictions stem
from an attempted murder in connection with a 1995 home burglary in Tulare.
During his second appearance in court Tuesday, Courtney pled
not guilty. If convicted, Courtney could face a maximum sentence of 50
years to life in prison.
Stone and Willett were the only two onboard when their OV-10
observation aircraft crashed after hitting treetops while working from
the air to direct ground crews to a fire that was reported to be burning
in mountainous terrain northeast of Springville. Willett, a resident of
Hanford, was the pilot.
Ed Wristen, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
(CDF) chief, said the deaths of Stone and Willett were extremely difficult
for the CDF-Tulare Unit and the family and friends of the victims. The
arrest, he said, will bring some measure of closure to the case.
Chief Stone, 36, was raised in Three Rivers where his parents,
Cliff and Ginny Stone, and two of his three siblings still reside. He
was married with two young children.
Rob was an 18-year veteran of CDF. At the time of his death,
he was in charge of operations at the Porterville Air Attack Base.
Courtney, who stated he had spent the night in the area where Chief Stone
spotted the fire activity, first came to the attention of authorities
on September 4. He claimed he had been lost and set fires to keep warm
and keep wild animals at bay.
The Mountain Fire that Chief Stone responded to Wednesday,
Sept. 6, was a separate blaze in the Bear Creek drainage in close proximity
to the two other fires crews had extinguished. Reportedly, investigators
found Courtney’s name carved on a tree nearby the flashpoint of
that third blaze.
Investigators claim to have evidence that the fire resulted
from recklessness and shows a conscious disregard for possible consequences.
A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday,
Dec. 7, in a Porterville courtroom.
Tajikistani student thankful
for American experience
Her name is Diana Zigangirova and in many ways she’s
a typical 16-year-old teenager with hopes and dreams. She likes to eat
pizza, hang out with friends, picnic, and go swimming. After high school
she plans on attending college and becoming a journalist or a diplomat.
What is exotic and unique about this teen with a Russian-sounding
name is that she is a Muslim from Tajikistan. She also happens to be an
exchange student on a mission, enrolled as a senior at Woodlake High School.
Diana’s mission is to spend one year in the U.S. and
experience life in a democratic society so she can share lessons learned
with the people of her own country. As a part of doing that, Diana said,
she has a responsibility to make interactive presentations to classmates,
civic groups, community organizations, and anyone who is willing to listen
and learn about Tajikistan.
all started for me last year when I tried out for a Future Leaders Exchange
program,” Diana said. “Each year, there are thousands who
apply, but only 50 are selected.”
Diana, who is fluent in four languages and is now taking
Spanish, said she saw the opportunity as a means to visit America, a trip
she said that is out of reach for most people in her country with a population
of 7.5 million.
The funding for Diana’s program was made possible by
the Freedom Support Act and is furnished by the U.S. State Department.
In light of current events and the future of Eurasian demographics as
it relates to Soviet immigration, the program couldn’t be better
The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), as it is known officially,
was created from the vision of now-former Senator Bill Bradley (D-New
Jersey). The centerpiece of the legislation was based upon Bradley’s
notion that the best way to foster lasting peace with Eurasia is to enable
secondary students like Diana to experience America firsthand.
Diana explains in her PowerPoint presentation that FLEX is
designed for countries like her homeland that were formerly part of the
Soviet Union. Tajikistan, a landlocked country located just north of Afghanistan,
achieved its independence in 1992.
is relatively new to us,” Diana said. “We have had only one
president since 1992, and he must be re-elected after each seven-year
Similar to Tulare County, Diana said Tajikistan has a valley
region (about seven percent of the country), but is mostly mountains.
The valley is good for growing cotton, and hydroelectric power is produced
on the rivers that flow from towering mountains of more than 22,000 feet
Diana said people in her country rarely go to the mountains
because roads are not developed and the terrain and climate are very harsh.
Many of the citizens, she said, spend some of the short summer season
at the “Tajik Sea,” which is actually a lake with a sandy
beach near a hydroelectric station.
Tajikistan is slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin
and has thousands of years of history, Diana related. Its people are 87
percent Muslim with the rest being largely Russian Orthodox Christian.
Last August, when Diana first landed with her host family
in Visalia, she was supposed to attend Redwood High School.
already had a FLEX student there, so here I am at Woodlake,” said
Diana. “The only bad thing is that I have to get up so early to
travel far to school and by the end of the day I am very tired.”
What she has enjoyed most about her experience is meeting
so many nice people, especially her Visalia host family. She also has
taken several trips while she has been here, including one in October
to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) National Convention in Indianapolis.
Among her favorite places to visit so far have been Los Angeles, Hollywood,
and San Francisco.
my country, our Thanksgiving is called Idi Kurbon,” said Diana.
“Each family buys a lamb or cow for butchering if they can afford
to do it. Then we use some for our own dinner but the rest we give away
to relatives and neighbors. Sometimes we have a big dinner with many guests,
but the day is more about sacrifice.”
What she said has surprised her most about American people
is how much community service and volunteer work that so many do. That
is among the many things she has learned, she said, that she will be sure
to take back home.
am so thankful for my parents who encouraged me to become an exchange
student and helped me study English,” said Diana. “I am thankful
for the opportunity to come to America and, most of all, for my country
and culture because that makes me who I am.”
RiverSong is newest
It’s the spiritual foundation of any community…
the churches. Rural communities such as Three Rivers have many strengths
– a sense of community and mutual caring – which aid immensely
in any given church’s mission, but there are challenges as well.
There’s an ebb and flow of population, economy, and
community life. And leadership in an unincorporated area can be hard to
come by as it is only as good as the town’s volunteer base.
So it is both the strengths and the challenges of rural living
that make local churches an indispensable part of country life.
Until recently, Three Rivers had six churches: Church at
Kaweah, Community Presbyterian, First Baptist, Missionary Baptist, and
St. Anthony Retreat and St. Clair’s Catholic Mission.
As of last year, however, there’s a new church in town.
RiverSong Church currently meets Sunday afternoons at the Three Rivers
RiverSong is a member of the Foursquare Church, an evangelical
Christian church that has been around since the 1920s. The church is “dedicated
to the cause of interdenominational and worldwide evangelization,”
with “Foursquare” referring to Jesus Christ as Savior, Healer,
Baptizer, and King.
Jeff Alexander of Visalia is RiverSong’s pastor. For
more than 20 years, he has been a teacher at Christian schools, most recently
at Visalia Christian Schools, teaching junior high and high school students.
He and his wife, Darci, have five children, ranging in age
from 26 to 11. Jeff, who has been teaching the Bible to adults for years,
completed the International Foursquare Church requirements and training
to become a licensed pastor.
All that was left to do, then, was to find a congregation
to which to minister.
have friends in Three Rivers and have enjoyed visiting the area for years,”
said Pastor Alexander. “Awhile back these friends said there was
a need in the community for the kind of church we would like to do, so
we went for it.”
Currently, Pastor Jeff is working on building the congregation.
Then he will undertake the project of locating the permanent structure
on which to hang his steeple.
the size of the community and its current growth, there is room for another
church,” said Jeff. “Once we have sufficient membership and
finances, we would buy or build a facility, but obviously, at this time,
that is a very future event.”
As with any church, the upcoming month is one of the busiest
times of the year. At RiverSong, there is a Christmas event planned for
Sundays, Dec. 10 and 17, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the Three Rivers Arts Center.
Jeff invites all to attend and “experience Christmas
in a whole new way” by taking a self-guided “Meditative Path
Experiential” that will awaken all the senses.
Everyone is welcome to attend RiverSong Church, which meets
each Sunday at 4 p.m. A fellowship gathering precedes the service.
For more information, the church’s email address is:
in small towns
Mass-produced, the mall, and big-box stores have no place
on any holiday-shopping list. Instead go for hand-created, unique, and
from the heart. And here’s how:
In Three Rivers this weekend, the Kaweah Artisans will hold
their sixth annual “The Perfect Gift” boutique. On sale will
be everything from clothing and jewelry and other accessories to body-care
products and decorative art.
On the first Saturday in December, George Smith, a longtime
Three Rivers resident, will open the doors of his pottery and ceramics
studio for his third annual Christmas Show and Sale and the community
of Lemon Cove will host two holiday bazaars.
The Lemon Cove Woman’s Club Holiday Bazaar starts at
11 a.m. with the sale of gift items made by local artisans and club members.
A chicken casserole lunch with a lemon bisque dessert will be served at
noon, followed by a card party.
Lunch tickets are $10. The Lemon Cove Woman’s Club
event will be held at their clubhouse, which is in the former Pogue Hotel
on Highway 198 across from the post office.
All funds raised by the club go to the preservation of this
historic Tulare County structure.
The Lemon Cove Holiday Bazaar at Sequoia Union School starts
at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2. A special preview is available Friday,
Dec. 1, from noon to 5 p.m.
A select group of local artisans will be showcasing their
handcrafted holiday items, specializing in beaded ornaments, boutique
Christmas trees, and soy-based candles. Both days there will be a Kids
Kraft Table, free gift wrapping, and a masseuse.
So while parents shop, get a massage, or enjoy a cup of coffee,
the kids can paint an ornament, color, or make a gift for the grandparents.
Homemade baked goods, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider will also be
The Lemon Cove Holiday Bazaar is sponsored by the Sequoia
Union PTC (parent/teacher club) and all funds go to the school. Take Highway
198 to just past the Lemon Cove Fire Station and turn north on Avenue
324 (follow the signs).
On Sunday, Dec. 3, is Exeter’s annual Country Craft
Fair. Always a popular community event, the fair is hosted by the American
Legion and will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Exeter Memorial Building
(on Highway 65).
More than 60 crafters come from around the San Joaquin Valley
to sell a wide array of art and crafts. The American Legion, as always,
will have a food concession and a variety of desserts available.
To give the gift of goodwill this holiday season, attend
the Community Blood Drive on Thursday, Dec. 7, and spend a day outside
for the benefit of feathered friends during the seventh annual Christmas
Bird Count in Sequoia on Sunday, Dec. 17.
And then there’s the Christmas service that takes place
in the ancient cathedral known as the Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National
Park. A ceremony of song and sermon will be held at the base of the Nation’s
Christmas Tree on Sunday, Dec. 10.
For more information on the above opportunities, see the
Kaweah Kalendar. And keep an eye on it every
week, because new events and activities are always added.