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In the News - Friday, DECEMBER 2, 2005

Ollie Craig, philanthropist

and resident of Three Rivers

for nearly 67 years

   Ollie Craig, a longtime resident of Three Rivers, died Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005, at her Salt Creek home. She had just celebrated her birthday on November 14, but Ollie preferred that her year of birth not be revealed ever.
   Suffice to say that Ollie lived more than nine decades, but never lost her youthful vibrancy — physically, mentally, and socially. She dressed impeccably and paid great attention to detail in her appearance, which was always stunning, to say the least, whether entertaining dignitaries or riding a horse on her ranch.
   Two services will be held. First, a memorial service at the St. Anthony Retreat is scheduled for today (Friday, Dec. 2) at 2 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 3, a graveside service will be held at the Three Rivers Cemetery, also at 2 p.m.
   Ollie was born in Sixes, Mo., to Aaron Van Ware and Mary Emma (Fisher) Ware. She was raised in Cairo, Ill. While living in Ranger, Texas, she met Leon A. Craig, whom she married in 1939.
That same year, the couple moved to Three Rivers when Leon went to work with the local Edison Company. Upon arriving in town, Ollie and Leon stayed with the recently-widowed Mary Barton on her North Fork ranch property.
   The Craigs ultimately acquired vast landholdings in the Case Mountain and Salt Creek areas of Kaweah Country. They built a home on their “Craig Ranch” along what today is Salt Creek Drive.
   Throughout her life, Ollie had several careers. She taught second grade for two years while still in Ranger, Texas, and from 1920 to 1948, she worked in retail sales.
   After getting married and moving to Three Rivers, she worked alongside Leon in several successful ventures, including logging and ranching on the Craig Ranch and real estate investments. Although the couple never had children of their own, Ollie helped raise and care for her nieces and nephews in their younger years as if they were her own.
   From 1955 to 1966, the Craigs, in partnership with their close friend Arnold Burnett (1915-2004), formed the LOA Corporation, a mail-order company. A claim to fame of this company was that it received the U.S. Postal Service’s computerized Permit No. 1, of which an envelope with this imprint was sent to the Moon and back.
   In recent years, Ollie has donated portions of her land to the Bureau of Land Management. In 2004, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, owners of St. Anthony Retreat adjacent to the Craig Ranch, announced that Ollie had donated 17 acres of land on which a youth facility will be built, including a lodge, four dormitories, riding stables, swimming pool, and amphitheater.
   Ollie’s other philanthropic activities include helping establish the Three Rivers Volunteer Ambulance, a local daycare, and the management of the Leon and Ollie Craig Foundation, which provides scholarships to students with financial need to assist in their college education. She was also a longtime member of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club and a member of the Community Presbyterian Church and the former Lady Lions.
   Ollie was just as comfortable hunting and fishing as she was dressing formally and attending parties. She will be remembered by many for her generosity and living life to its fullest.
   In 1984, Ollie was preceded in death by her husband of 45 years, Leon. Her brother, Harry Edward Ware also preceded her in death. Both are buried at the Three Rivers Cemetery, and Ollie will be laid to rest between them.
   Ollie is survived by her nieces, Jane Spooner and Lana Leake of Arizona and Barbara Ainley of Elderwood; her nephews, Ed Ware of Colorado, Todd Ware of Arizona, DeWayne Brewer of Oregon, Leon Brewer of California, and Donnie Brewer of Montana; and more than 50 great, great-great, and great-great-great nephews and nieces.


burn gets wild

   When the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) began issuing hazard-reduction burn permits two weeks ago, it was done with the expectation that more rain would soon be in the forecast and landowners would take necessary precautions before lighting. Mike Davidson, Tulare County’s chief of fire prevention who supervises the burning, was well aware that the foothills remain tinder dry and are extremely volatile.
    It’s the law: 100-foot clearance in Three Rivers-- But the decision was made to go ahead and grant permits, Chief Davidson said, subject to “burn day” approval by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, because of a new California law that makes mandatory a 100-foot clearance around all structures.
   The problem with the early jumpstart on the burn season is that well-intentioned foothill residents are tempted to get busy on reducing hazards but an out-of-control burn poses even greater hazards and the scary potential for a tragedy.
   Hot time in the old town...  On Monday, Nov. 28, a Dinely Drive property owner started a routine hazard-reduction burn and, for a few anxious moments, found out that even with precautions, burning can be very risky.

  “I saw one of my neighbors burning across the canyon so that’s what prompted me to go down to the fire station and get a permit,” said the Dinely Drive resident, who preferred not to be identified. “I did what I normally do when I have several piles ready. I cleared around each area and had a hose ready just in case.”
   But shortly after lighting a large pile of brush and leaves, the property owner said, embers caught in an updraft and quickly ignited brush on a hillside above the several structures on the property.

  “There was nothing I could do to stop it on the hill behind my place,” said the property owner. “I called 911 immediately.”
Within minutes, firefighters began arriving on the scene. The blaze burned up a steep hillside but was contained near the flume after some quick and effective hose work.
   An assemblage of seven fire vehicles responded to the fire and an air tanker. No aerial drops were necessary as crews on the ground were able to get the fire under control within approximately 30 minutes.
   On Tuesday, a hand crew from Mountain Home Conservation Camp doused hot spots and conducted cleanup operations.
   Three acres were burned in the fast-moving blaze. The property owner now must make a court appearance and may be responsible for suppression costs related to the incident.

  “If the local fire department is going to issue burn permits some more information as to the current conditions might be helpful,” said the property owner. “I’ve asked the CDF in the past to conduct a burn in our area but, so far, there has been no response.”

  “Until we have significant rainfall, it’s extremely dangerous to burn in the Three Rivers area,” said Kirk Gramberg, a CDF firefighter stationed in Three Rivers. “Although it is not illegal I’d advise waiting a few more weeks.”

Winter arrives

in the high country

   With the falling of the first snow of the season, some changes go into effect in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   First of all, tire chains must be in the car when traveling to the high country. They may not necessarily have to be used on any given day, but having them, making sure they are a proper fit, and knowing how to use them could avert a potentially dangerous situation.
   Travelers to the higher elevations should also be prepared for winter conditions. Warm clothing, water, a flashlight and other winter safety supplies should be on hand.
   Also, once the snow flies and actually accumulates, the road to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow in Sequoia will be closed to vehicles. The Panoramic Point road in Kings Canyon will also close when snow-covered.
   The Sequoia National Park entrance station just beyond Three Rivers is open year-round, as is the Generals Highway to the Wuksachi Village in Sequoia. The stretch of highway after Wuksachi that connects Sequoia with Kings Canyon may close during significant snowstorms and remain closed until plows can clear it and/or the snow melts.
   The Wuksachi Lodge is open year-round and offers overnight accommodations and dining.
   The John Muir Lodge in Kings Canyon is also open during the winter as is nearby Grant Grove Village, which has a market, restaurant, post office, and park visitor center.
   Snow sports-- Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow play will all be available this winter in Sequoia and Kings Canyon and nearby Giant Sequoia National Monument.
   This year, the Sequoia concessioner, Delaware North, will be opening the Wolverton ski hut with a snack bar and cross-country ski, snowshoe, and sled rentals. In addition, the company will be grooming some cross-country ski trails in the area, which will greatly enhance the quality of the skiing experience by regulating snow conditions and making it easier to route-find.

History in the making:

Three Rivers man’s

passion evolves into life’s work
New antiques gallery open by appointment

   There are myriad reasons for living the good life here. The mountain scenery, it’s a good place to raise a family or retire, a hotbed of traditional jazz, close to nature, the river, and it’s the gateway to Sequoia National Park — these factors are the most-oft mentioned when folks explain what it was that attracted them in the first place to locate in Kaweah Country.
   For John McWilliams, it was his passion for history and Americana that brought him here and actually gave him the means to become a first-time homebuyer. In fact, he said, a rather circuitous trail that began when he was born in Porterville in 1969 has led him to Three Rivers where he discovered he is connected to some very deep roots.
   John McWilliams is a 30-something guy who if he had a shingle hung on his front porch it would read: “Old photographs wanted. Buy, sell, or trade.”
   Curiously, it was John’s passion for collecting old photos — more specifically, the very first photographs called daguerreotypes (1839-1858) — that led to one very big payday in 2004. John parlayed that deal, the buying and selling of a single still-life image of a St. Bernard, into a down payment on some Three Rivers real estate.
   After spending more than a year transforming the property into his own private museum, he’s ready to open a portion of the place, by appointment only, as a very unique historical gallery.
   Only John, who is a founding member of the internationally-renowned Daguerreian Society in 1987, could adequately explain the preoccupation that the group’s 1,500 members have for collecting and studying these early photographic images. But, he said, once someone really looks closely and takes what he describes as “the trip back in time,” they realize why these silver-coated plates are so highly sought as collectibles.

  “The image quality is what we call holographic,” John said. “Nothing that we have produced since or are making today can compare to these pristine historic renderings.”
   But to understand John’s own history some background is necessary. He explained that he is a descendant of “Okie types” who settled around Pixley in the late-1930s. His father and mother both worked for a time at the Porterville State Hospital, but it was his grandmother who nurtured John’s affinity for Americana.

  “My grandmother was a fifth- generation Texan and it was her stories that turned me on to what life was like in the 19th century,” John said. “I understood at a very early age that photos and other historical documents were artifacts of the past and they had a great deal of value.”
   By the age of 12, John was already collecting all kinds of historical items.

  “I knew right then and there I wanted to spend my life researching and collecting Americana,” John said. “I eventually learned that photos are the most important of all the artifacts and that they can help us see into our past.”
   In the early 1980s, John began collecting vintage photos. After graduating from high school in Stockton, he worked for several years as a bail bondsman in his father’s business and nailed down a six-figure salary while still in his teens.
   Having all that disposable income really fueled his passion for collecting that soon developed into an addiction. Although he has thousands of photographic images that document more than a century of the history of photography, it doesn’t get any more vintage than the daguerreotype.
   This first process to make photos was invented in 1839 by Louis Jacques Mende Daguerre, a French artist. The picture was made on a silver surface sensitized with iodine and developed by exposure to mercury vapor.
   John said that he is truly amazed by the thousands of daguerreotypes that have survived intact and that new ones come to light all the time. The process became obsolete because the plates were cumbersome and many of the photographers succumbed to illness from working with mercury.

  “The majority of the images [95 percent] are portraits because that’s where the business developed,” John said. “The others were mostly scenic landscapes or the world’s wonders and are even more valuable to collectors than the portraits.”
   Recently, a single image of the ancient Greek Parthenon sold at an auction for a record $1 million. That, John said, means his large collection will only appreciate in value.
   Unlike many amateurs who collect in certain niches, John is an accredited professional whose clients include prestigious repositories like the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley and the Oakland Museum. He collects all Americana, he said, but his expertise and specialty are with things from the West.

  “When I come across a piece that should be accessible for the enjoyment of the public, I have the contacts to find the best situation,” John said. “I know by placing these items in an institution they will be properly cared for and made available for researchers.”
   John says his personal collection includes thousands of photos, artifacts, diaries, books, manuscript materials, original paintings, art objects, and even the cornerstone of the 1853 U.S. Mint in San Francisco. His collection of Texas Rangers memorabilia, he admits, is the best in existence.
   Along with his Three Rivers gallery, he also owns the Tule River Trading Company, an antiques shop on Main Street in Porterville. He set up his retired father in that business as a way to socialize with other collectors and stay connected with the Porterville community.

  “To say I have a passion for history is an understatement,” John said. “I guess how I feel about it is a little too much for most people, but it’s a way I can make a living doing what I love.”
   To arrange for a tour of John’s Three Rivers gallery, call 561-3769.

Bertha Metz

   Bertha L. Metz, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Friday, Nov. 25, 2005. She was 92.
   A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m., at the Exeter District Cemetery.
   Bertha was born Jan. 26, 1913, in Rake, Iowa, to Peter and Nellie (Alderson) Peterson. In 1935, she married Harold Metz.
   Bertha and her husband owned and operated the Kaweah Park Resort in Three Rivers for 20 years. In 1989, she moved to Exeter.
   Bertha is survived by her two children, Bernard Metz of Colorado and Barbara Miller of Visalia; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Helping others

this holiday season

   Gift-giving is a major part of the tradition of the winter holidays. And although buying and giving gifts is a luxury enjoyed by family and friends each December, there are those in need of the most basic of items that can greatly benefit by the generosity of others in the spirit of the season.
   Often, giving a gift to someone truly in need is more satisfying than actually being on the receiving end of the gift-giving.
   Here are a few ways to spread the love:
                       COMMUNITY FOOD PANTRY
   This Three Rivers facility is gearing up to feed 40 families or more, providing not just the holiday meal but also nutritious lunches for dozens of children throughout the Winter Break.
   Currently, the Food Pantry has 14 turkeys in stock, but needs at least 40. Other food items needed for the holiday meal, which will be prepared for distribution on Wednesday, Dec. 14, are russet potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes (fresh or canned), stuffing, pumpkin, and 40 containers of white cream-cheese icing.
   Trish Stivers, who is organizing the food collection and meal preparation, reports that she has enough cranberries and the necessary boxes of cake mix.
   For kids’ lunches, soups are needed, she said, as well as peanut butter and Top Ramen. The Food Pantry also always needs nonperishable food items and apples, which may be purchased by the case by contacting Nataliya Dixon at Village Market.
   Gifts will also be distributed to children in need this month. Trish said that the Food Pantry has enough toys for younger children and no stuffed animals are needed, but gifts for older children are in short supply, such as sports equipment — basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, etc. — and, for the girls, fun makeup items — eyeshadow, lip gloss, lip balm — tights, and hair products.
   Jackets, sweatshirts, raincoats, and other warm outwear, whether new or nearly new, will also be accepted. Although the local chapter of the American Heritage Girls organizes a sock drive each year for the Pantry, socks are a well-received gift and are in demand year-round. Donations of winter clothing and warm blankets will be needed throughout the cold season.
   It’s important for donors to only provide season-appropriate clothing items since the Food Pantry doesn’t have the space available to store additional items.
   Currently, there is a “Feed the Children” container at the Village Market, where shoppers may conveniently drop off food items for the Pantry while doing their regular grocery shopping. The Feed the Children campaign will conclude on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
   Financial contributions are always accepted, which, at this time, will help Trish and her assistants shop for fresh foods, such as the cheese, lunchmeat, bread, and other items to be provided for the kids’ vacation lunches.
   Donations for the holiday meal will be accepted through Tuesday, Dec. 13. Drop off items at the First Baptist Church during office hours or call Trish Stivers, 561-4834, to make arrangements.
   CANNED FOOD DRIVE— For more than a decade, Three Rivers School has collected food items in the late fall to distribute to local families during the holidays. Students and their families donate non-perishable food items. In recent years, Student Council members sort and pack the food and it is delivered by Sue Sherwood, superintendent/principal, and crew to local families and the Community Food Pantry.
   The TRUS food drive will continue through Monday, Dec. 12.
   COATS FOR KIDS— Drop off new or gently used outer garments at various locations in Tulare County and they will be cleaned and distributed to children who may not otherwise have a coat to wear this winter. Through Sunday, Dec. 4, coats may be dropped off at Gottschalks at the Visalia Mall or Enterprise Rent-a-Car, 1040 E. Main St., Visalia.
   WOODLAKE FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER— If you miss the Coats for Kids deadline, this Woodlake center will accept gently-used clothing and outerwear for men, women, and children all year long. The office is located on Woodlake’s main street at 168 N. Valencia (564-5212).
   TOYS FOR JOY— The annual Woodlake toy drive is underway and will continue through Sunday, Dec. 18. There are several ways in which to donate to this annual event that will ensure toys for all the community’s children at Christmas.
   First, there are currently collection containers for toys (approximately $10 value) at Woodlake City Hall, the Woodlake branch of the Bank of Visalia, 1st Choice Foods, and all the Woodlake schools.
   Second, cash donations are needed so that specific toys may be purchased. Checks may be made payable to the “Kiwanis Club of Woodlake” with a notation stating Toys for Joy and mailed to P.O. Box 650; Woodlake, CA 93285.
   Third, volunteers are needed to wrap, sort, and deliver toys. These tasks will be performed Monday, Dec. 19, through Wednesday, Dec. 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the YMCA afterschool building, located adjacent to the high school swimming pool and behind the middle school’s Crawford Center gym.
   For an indication of the good this program can do, consider these numbers from December 2004:
—200 toys were donated.
—$3,500 in financial contributions were received.
—60 volunteers helped shop, wrap, and deliver toys.
—2,000 children through the age of 18 living in the Woodlake High School district, received a toy.
For more information, contact Laura Armstrong, 564-1441.
   FFA CHRISTMAS TREES— While you’re buying your own Christmas tree at Woodlake High’s Future Farmers of America Christmas tree lot, pay an additional discounted price of $20 to buy another tree and FFA members will deliver it to a needy family. Even if you don’t need a tree for your own home, this simple act of kindness will ensure this Christmas tradition can be enjoyed by all.
   The tree lot opens tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 3) adjacent to the WHS ag building and continues through Sunday, Dec. 11. It will be open weekdays from 3:30 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.
   For more information, call Steve Parker, ag teacher, 564-3307, ext. 134.
   OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD— For the sixth year, Jennifer LaMar and her family and friends will be collecting small toys and stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons, and personal hygiene items to assemble into gift bags for delivery to children in Three Rivers, Woodlake, and Visalia.
   Collection boxes for donated items are located throughout the community. Financial donations are also being accepted and may be dropped off at the Community Presbyterian Church office or mailed to the church at P.O. Box 685 (note “Operation Christmas Child” on the check).
   Volunteers are also needed to assist in packaging the gifts. For more information, call 561-4154.

Fatal crashes caused by

animals at all-time high

   Cars and motorcycles crash into deer more than 4,000 times a day and it’s taking an increasingly deadly toll on humans, too.
   In 2003, a record 210 motorists were killed in collisions with animals. That was more than twice the number in 1993, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
   Most of the accidents happen in November and December, the institute said, as deer are stirred up due to hunting season, are foraging in preparation of the cold season, and are in the midst of mating season, all of which cause the animals to be on the move. Crashes are most likely to occur during evening or nighttime and most often on rural roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher.
   Deer are involved in about 90 percent of fatal animal-crash accidents. Here are some other gruesome roadkill statistics:
   4 million— Miles of roads in the United States.
   226 million— The number of vehicles registered in the U.S.
   23 trillion— Vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. in 2002.
   6.3 million— Number of automobile accidents annually in the U.S.
   253,000— Number of animal-vehicle accidents annually.
   50— Estimated percentage of vehicle vs. large animal collisions that go unreported.
   1 million— Number of vertebrates run over each day in the U.S.
   $2,000— Average minimum cost for repairing a vehicle after a collision with a deer.
   40— The percentage by which deer-vehicle collisions were reduced after the installation of a deer crosswalk system in northeast Utah.

Exeter High volleyball team

exits playoffs at San Diego

   The Exeter Monarch girls all-time best volleyball season ended with a straight set loss (25-10, 25-17, 25-20) to Francis Parker School in San Diego in the Division 4 Southern Regional Playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 26. The loss was only their second in a season that included 40 wins, an East Sequoia League championship, and the school’s third sectional championship.

  “The girls really played hard but we just couldn’t get any blocks on their kills,” said Cindy Marinos, a former college volleyball player, coach, and the mother of Exeter’s outside hitter, senior Tiffany Marinos. “They [Francis Parker] were tall and talented and had one player who we know from club that is one of the best players in any division.”
   Cindy Marinos of Three Rivers and her husband, Manuel, also have an older daughter, Janelle, currently a junior and playing at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida on a volleyball scholarship.
   Next season, Tiffany is headed to Fresno Pacific University to join a team that is currently closing in on a national title and an undefeated season.
   Cindy Marinos, as a coach, was instrumental in developing the Three Rivers School volleyball program in the late-1990s. She helped teach the fundamentals of the game to several girls who went on to become outstanding players.
   In the last four seasons, Exeter has won three sectional championships. In each championship season, an MVP from Three Rivers, who formerly played in Marinos’s TRUS program, powered the Monarchs.
   In 2002, playing in Division 3, it was Janelle Marinos who was Exeter’s league MVP. She played two seasons at Cal State Stanislaus, then transferred to Embry-Riddle.
   In 2003, after making the switch to Division 4, it was Samantha Davis, also of Three Rivers who was Exeter’s league MVP. Sam is currently in her second year playing at Cal State Chico on a volleyball scholarship.
   This past season, Tiffany Marinos was Exeter’s leading player in their charge to a League and a Valley title. Sometime next week, Tiffany is expected to be named East Sequoia League MVP.
   Next year, teams in the Central Section competing for state championships in volleyball and basketball will enter the Northern California regionals instead of the Southern California playoffs like in the past.

  “That will really help, especially in volleyball, where all the powerhouse teams are located down south,” Marinos said. “It won’t make any difference in the finals but it will mean that our Valley teams will be able advance a round or two deeper into the regional tournaments.”

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