News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam


In the News - Friday, DECEMBER 28, 2007


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)



Looking back on 2007

in Kaweah Country

  SO MAYBE THE Commonwealth headlines didn’t include the gripping tribulations of Britney, Anna Nicole, Paris, Lindsay, Don Imus, and Barry Bonds or encompass the nationwide pet food recall or foreclosures due to a high-risk mortgage boom, but there was local news with national implications and lots of local news with, quite simply, local implications.
   Each item that appears in this newspaper becomes a footprint in time, a permanent record waiting to be rediscovered sometime in the future. Having the luxury of a newspaper in such a small town means that the life and times of the people and the region are documented and a more complete story is written.
   A community without a newspaper is like a book with blank pages. It’s citizens, businesses, events, and milestones are like dust in the wind — here today, scattered tomorrow.
So here is a composite look at Three Rivers 2007 month by month:

   January 5— The High Sierra Jazz Band, in a dispatch from their incomparable leader, Pieter Meijers, announced that Sue Mills, the band’s manager for 22 years was stepping aside. Rusty Crain, longtime Three Rivers resident and High Sierra fan, assumed Sue’s duties of negotiating playing dates, festival arrangements and merchandise sales.
   GREG LOCKHART, OWNER/broker of Sequoia Pacific Realty, announced plans for expansion and opened a Three Rivers office in the Pizza Factory building in Three Rivers.
“In a typical year, there might be 70 or 80 sales in the Three Rivers market,” Greg said. “In a cycle like 2003 to 2005, the local market was even stronger, and I’m optimistic that there will be a return to that type of business.”
   AN EVER-GROWING number of hearty revelers took the annual Polar Bear Dip plunge on New Year’s Day at the Gateway Restaurant. The McIntyres rewarded all with hot chili and a hot toddy for those who wanted to continue the party that they started the previous evening.
   January 12— Kaweah Country shivered with some of the coldest extended nighttime temperatures since 1998. The Arctic blast posed a serious threat to several Valley counties that were holding their collective breaths as to the potential damage to the billion-dollar citrus crop.
   A CONTINGENT OF Woodlake High School students staged a 12-band benefit concert under the auspices of the YMCA to aid the Arias family. The Woodlake family had lost everything in a tragic Dec. 18 fire that started in the attic of their house.
   THE FORMER HOLIDAY Inn Express installed their new Comfort Inn sign. The name-change became official on Nov. 1, 2006. Its 102 rooms make the Sierra Drive property the largest lodging establishment in Three Rivers.
   THE JANUARY 1 snow survey yielded some paltry findings. Forecasters were predicting that the entire season would not yield much above 19 percent of normal throughout the entire Sierra Nevada region.
   January 19— There wasn’t much snow in the local mountains, but Malibu in Southern California received its first snowfall in 40 years. The bitter cold in the Central Valley abated somewhat, and though the air quality was some of the best readings of the season, the snow totals were starting to worry downstream users of the water in the Kaweah drainage.
   THREE RIVERS SCHOOL welcomed three newly elected board members — Bobbie Harris, Robert Burke, and Scott Sherwood. Harris was re-elected for a second consecutive term, Burke returned to Three Rivers School after serving on the Woodlake High School board, and Sherwood, son of Sue Sherwood, TRUS superintendent and principal, won a seat after finishing third in a field of four candidates in the November election.
   Superintendent Sherwood said that with a declining enrollment, TRUS faces a reality of less revenue while education costs continue to soar. According to recent figures released by the state, 54 percent of all districts are declining while 46 percent are growing.
   SIERRA SUBS AND Salads added Take-N-Bake pizza. Owner Laura Harris said: “It just doesn’t get any better than the smell of a scrumptious pizza baking in your own oven.”
   January 26— Earl Davis, a 60-year Three Rivers resident died January 20. He was 88, and in addition to his pioneer roots and being involved in several community organizations, Davis was a charter member of the Three Rivers Lions Club.
   A 61-YEAR-old Woodlake woman was targeted outside of the Woodlake Pizza Factory by an assailant who snatched her purse. Investigators received information that she may have been assaulted because she was wearing a prominent gang color.
   AS OF JANUARY 26, the rainfall total of 4.97 inches in Three Rivers was well below normal as was the snowpack in the nearby mountains.

   February 2— A pair of bald eagles were photographed using a mature eucalyptus tree on Valencia Boulevard in Woodlake for a winter roost. The majestic birds of prey were observed for several months plying the islands and shoreline of Bravo Lake.
   AS OF JANUARY 1, the former Golden Eagle series of national park passes was replaced with a new interagency pass valid for admission to public lands administered by five federal agencies. The per-vehicle entrance fee to Sequoia-Kings Canyon remained at $20; the best deal for frequent users was still an annual pass allowing unlimited visits to the local parks for $30.
   ON JANUARY 20, two dozen local volunteers under the direction of Gary Whitney, participated in a workday at the Three Rivers Cemetery. Six new markers were installed on unmarked graves, including one for Teddy T. Gross, a former Kaweah postmaster.
   THREE RIVERS SCHOOL students began monthly coverage of school news in the Commonwealth. Among the journalists who submitted articles for the first edition were Analisa Skeen, Kathryn Keeley, and Shannon Salerno.
   February 9— The weather, or lack thereof, was still making news. The low precipitation totals were already being touted as the driest since the 1990-1991 season.

  “It’s way too early to preach doom and gloom, but we have yet to experience a really good snowmaker in 2007 for the southern Sierra,” said a National Weather Service forecaster from Hanford.
   MORE THAN 100 locals turned out for the monthly Town Hall meeting, sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation. During the proceedings, Supervisor Ishida presented checks of $500 to the Redbud Garden Club and the Sequoia Natural History Association.
   The money was made available, Ishida said, from the supervisors’ Good Works Fund. Another grant opportunity, he said, was the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a group created by the State of California to aid foothill and mountain communities.
   TOM SPARKS ANNOUNCED that county planners are working on a corridor protection plan, the last step in the approval process for the designation of Highway 198 in the Kaweah canyon as a scenic highway. Sparks said he was hopeful that the plan would be available for public review in a couple of months.
   February 16— Rudy Giuliani made a preliminary campaign stop on Tuesday during the World Ag Expo in Tulare. The former mayor of New York City said that the events of 9/11 had helped him to become better qualified to be President but he also admitted he had a lot to learn about agriculture.
   WATER AND AIR quality issues highlighted the seminars that were offered to Ag Expo attendees. David Cone, a water quality coalition official told a packed house that the region’s four major streams — Kings, Kaweah, Tule, Kern — are not as polluted as the public would think and overall the drainages are in good shape.
   SEYED SADREDIN, THE executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said agriculture is doing a good job reducing emissions but will have to do more to meet more stringent standards that take effect in 2012. The major polluters of Valley air are mobile, like truck traffic that generates 80 percent of the Valley’s pollution, he said.
   MORE THAN 100,000 visitors from 70 countries attended World Ag Expo. The largest trade show of its type generated huge tourist dollars for the county and brought out “No Vacancy” signs in Three Rivers for the first time since the 2006 holiday season.
   February 23— Three Rivers businesses were doing their annual wintertime reorganization ritual. The Totem Market and Deli had a new owner as well as the Village Center, which was purchased by Jim Brucker who also owns property in Springville.
   THE SEQUOIA CIDER Mill restaurant was purchased by Efrain Ponce of Woodlake. Ponce, a Woodlake developer who owns more than 40 area properties, said one of his dreams was to own a Three Rivers property.
   In the next year or two, Ponce said, he will be giving the venerable property a complete makeover.

  “It’s a place where we can showcase my wife’s good cooking and, of course, her salsa with the fresh taste that’s been in the family for generations,” Ponce beamed proudly.
   WET WEATHER FINALLY made an extended appearance in the local forecast. The next snow survey scheduled for March 1 was expected to show some improvement in the snowpack as a series of Pacific storms came calling in Kaweah Country.
   TWO THREE RIVERS students — Meaghan Swinney and Jennifer LaMar — entered the Miss Tulare County pageant, vying for $12,000 in scholarships and the right to advance and compete for the Miss California title in June 2007.

MARCH 2007
   March 2— Meaghan Swinney became the second Three Rivers contestant to be crowned Miss Tulare County in the past three years. The crowning moment came on February 24 when Meaghan won out over 11 other competitors in the annual Visalia pageant.
   THE OTHER THREE Rivers teen, Janessa Wells, who won the coveted title in 2004, encouraged Meaghan to give it a try because she was convinced that the 17-year-old beauty had what it takes to win.

  “While I was in San Francisco for a dance recital, I visited Janessa and it was then that I started thinking I might give it a try,” said Meaghan.
   The newest Miss Tulare County said being home-schooled definitely was a factor as it gave her the time to work on something else, and that endeavor evolved into a dance routine displaying an awesome talent. Next, the precocious Three Rivers student will compete in June at Fresno against 50 other women all vying to become Miss California.
   SNOW TOTALS IN the Kaweah drainage showed some improvement due to a storm that dumped four feet of snow in elevations above 8,000 feet. With each passing day, forecasters said, the odds against a normal precipitation season are getting slimmer.
   ROTARIANS DONATED DICTIONARIES to every third grader in Three Rivers and Woodlake. For at least some local students the computer spell checker was no longer the only option.
   March 9— Jennifer LaMar, who finished third runner-up in the Miss Tulare County pageant, was crowned Miss Stanislaus County ensuring that two Three Rivers-raised students would be competing for the title of Miss California.

  “When I first found out that the Miss Stanislaus County pageant was one week later [than Tulare County] I wasn’t even sure if I could enter both,” said Jennifer, a junior at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock studying to be an art teacher.
   But pageant officials gave the 21-year-old the okay, and Jennifer did the rest. In this go-round, Jennifer wowed the audiences with her poise and an awesome monologue during which she painted and, in a few moments, managed to create some very impressive artwork.
   A THREE RIVERS burglary ring was officially busted when Stan McDowall, 67, of Three Rivers was convicted February 27 of nine felony counts. McDowall was convicted on testimony of a former roommate and the evidence from a camera at a Visalia home improvement store that filmed the longtime local resident using a stolen credit card.
   SPRING-LIKE CONDITIONS produced some very artistic contrails — artificial cloud-like vapor trails from aircraft that tip weather watchers to atmospheric conditions. On days when contrails disappear quickly, dry weather is a certainty; in moist air, the eerie trails may persist for many hours and travel great distances.
   March 16— For the sixth consecutive week, gas prices were on the rise. A gallon of regular unleaded gas cost 319.9 in Three Rivers while the national average was appreciably lower at 256.9.
   EMERGENCY PERSONNEL RESPONDED to a tragic accident when an elderly South Fork man became disoriented and fell 50 feet from a steep cliff into the river behind his residence. A swift-water rescue team was able to rescue the victim who was blind and then transported the victim via helicopter to a medical center in Fresno.
   FIREFIGHTERS RESPONDED TO a Hammond Drive residence to extinguish a fire that consumed a storage shed. Apparently, the fire started when oil-soaked rags spontaneously combusted.
   PHIL DEFFENBAUGH, LAKE Kaweah general manager, told a Three Rivers Town Hall audience that there were some delays on the start of the new boat ramp and facilities that were being planned as an expansion of the Slick Rock Recreation Area. Deffenbaugh remained hopeful that the project would go to construction sometime in 2007.
   March 23— After several years of planning, the new Sequoia shuttle announced plans to begin operating during the busy Memorial Day weekend. A historic agreement created a three-year partnership between the City of Visalia and Sequoia National Park.

  “Our job is to deal with the Giant Forest portion of the shuttle while Visalia will operate and own the equipment,” said Fred Picavet, Sequoia’s contracting officer. “We [SNP] needed to do something to make this park more enjoyable for millions of visitors and we think the shuttle will help us do that.”
   In effect, the shuttle will be operated as two different routes. There will be a “Gateway Route” that runs from Visalia to Ash Mountain via Three Rivers; and an internal route that connects the foothills with all the area attractions in and around Giant Forest.
   SUPERVISOR ALLEN ISHIDA reiterated the offer of grant money from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a group on which he serves as a board member. Ishida told a Three Rivers gathering at a conservancy workshop that projects like weed abatement and the promotion of tourist amenities have the best chance to be approved.
   LAKE KAWEAH BEGAN its gradual climb in elevation as it stored runoff from the Kaweah drainage. As of March 22, there was a storage of 44,419 acre-feet that was a byproduct of a mean inflow of 1,020 cubic feet per second from the various tributaries that empty into the lake.
   March 30— The snowpack remained far below average at 46 percent of normal. The April 1 statistics were expected to contain even more bad news because there wasn’t much water content in the snow.
   The season total for rainfall in Three Rivers measured barely 10 inches and was less than half of the total for the same date in 2005. In 1996-1997, it didn’t rain a drop after March 30 until well after the traditional end of the precipitation/water-forecasting season on July 1.
   COLLEEN BATHE ARRIVED at Sequoia National Park to assume her new duties as Chief of Interpretation for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Prior to her coming to Ash Mountain, the California native spent the last three years at Bryce Canyon where she served in a similar post.
   The annual Year in Review retrospective will continue next week. Happy New Year!

Neighbor Profiles 2007
   The "Neighbor Profile" is a weekly interview with an area resident who answers a series of stock questions. The complete Neighbor Profiles are not online; they appear only in the print editions.

  These are the Neighbor Profile subjects and excerpt quotes for 2007, appearing in date order from January to December:
   Sarah Graber— I love everything about this town: The Alta elephant, Slicky, and Blossom Peak were the backdrop of my childhood.
   Dean Arlin Jackson— Three Rivers is the place my wife and I were to spend the rest of our lives.
   Kay Plunkett— Three Rivers took me in and has been giving me help ever since through all my bad times.
   Anthony Contreras— My heroes are the men and women fighting to keep our country the best country in the world.
   Traci Davis— Together [my husband and I] decided we were tired of the hustle and bustle of the city and wanted to move closer to my family in Three Rivers and live a simpler life.
   Nancy Barnes— Three Rivers has always been a favorite place to visit all my life.
   Gail Barlow— We loved Three Rivers right away, looked for a house right then, and found one. We moved from Simi Valley 31 years ago.
   Kent and Sandy Owen— Our community is blessed with a first-class education system, K through 12. Woodlake High is the top school in the Central Valley for percentage of students continuing their education beyond high school.
   Jessica Windrem-Mayo— My husband got a job at Sequoia National Park before we knew anything about Three Rivers. We moved here sight unseen and feel so lucky to have discovered this welcoming community in such a beautiful place.
   Martha Ponce— To all my nephews and nieces who have had their parties at my house in Woodlake: Now we will have them at our [Sequoia Cider Mill] restaurant in Three Rivers.
   Cathy Alonso— Please stop by Sequoia Pacific Realty’s Three Rivers office and say hello. Health and peace to all!
   Donald Hathcock— When I was a boy, I lived below Terminus Dam on the road to Woodlake, near where the rock crusher is now.
   Susan Fraser— I enjoy being creative, and my [In the Light Urns] company has offered me an excellent way to do so.
   Dan and Kathy Schwan— We love it here in Lemon Cove. We’ve never lived in the country before or in such a small town.
   Corey Gemme— I have the High Sierra Jazz Band to thank for bringing me here during the Sierra Traditional Jazz Club performances, Jazzaffair, and for rehearsals.
   Jo Ann Stanton— I came here for a painting weekend, hosted by Gail Kirk, and I loved the area. My husband and I were looking for a place to retire where he could have his 16-inch telescope.
   Bette Bardeen— I first came to Three Rivers in the summer of 1969, when I visited the parks with my six-year-old son… We returned regularly to backpack in the parks.
   Jose Perez— I’ve been a Woodlake Lion for 31 years and during that time the Rodeo, the parade, and all the Western Week activities have been the catalyst for something very special in Woodlake.
   Jeanette Barton— I was born in Lead, S.D., and came to Three Rivers in 1943 where I lived with my sisters and their families... I first saw my husband-to-be, Jim, in his Army uniform at a Community Presbyterian Church potluck. We were married there in 1950.
   Phyllis Mehrten— My great-grandfather, “Dutch Bill” Mehrten… built a ranch house in Mehrten Valley in 1856, where he owned thousands of acres and raised cattle and pigs.
   Gerimaya Whyte— Three Rivers has an interesting assortment of artists, eccentrics, nature folk, and characters with all sorts of stories.
   Keith Glentzer— I was born in Woodlake and graduated from Woodlake High School with the Class of 1966...From personal experience, I know that Woodlake High School prepares you to go anywhere or be anything that you want to do.
   Stacy Thornburg— I have met many wonderful people here in Three Rivers… The parents and students at Three Rivers School, as well as the staff, are one in a million.
   Anneka Anderson— My dad always wanted a log cabin and now we have one!
   Judy Smith— My grandfather, known affectionately as “Bronco” to his family and “Whispering Bob” Lovering to the other cowboys, bought a section of land up the South Fork in 1908 where he ran cattle for some 50 years or more.
   Fernando and Magdalena Macias— I [Fernando] met my wife in 2004 when she came to Sequoia from Poland. We fell for each other instantly and shared our first kiss inside a giant sequoia in Giant Forest.
   Chris Leyva— I was born in Illinois and raised in Ojai, Calif. When Andy’s job transferred to Tulare, we decided to live in Three Rivers because it is similar to Ojai.
   Paul Bischoff— I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to have a job where I can share the Big Trees with people from around the world. Some people would call this work… I call it inspirational!
   Aleigh Sullivan— Our family moved here when I was eight years old, and Three Rivers will forever be my hometown, no matter where else I travel in the world.
   Shandie Fox— My family moved here when I was in second grade and I have loved it ever since… You know everyone here and everybody says hello!
   Angela Beristain— I have been associated with real estate and the mortgage business my entire life… Then I met the Century 21 Three Rivers bunch. Fate intervened…
   John Sturdevant— One thing that you can do is install a [One Earth Solar] energy system. Plug into the sun and watch your meter spin backwards!
   Kris Axtell— I have an awesome group of sixth graders and a great staff to work with… We are enjoying getting to explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Three Rivers, and California in general.
   Regi Phillips— Come visit us at the Richfield Station in Lemon Cove. We want to promote go-karts so kids have something fun and productive to do…
   Stacey Burleson— After crazy careers, commutes, and health issues, Lee and I made the move here. It’s now been just a little more than two years, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
   Cal Johnson— I met Jill and we were married in 1959. We decided to leave the L.A. area and move to Three Rivers in 1965. We have never regretted the move. This has been a great place to raise our family.
   Jennifer Carpenter— After Chris returned home from a 14-month tour in Iraq, we separated from the Army in 2005. In the summer of 2006, an opportunity at Sequoia National Park opened up [for Chris] and we moved here sight unseen.
   Elizabeth Bauer— My family came here because my dad got a job in Sequoia when I was 9. I came back after college to work in the park also. I guess the cone doesn’t fall far from the sequoia tree!
   Darla Mendenhall— I came here with Tyler, having never spent much time outside the city. I thought it would be fun, and it’s been a real adventure so far.
   Damon Loomis— My great-grandfather by marriage, George Whitten, was the original owner of the Gateway Restaurant and Lodge… I have trained karate for 17 years…
   Tani Meadows— …I saw an ad for Sequoia’s concessionaire in Backpacker magazine that said, “Work among the Big Trees.” I thought that sounded like fun, so that’s how I came to this area.
   Judy Tow— I have been impressed with the cohesiveness and kindness of this little community. It seems like a really friendly and free kind of place.
   Jill Johnson— After our three sons were born, we made the best decision in our married life by moving to Three Rivers.
   Joanne Fansett— For years, the other Fansett family begged me to move closer, but really I had to move to Three Rivers because Jim is the only person tall enough to change my burned-out light bulbs.
   Eulavon Mallouf— [I was told] about a wonderful, cozy art boutique at the Three Rivers Arts Center, known as “The Perfect Gift Boutique…” This will be my first year, and I am very excited to be invited to be a part of this event.
   Esther Zurcher— I’ve been traveling to Mineral King since childhood… [Keith and I] are enjoying watching Claire grow up here and have met many wonderful people — friends for a lifetime!
   Catherine Doe— We grew out of our house in the Bay Area, so my dad and stepmom encouraged us to move to Lemon Cove to live in their big, old house in the middle of a lemon, orange, and tangerine grove.
   Aurelia Mendoza— I would like to thank everybody in Three Rivers for their support [of Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant] and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.
   Leah Spencer— Three years ago, I left the South, heading for California to open my healing business. Soon after arriving, I found Three Rivers and knew I’d found home.

2008 rings in new laws

for California drivers

   Be prepared for some changes in your driving habits next year. Several new rules of the road passed by the state Legislature and signed by the governor go into effect in the New Year, and the California Highway Patrol wants motorists to be aware of the new regulations.

Effective January 1...

  —Smoking with Minor Passengers (Senate Bill 7, Oropeza): This law prohibits anyone in a vehicle from smoking when a minor is present. The law applies whether the vehicle is parked or moving. However, this law applies as a secondary violation. An officer cannot stop a driver to determine whether this law is in violation, but if the driver is detained for a primary violation, the secondary violation will also be cited.

  —Coating License Plates (Assembly Bill 801, Walters): This law prohibits the use or sale of spraycoating products that impair the reading of a license plate by electronic devices.

  —False Registration (AB 1589, Duvall): This law allows a law enforcement officer to have a vehicle towed that is displaying false registration, false license plates, or fraudulent registration.

  —Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices (AB 470, DeSaulnier): Expands on current law, making it illegal to operate a mobility device, such as a Segway, in a reckless manner or at a speed that endangers others. Operators of such devices must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and the disabled.

  —Bicycle Illumination (AB 478, Wolk): This law requires bicyclists to use lights and reflectors while riding on a highway, sidewalk, or bike path during darkness.

Effective July 1…
   Wireless Telephones (SB 1613, Simitian): Makes it illegal to use a wireless telephone while driving, unless the phone is designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking. The law provides an exemption for emergency purposes.
   Wireless Telephones, Under 18 (SB 33, Simitian): Makes it illegal for a minor to use a wireless telephone, even if it is hands-free, or any other electronic communications device while operating a vehicle. The law provides for an exemption for emergency purposes.

What’s open…
and what’s not

   Monday, January 1, is New Year’s Day and a legal holiday. Here’s a rundown on what will be open and closed in Kaweah Country:
   Businesses— Some closed; others will have limited hours; call first. On Monday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve), most businesses will be open normal hours.
   Schools— Three Rivers School resumes Monday, Jan. 7. Woodlake High School resumes Tuesday, Jan. 8.
   Government— Most federal, state, and county offices will be closed Monday, Dec. 31, and Tuesday, Jan. 1. Emergency services will be staffed. Park visitor centers will be open. National Park Service business offices will be closed Monday.
   Post offices— Closed Tuesday, Jan. 1.
   Library— Closed Tuesday, Jan. 1.
   Banks— Closed Tuesday, Jan. 1.
   The Kaweah Commonwealth— Closed Tuesday, Jan. 1.
   Three Rivers Drug— Close Tuesday, Jan. 1.
  Trash collection— Three Rivers Disposal customers whose collection day is Tuesday, Jan. 1, will instead receive service Wednesday, Jan. 2. As a result, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday collection days will also be one day later.

Newly-inducted Marine

to address 3R Lions Club

   It’s difficult to keep a secret or even surprise too many folks in a small town like Three Rivers where news and even rumors of news travel at warp speed. So when the local Lions Club president Glenn McIntyre came up with a surprise guest for the club’s first social hour and dinner meeting of 2008 next Thursday evening, Jan. 3, he didn’t worry about who during the busy holidays might learn the identity of his mystery speaker.
   What he didn’t figure was the young Marine he had invited had one very proud mom who found her son’s story compelling, especially in light of the fact that in three short months, his youthful life did an about face.

  “It sounds almost too good to be true, but Aaron was headed from one party to another until he made the decision to join the Marines,” explained Patty Payne of Three Rivers, the Marine’s mom. “Now, at age 19, it’s like he has set his life on the straight and narrow and is suddenly motivated to succeed.”
   If you ask Aaron Payne, who graduated from Woodlake High School in 2006, he would admit that what he liked most about those years was playing football. His grades were above a 3.0 grade-point average, but like so many other guys in school, there were no academic highlights or any subjects that sparked a passion.
   After graduation, he enrolled at Fresno State in classes that would lead to a career in criminology or law enforcement.

  “He never really liked the city or Fresno State and seemed headed down the wrong road,” his mom said. “Then he made the decision last summer to join the Marine Corps and suddenly he became positive about his future.”
   The Paynes, especially Aaron’s dad Mike and mom Patty, think it’s much more than a coincidence that the day he entered into the military was September 11. Then just three months later, he completed his basic training on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, another date that will live forever in infamy.
   So if recent events are an indicator, everything seems to be falling in place for a distinguished tour of duty in the military for this Three Rivers kid turned Marine. After completing basic training, where he earned a promotion as a squad leader, he is currently assigned to the Visalia recruiter’s office until he reports back to Camp Pendleton for more training on January 15.
   After that combat training is completed, Private First Class Payne will report to Pensacola, Fla., for occupational training in avionics and electronics. He’s aiming to be an officer one day and his superiors are starting to believe he has what it takes.
   The youthful Payne says it was peer pressure of the Marine kind that helped him realize his new identity.

  “I guess you could say in the Marines you are brainwashed from day one to learn that the consequences of your actions could be severe,” said Aaron. “You either do your duty or end up in the brig.”
   Come hear the story of how one young man found discipline and his way through the challenging twists and turns of being a teenager. Members and guests are always welcome at Lions Club meetings.
   If you are not a Lion and want to make arrangements to attend this month’s meeting, contact Glenn McIntyre, Lions president, 561-4133.

More than 900 toys

donated in Woodlake

   Christmas in the Woodlake community means giving, and the recent 2007 holiday was one of the biggest efforts ever to ensure that every child in the elementary school district received at least one specially-wrapped gift. More than 900 toys were purchased, wrapped, and delivered to needy families on Christmas Day.

  “This year, we issued a challenge to each of the five schools in Woodlake to raise money for our toy drive,” said Greg Gonzalez Jr. of the Woodlake Family Resource Center. “The response was unbelievable as each school raised a minimum of $500.”
   The Resource Center works year-round to help families in need in the Woodlake area receive health and social services and to get adjusted to a new life that presents formidable employment obstacles and finding suitable housing. The center routinely contacts needy families with children so they are familiar with those who would benefit most by the annual toy drive.
   Gonzalez said that service groups, local businesses, and some outlying companies all donated to ensure the success of the 2007 toy drive. A host of volunteers worked through Christmas morning to sort, wrap, and deliver the gifts that went to some very wide-eyed and excited children.
   The Woodlake Family Resource Center is a nonprofit social services agency located at 168 N. Valencia Boulevard in Woodlake. The center receives donations of used clothing, toys, children’s books, and small household items in its mission to assist families year-round.


Bidding farewell

to longtime director

   The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce board of directors wishes to express their deepest gratitude and heartfelt wishes for a happy “retirement” to Tom Marshall of The Office Staff and Country Bear Originals. As of January 2008, Tom Marshall's dedication to, and unpaid service on, the all-volunteer Chamber board, including its predecessor business association, will have spanned the course of 15 years.
   In April 1993, Tom began his service to area businesses by helping re-energize the Three Rivers/Lemon Cove Business Association. One year later, Tom took over the Three Rivers phone book and has been in charge of putting the local directory together every two years since then.
   Tom started the organization’s quarterly newsletter and meetings. He created a website for TRLCBA and has maintained it ever since.
   He was president of TRLCBA for four years. In no time at all, Tom helped that small business organization grow and evolve, from the original five members to the present-day 100-member Chamber of Commerce, currently representing about half of all businesses in our area.
   Tom has been the primary photographer for the Chamber. He prodded both TRLCBA and the current Chamber until they got involved with the local Redbud Festival and the Tulare County Fair.
   Three months after the creation of the current Chamber of Commerce, Tom helped set up its office in the Three Rivers Historical Society’s museum. Then he began the task of supervising the all-volunteer office staff.
   Tom helped make sure Three Rivers had an entrance sign and has been involved in the ongoing project of retiring the current sign and replacing it with a new one. He led the effort to have the Chamber co-host the December 2007 Community Caroling event, in conjunction with the Three Rivers Historical Society.
   As the Chamber reassigns his duties and adjusts to handling things without him, Tom has graciously agreed to continue maintaining the website until such time as the Chamber may no longer require that assistance.
   Tom, have we missed anything? Probably.
   Most importantly, we have your telephone number and your various email addresses!
Very gratefully yours,
Sequoia Foothills
Chamber of Commerce


Kenneth Hart

   Kenneth W. Hart died Sunday, Dec. 23, 2007. He was 59.
Ken was born Aug. 30, 1948, in Los Angeles to Bill and Elaine Hart. He moved with his parents to Three Rivers in 1951.
   Ken graduated from Three Rivers School, Woodlake High School, College of the Sequoias, and Fresno State University. He worked for the County of Fresno for 31 years, recently retiring as a clinical supervisor of the Apollo Program.
   Ken is survived by his wife, Michelle; parents Bill and Elaine Hart of Three Rivers; brother Gary and wife Heidi of Nome, Alaska; and brother Bruce and wife Joan and their three children of Paradise.
   A memorial service will be held at a later date. Remembrances may be made to the American Cancer Society at

Florence Coughran

   Florence Pogue Montgomery Coughran died Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007, in Falls Church, Va. She was 102.
   Florence was born May 29, 1905, in the Pogue home (now the Lemon Cove Woman’s Clubhouse) in Lemon Cove, to Nora (Pogue) and R.B. Montgomery. At the age of one month, she made her first visit to Mineral King, a two-day trip by horse and wagon.
Florence attended elementary school in Lemon Cove and graduated from Exeter High School in 1922. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1927 with a degree in Economics, which included a one-year hiatus where she had to return home and work because of a citrus freeze.
   After her graduation, Florence returned to Exeter and worked at a bank. It was there that she met Tom Coughran, and the couple married in 1930.
   In 1932, at the age of 26, Tom became the youngest manager in the bank’s history. Florence’s dreams to see the world were realized as Tom’s work took them to many places around the globe.
   Until her marriage, Florence spent all summer, every summer, in Mineral King. For nearly every summer after her marriage, she continued to visit Mineral King, just not for the entire summer.

  “Before blindness and hip problems overcame her, she was quite the fisherman, always coming home with the limit, which my dad or I then cleaned and cooked for dinner,” recalled Florence’s daughter, Jane.
   For many years, Florence and Tom considered New York City to be home. In 1978, the couple retired to Virginia.
   In 1993, Florence was preceded in death by her husband of 63 years, Tom. She is survived by her daughter, Jane Coughran, of Alexandria, Va.

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