1995 ~ March 2005
the past decade,
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In the News -
Friday, JULY 8, 2005
grand theft auto
In Three Rivers, community means a lot of things to a lot
of folks, but mostly it’s about being a good neighbor. During last
Sunday’s attempted auto theft, it was two North Fork neighbors who
decided to get involved and take a stand against crime.
“We saw a suspicious
vehicle and some strangers checking out a car parked at the Elliott Ranch
out on the North Fork while we were passing by,” said the wife,
who asked not to have her or her husband’s name mentioned. “The
owner of the car wasn’t home at the time, so my husband and I knew
something was wrong.”
It wasn’t clear at first, but as the couple headed
down North Fork Drive towing a large utility trailer, it became apparent
that these teens were attempting to steal a 2002 red Mustang owned by
Dina and Kyle Loveall, longtime Elliott Ranch caretakers.
“First, we saw
the Mustang pull out a ways behind us, followed by two other guys in a
Chevy Monte Carlo,” she explained. “So next we tried to think
of what we could do to get help and stop these guys.”
The couple said they weren’t quite sure what to do
at first because they had their two young boys in the backseat of their
vehicle. During the nearly seven miles down North Fork from the scene
of the crime, the couple couldn’t get their cell phone to work,
but they knew somehow these thieves had to be stopped.
“The whole way
down North Fork Drive, I was going slow and intentionally swerving so
they couldn’t get by,” said the husband, who was the driver
of the couple’s 2002 Cadillac Escalade. “When I got to the
North Fork Bridge, I knew I had to try to stop them right there before
they got out onto the highway [Sierra Drive/Highway 198].”
At that moment, as the vehicles were crossing the North Fork
Bridge, the husband saw another vehicle, driven by Steve Wood of Three
Rivers, turning onto the bridge from the opposite direction. With the
help of Wood, the time was now to stop these thieves that were following
just a few car lengths behind.
In an instant, the driver of the Escalade jack-knifed his
trailer blocking both lanes, obviously getting the attention of Steve
Wood. Wood, a retired CDF criminal investigator, knew something was up.
The husband informed Wood that a car theft was occurring
while the wife stepped out of the Escalade’s passenger side and
think it was a good idea to draw a gun on these guys,” said Wood.
“There were kids in the other car and we couldn’t be sure
if these guys were armed or not.”
Both of the suspects’ vehicles were stopped on the
bridge, but the driver of the Mustang decided to make a run for it. He
gunned the engine, jumped the curb, and just barely squeezed by the Escalade
on the right.
In that frantic moment, the driver of the stolen Mustang
clipped the open door of Escalade and missed hitting the wife by inches.
The Mustang made a right turn off the bridge and sped west on Sierra Drive.
The accomplices in the Monte Carlo remained immobilized on
the bridge. Within minutes, Greg Fox, California Highway Patrol officer,
was on the scene and briefed as to what was going on.
called for another CHP officer to sit at the bottom of Lemon Hill and
then I took off to see if I could stop the Mustang,” Fox said. “I
soon realized the Mustang had never left Three Rivers.”
On the way back to the bridge, Officer Fox checked some obvious
parking areas. He discovered the hot Mustang parked at the Three Rivers
Golf Course. The keys were found in the grass nearby.
Arrested and charged with auto theft was Homero Vasquez,
19, of Visalia, the registered owner of the Monte Carlo. His passenger,
a 15-year-old male, whose name was not released because of his age, was
also taken into custody. The driver of the Mustang fled on foot and remains
As for the North Fork neighbors who stopped the grand-theft-auto
in progress, they have a $2,000 estimate to fix the damage to their vehicle
for their efforts. But when asked if they would make the choice to get
involved again, the answer was a resounding, “You bet!”
Driver crashes near
On Sunday, July 3, during the holiday weekend’s busiest
day, a distracted driver came very near to landing in the South Fork of
the Kaweah River. According to Lin Gan, 43, the driver of the 2003 Honda
Odyssey, he became distracted by all the traffic coming from several directions
as he was driving westbound on Sierra Drive just past Old Three Rivers
When the accident occurred, the South Pasadena motorist was
approaching the South Fork Bridge. For no apparent reason, the vehicle
suddenly crossed the narrow shoulder, crashed through the guardrail, and
careened down an embankment.
Gan’s vehicle came to rest below the north side of
the roadway within 25 feet of the Kaweah River’s South Fork, where
it flows under the highway bridge toward its confluence with the Middle
At one point, Gan, who was on a whirlwind trip during the
holiday weekend with companions, asked, “What town is this again?”
He also couldn’t remember the name of the hotel where he was staying
in Three Rivers, stating that someone else had made the reservations.
According to a CHP officer at the scene, the driver did not
appear to be intoxicated but failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway.
Gan and his passenger were not injured in the solo vehicle
crash. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
On Wednesday, July 6, after six weeks of unprecedented water
levels, a gradual drain-off of Lake Kaweah water was already in its early
stages. By late afternoon, elevation of the water level in the newly enlarged
basin was at 712.74 feet above mean sea level.
That elevation represented 2.25 feet below the maximum fill
level of 715 feet. Storage on July 6 was 180,794 acre-feet, down from
the 185,000 acre-feet level of the previous month.
The mean inflow for the basin was 1,508 cubic feet per second
(cfs) while operators were releasing at 1,929 cfs. The inflow from the
Middle Fork, which averaged a little less than the total, still represents
some good water for river-rafting.
“For this part
of the season, those inflow numbers are still very impressive,”
commented Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah manager. “If all goes according
to our projections, we expect to still have good water in the basin for
the Labor Day weekend.”
If that happens it will be the first decent water for that
holiday period in eight years. The higher water levels will ensure the
third of three great holiday weekends for boaters, Jet-Skiers, and swimmers.
During the Labor Day weekend, water-lovers will also be able to find additional
access at Kaweah Recreation Area, Horse Creek, and Slick Rock.
With hundreds recreating at Lake Kaweah over the past holiday
weekend, only one injury was reported. Someone riding on a personal watercraft
received a concussion after banging heads with two others while riding
on a three-person Jet-Ski.
“By next summer,
the new facilities will be in and everyone will be able to enjoy Lake
Kaweah even more,” said Deffenbaugh.
Dogs (and their owners)
to snake training
Patrick Callaghan, a nationally-renowned professional trainer,
has taught dogs to do many things during the past 20 years. Next month,
he’s coming to Three Rivers and will hold a weekend-long clinic
to train dogs how to avoid rattlesnakes.
a great opportunity to have Patrick Callaghan here in our area,”
said Paul Wasserman, who with his wife, Amanya, is hosting the event.
He works with all dogs, all ages, from three months and up. Rattlesnakes
can be anywhere and often don’t rattle. It’s nice to know
you have a bit of an edge for safety when you and your dog are outside.”
Callaghan is the owner and founder of Gameland Kennels in
Norco. Last year, the Wassermans took their dog, Sam, to a Rattlesnake
Avoidance Training session at Callaghan’s facility.
“We drove five
hours and stayed in a motel because we wanted the best,” said Paul.
By the end of the sessions, Sam learned to recognize rattlers
by sight, smell, and sound. Since then, the Wassermans have witnessed
Sam reacting to snakes in time to avoid them himself and also alert his
Now when the couple hikes, they always send Sam ahead of
“In fact, that’s
a new command he’s learned: ‘Go first,’ and he does,”
Callaghan works with muzzled rattlers in a safe, humane,
and controlled environment. He gives a dog several opportunities to recognize
the snakes and to learn to avoid them.
Dogs learn quickly, the Wassermans say, because Callaghan
works with each one individually.
Patrick Callaghan will hold his Rattlesnake Avoidance Training
at the Wasserman’s River Ridge Ranch on North Fork Drive in Three
Rivers during the weekend of Aug. 13 and 14. The cost is $65 per dog.
“I have no idea
if I would have spotted any of those rattlers Sam located,” said
Paul. “It’s just possible that he has saved our lives as well
has his own.”
For more information on the upcoming Rattlesnake Avoidance
Training for dogs, call Amanya Wasserman, 561-3061.
The southernmost portion of Sequoia National Park is currently
closed to vehicles due to a bridge that has been determined to be unsafe.
The bridge over Jenny Creek, on Forest Service Road 19S09, provides access
to the remote Dillonwood Grove area of Sequoia National Park.
The bridge is also deemed unsafe for foot traffic and, thus,
the road — which is not paved and also in poor shape — has
been gated and locked near Road 276, just off the Balch Park Road, about
seven miles from the giant sequoia grove.
For more information, call 539-2607.
Gaye Stiltz Free, descendant
of Three Rivers pioneers
1910 ~ 2005
Gaye Joyce Stiltz Free died Sunday, July 3, 2005, at her
South Fork home in Three Rivers. She was 91.
A service will be held Sunday, July 10, at noon, at the Evans-Miller
Chapel in Exeter. Private burial at the Exeter Cemetery will be Monday,
Gaye was born to Mamie Maxon Stiltz and Jack Stiltz at home
in Exeter on Dec. 10, 1913. She was the second of five children, all of
whom she outlived.
Her brother, the late Lee Stiltz, and sister-in-law Evelyn
Stiltz are longtime residents of Three Rivers. Another brother, Fred Stiltz,
was a longtime resident of Exeter.
Gaye attended Exeter schools and graduated from Exeter High
School. She was a granddaughter of Fred and Belle Maxon, who settled on
the South Fork in the 19th century.
Gaye often told stories of going to visit her grandparents
and taking turns opening the nine gates between Old Three Rivers Road
and the Maxon’s farmhouse; of Aunt Tillie Maxon Bryant watering
the pine tree just south of the “metal bridge” on her way
to school (the tree is still there today); and getting stuck in Uncle
Irv Maxon’s Model T while trying to ford Cinnamon Creek in the rain.
Gaye and her sister, Anna Belle, where well-known throughout
Tulare County for their acrobatic dance performances and as vocalists.
Gaye was an avid tennis player and much preferred outdoor sports over
She truly loved to sing and dance and was always finding
something to laugh about, which is why her brother, Lee, called her “Gaye,”
and the name stuck (her given name was Edna).
Following high school, Gaye moved to Ventura, where she met
her first husband, Ralph Lewis Fanthus, a sales engineer for Kobe, Inc.
They married in February 1940 and moved to Huntington Park, where their
two daughters were born.
In 1945, they moved to Rincon Beach near Carpinteria and,
in 1948, to Bakersfield, where Gaye was active in the Lerdo PTA, the Bakersfield
Mother’s Singers, the Bakersfield Americanism Center, and was an
active supporter of the Bakersfield Swim Club for which her daughters
swam. Gaye became a lifeguard, learned diving, and performed water ballet
in the late-1940s and early-1950s.
Widowed in 1965, Gaye remarried in 1968 to Herbert William
G. Free, son of Congressman Lloyd Free (San Jose), and moved to San Mateo,
where Herb was a teacher.
Gaye resided in San Mateo until moving to Three Rivers at
the age of 80. At that time, she and her daughter, Yvette Haworth, re-purchased
a portion of the historic Maxon family homestead on the South Fork (about
six miles from Hwy. 198), across the river from where lifelong residents
Uncle Hat (Hap) and Vi Maxon had resided.
Gaye enjoyed walking along the South Fork and on the family
properties, watching and feeding the eclectic array of birds and animals
that reside on the ranch, and having family gatherings at the property’s
great granite river slides.
Family was very important to Gaye, and she was excited to
have the opportunity to be back to her family’s roots and closer
to her extended family. She never missed the family reunions held on the
“Stiltz family property” on the South Fork each year or the
July family gatherings that Uncle Hat hosted.
Gaye was fiercely patriotic and especially loved the Fourth
of July. She also loved traveling and was grateful that daughter Yvonne
worked for an airline, which allowed her to indulge her wanderlust and
desire for adventure.
She traveled to many
foreign countries and enjoyed the people and cultures. However, she always
said that foreign travel just made her appreciate the U.S. all the more.
Gaye is survived by her two daughters, Yvonne Vonderaye of
Portland, Ore., and Yvette Haworth of Three Rivers; one granddaughter;
two stepdaughters; five step-grandchildren; four great-grandchildren;
her two sisters-in-law, Evelyn Stiltz of Three Rivers and Lotti Stiltz
of Exeter; and many nieces and nephews, including Kathy Stiltz Bohl and
Kirk Stiltz of Three Rivers and Nancy Stiltz Crawford of Woodlake; and
numerous great-nieces and nephews.
Gator Beat band leader
1947 ~ 2005
Richard James Domingue died suddenly, yet peacefully, at
his Sonoma home on Sunday, July 3, 2005. He was 58.
Richie was born June 7, 1947, to Lucas and Irene Hayes Domingue
in Louisiana. As a youth, he achieved excellence in school, music, and
He was the pride of Lafayette, La., earning acceptance to
and graduating from Harvard University, having also studied at the Sorbonne
In the 1970s, Richie moved west and settled in Sonoma, in
California’s Wine Country. In 1982, he met his wife-to-be, Carolyn,
and he became a devoted family man, working as a carpenter and part-time
About 18 years ago, Richie, fondly known as the “Ragin’
Cajun,” founded the Gator Beat band, which blends the southern Louisiana
music of Cajun and Zydeco. Richie’s love of music was strongly influenced
by his grandfather.
This mixture of music, most of which was written by Richie,
proved successful and, year after year, Gator Beat — with Richie
at the helm, playing keyboards, guitar, and accordion — has increased
in popularity in the western U.S. and become a fixture at Jazzaffair in
Richie is survived by his wife, Carolyn Domingue; three children,
Poppy, Chantelle, and Lucas; one grandchild; three brothers; one sister;
and many nieces and nephews.
A wake and funeral service was held Thursday, July 7, at
Duggan’s Mission Chapel in Sonoma. A celebration in Richie’s
honor is scheduled for Saturday, July 9, 4 to 8 p.m., at Little Switzerland,
19080 Riverside Dr., Sonoma.
Gator Beat will perform from 8:30 p.m. till 12:30 a.m. at
this gathering. All are welcome.