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In the News - Friday, JULY 8, 2005

North Fork neighbors

thwart 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 dialed 911.

  “I didn’t 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.

  “I immediately 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 at-large.
   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

South Fork Bridge

   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 Drive.
   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 Fork.
   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.

Lake begins

downward flow

   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)

invited 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.

  “It’s such 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 owners.
   Now when the couple hikes, they always send Sam ahead of them.

  “In fact, that’s a new command he’s learned: ‘Go first,’ and he does,” said Paul.
   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.

Dillonwood Grove

road closed

   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, July 11.
   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 her studies.
   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.

Richard Domingue,

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 sports.
   He was the pride of Lafayette, La., earning acceptance to and graduating from Harvard University, having also studied at the Sorbonne in 1971.
   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 musician.
   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 Three Rivers.
   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.


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