Many Sad Days in Newman

Marquee at Westside Theater in Newman pays tribute to Police Corporal Ronil Singh, killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop on the day after Christmas. Photo: Steve Newvine

Marquee at Westside Theater in Newman pays tribute to Police Corporal Ronil Singh, killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop on the day after Christmas. Photo: Steve Newvine

Newman is a city in mourning following the shooting death of Police Corporal Ronil Singh.

All over this community, there are tributes to the fallen policeman.

The Christmas holiday brought joy and warmth to homes throughout the Central Valley. But to our neighbors just north of the Merced County line in Stanislaus County, the day after Christmas was marked by tragedy, sadness, and the early stages of the grieving process.

 
Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Newman Police Department

Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Newman Police Department

 

Corporal Singh was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the early morning of December 26.

Law enforcement throughout California tracked the man who is now charged with that death.

Gustavo Perez Arriaga was arrested in Kern County two days later. Officials say Arriaga was in the country illegally. He has been charged with murder and could face the death penalty.

St. Joachim Catholic Church on Main Street in Newman, Stanislaus County. Like many properties displaying American flags in Newman, the flag in front of the Church is flying at half-staff in honor of Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Steve Newvine

St. Joachim Catholic Church on Main Street in Newman, Stanislaus County. Like many properties displaying American flags in Newman, the flag in front of the Church is flying at half-staff in honor of Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Steve Newvine

In this city of eleven-thousand people, there is now a sense of true loss. Corporal Singh came to America and pursued citizenship so that he could become a police officer.

On my recent visit, I came across several American flags being displayed at half-staff in honor of Corporal Singh. Among the people I saw on my visit was a young father who silently looked at the many flowers in front of the Police Department headquarters. Respecting his privacy, I did not ask him any questions.

I merely offered my acknowledgment of the display of flowers and spoke just three words. “A sad day.”

He looked me in the eye and nodded his head affirmatively. “It sure is,” he said. He then went to his car, and brought his young grade school aged son up to the display.

Flowers from all over California have been sent to the Newman Police Department. All the arrangements are on display in front of the Department headquarters on Main Street. Photo- Steve Newvine

Flowers from all over California have been sent to the Newman Police Department. All the arrangements are on display in front of the Department headquarters on Main Street. Photo- Steve Newvine

Based on the inscription on some of the arrangements, the flowers come from as far away as Redondo Beach in southern California.

Some had banners with short phrases helping the sender express their feelings about Corporal Singh. One in particular read “Hometown Hero”.

One of the posters taped to the wall honoring the Newman Police Department. Photo: Steve Newvine

One of the posters taped to the wall honoring the Newman Police Department. Photo: Steve Newvine

There were posters prepared by younger mourners taped to the front of the Police Department building. One read, “To the police, from Gavin. Thank you.”

Another poster read: “Our hearts are with you Newman P.D.”

A display of flowers, candles, an American flag, and a cross in front of a residence in Newman. Photo- Steve Newvine

A display of flowers, candles, an American flag, and a cross in front of a residence in Newman. Photo- Steve Newvine

The expression of grief extends beyond Main Street in the City of Newman. As I was leaving town heading west of highway 33, I spotted another display in front of a residence.

The display includes a cross made from ordinary PVC pipe. Written on the vertical length of pipe are these words: forever in our hearts, Ronil Singh.

Corporal Singh is remembered as a family man, a trusted colleague, and a loyal friend. His life is being honored by police officers and other first responders, along with family members and friends.

Nowhere is that love and respect more visible than in that small city in southwest Stanislaus County.

It will take time for the City of Newman to grieve the loss of Ronil Singh. He leaves a wife and children, along with extended family, friends, and those in law enforcement near and far who lost a dedicated servant.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

His new book Stand By, Camera One is available on Lulu.com

Spelling Bee Begins with a Twang, Ends with Phyllophagous

Middle school spelling teams competed in the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee final held at the Merced County Office of Education offices in Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

Middle school spelling teams competed in the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee final held at the Merced County Office of Education offices in Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

One by one, thirty-four junior high school students from all over Merced County wrote down the words as they were read out loud by the wordmaster.

“Twang,” she pronounced in front of the students who had gathered at the Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) conference room on December 6.

The wordmaster then used the word in a sentence, read the word in front of a microphone again, and instructed the students to go to work.

Unlike the spelling bees we see on television, the students did not have to spell the word out loud.

These students wrote the words in legible pencil. A proctor was assigned to each table of spellers.

When time was up, the proctor would raise his or her pencil signaling their assigned table had completed the task.

A proctor was assigned to each table of spellers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

A proctor was assigned to each table of spellers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

As time ticked away, students were eliminated.

“I see many of the same students win year after year and even some from the same families,” says Stacey Arancibia who organizes the Bee as part of her role as Events Planner for MCOE.

“Our third place winner has won before and her brother earned second place in the Elementary Bee held December fifth.”

Some might think spelling is no longer a necessary skill in this day and age of computer spell checks, but that is not the case here.

Spelling is a big thing in Merced County, and an even bigger thing in the state of California.

The state competition allows two students from each county to attend the California State Junior High Spelling Bee in May.

The first and second place winners will represent the County at the statewide event to be held in San Rafael.

Trophies and certificates were awarded to the top finishers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

Trophies and certificates were awarded to the top finishers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

While this Junior High competition started out with relatively easy words such as twang, things started getting tight as the words became more complex.

Within one hour, the large group was pared down to about a dozen top spellers. Anxious parents sat in the audience with pride that their children had done their best.

Soon, it was down to just a handful of students.

When Nicole Nguyen correctly spelled phyllophagous, the competition was over. Nicole is the top Junior High speller in Merced County.

Junior High Spelling Bee Wordmaster Audry Garza, a coordinator at MCOE, poses with third place winner Samika Judge, first place winner Nicole Nguyen and second place winner Luke Almeada. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

Junior High Spelling Bee Wordmaster Audry Garza, a coordinator at MCOE, poses with third place winner Samika Judge, first place winner Nicole Nguyen and second place winner Luke Almeada. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

This year’s winners in the Junior-High Bee were:

  • 1st Nicole Nguyen, Cruickshank
  • 2nd Luke Almeada, Cruickshank
  • 3rd Samika Judge, Los Banos Jr High

Each winner received a certificate and a trophy.

The Elementary competition was held the day before at Atwater Valley Community School. Ninety-four spellers took part in that bee.

Just like the Junior High contest, the top two finishers will compete statewide in May.

The statewide event will be held in Stockton.

The winners in the Elementary Bee were:

  • 1st Harneet Sandhu, Los Banos
  • 2nd Arvin Judge, Los Banos
  • 3rd Mariah Dhillon, Winton

The state program these winners will be competing in is not affiliated with the Scripps National Spelling Bee that most people are familiar with.

“Our numbers are increasing,”Stacey says. “Which is always a great thing.”

Merced County Elementary Spelling Bee winners Mariah Dhillon took third place, Arvin Judge took second place and Harneet Sandhu took the top spot. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

Merced County Elementary Spelling Bee winners Mariah Dhillon took third place, Arvin Judge took second place and Harneet Sandhu took the top spot. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

In case you’re wondering, phyllophagous as defined by my family’s American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as an adjective meaning “feeding on leaves”.

I looked it up.

And for whatever it’s worth, my computer incorrectly flags this spelling with a red line meaning it is either not in the computer’s dictionary or it is misspelled.

It is not misspelled.

Don’t ask me, ask Nicole. Her correct spelling of that word makes her Merced County’s top Junior High speller.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

He has written Stand By, Camera One available from Lulu.com

Excerpt from Stand By, Camera One

From my college graduation in 1979 until the end of October in 1980, I was on an adventure that set the stage for my adult life.

My first job out of college was news reporter for station WICZ-TV in Binghamton, NY. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

My first job out of college was news reporter for station WICZ-TV in Binghamton, NY. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

My new book is called Stand By, Camera One- Love, Friendship, and Local TV News in 1980.

It’s the true story of my first job as a television news reporter for a station in Binghamton, New York.

But it’s also about getting engaged, getting married, meeting a special person who taught me the game of chess, and hopefully a slice of what life was like nearly forty years ago. Here’s an excerpt:

I walked into the lobby of WICZ-TV, channel forty, shortly before noon on May 21, 1979. I told the receptionist who I was and she called the newsroom. Two minutes later, Mark Williams greeted me. We walked through the studio and made our way to the small newsroom.

From there, Mark turned up the sound of a twelve-inch black and white television set that rested on top of a four-drawer filing cabinet. The noon newscast from competitor WBNG-TV channel twelve was just coming on the air.

Mark watched the first segment of the newscast with a pen and pad in his hands to jot down any story subjects that he felt might be worth following up on for that night’s six o’clock news.

I had seen this newsroom before during my job interview. It had three large metal desks with chairs, a four-by-six foot work table, the four-drawer filing cabinet, and a small typewriter stand behind the news director’s desk.

A police scanner was picking up calls on the various radio frequencies tuned into the device. Each desk had a Smith-Corona electric typewriter.

Some of my classmates in college had similar models. The typewriter’s had removable cartridges for typewriter ribbon. The news director’s desk sat at the far end of the newsroom. My desk would be in the middle.

The last desk was for the part time reporter who was covering news in the morning. It would eventually become the desk for the next full time person hired to work in the news department. Missing from what looked like an ordinary television newsroom in the late 1970s small market station was the presence of a teletype machine.

The news budget was so small at WICZ, the station did not subscribe to a wire service like Associated Press or United Press International.

The “tick-tick” sound of a press wire was common in most broadcast stations. That would not be the case here.

This picture was taken shortly after I started my television news job in Binghamton. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

This picture was taken shortly after I started my television news job in Binghamton. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

WICZ programmed a half-hour of local news Monday-Friday at six and eleven PM. The station also did two five-minute newscasts that ran during the local breaks of NBC’s Today Show at 7:25 and 8:25 AM.

While we did not talk about it either in my job interview or even now on my first day, the station hoped to program news seven-days a week sometime in the future.

At about ten minutes after twelve o’clock, Mark turned the television set volume down, grabbed his keys, and tested the beeper attached to the side of his belt.

“Come on,” he said with a smile. “Let’s go to lunch.”

We headed to a nice restaurant in the Vestal Plaza and enjoyed a buffet lunch.

When he hired me, Mark said to plan on lunch with him on the first day.

It was his way of getting our working relationship off to a good start. When the check arrived, I reached for my wallet only to be told by Mark. “This one’s on me.”

My eleventh book is called Stand By, Camera One

My eleventh book is called Stand By, Camera One

I spent the rest of the afternoon meeting the staff at channel forty. I was shown my desk and given what amounted to an employee orientation. Mark reviewed the union contract.

My job was classified as an announcer in the union contract between WICZ-TV and the National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians (NABET).

I would eventually get my union card. It was my second card as I had to join a meat-cutters union for a part-time grocery store job I held when I was going to college.

It came as no surprise that I would be going on the air that night. Orientation was nice, but baptism by fire was the only way to learn in a small market television station.

From my desk in the newsroom, I started preparing a three-minute sports report. With all the journalism training I had at Herkimer College and Syracuse University, I never did anything in the sports reporting arena.

This was the local news business, and we were ready to jump in and go to work. There’s a recording in my personal archives of my first broadcast on local television.

Mark Williams anchored the station’s newscast as well as served as news director. He introduced me to the viewers.

“We welcome Steve Newvine to the Eyewitness News team. Steve has lived upstate all his life and recently graduated from Syracuse. Steve, welcome to the Triple Cities.”

I thanked Mark, and began to read a short sports report and an even shorter weather forecast.

Behind the studio wall, the newscast director, Rich Krolak was working the six o’clock newscast. The director controls all the video and audio components that go into a television production.

He or she calls for a specific camera shot, a particular source of audio to be opened, or a video tape to be played. In bigger markets, the director would work with a technical director who would run the video switcher that allows takes from one camera to another.

At WICZ, both roles were handled by the director using dialogue that would sound a little like this: “Stand-by camera one. Take one, ready two. Take two, stand by tape, in three-two-one. Take tape.”

1968- Elvis Ends a Difficult Year on an Upbeat

While America endured a rough year five decades ago, a television special featuring the King of Rock-and-Roll helped change the conversation.

The soundtrack album for the 1968 Elvis Presley television special.

The soundtrack album for the 1968 Elvis Presley television special.

I’ve written a lot about 1968 in this space and in the pages of the Merced Sun Star.

If you lived through it, you recall the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the spring, the violence during the Democratic National Convention that summer, and the election of Richard Nixon in the fall.

The year came to a close with the inspiring Apollo eight mission around the moon at Christmas. 1968 ended on a positive note. Make that a positive musical note.

In music, it was the year of the Beatles Sergeant Pepper album. Johnny Cash took his recording equipment inside a prison and came out with the live recording known as Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.

In December, NBC ran Singer Presents Elvis, an hour-long special featuring nothing but the music of Elvis Presley. No guest stars, no narration, just sixty minutes of Elvis. I was an eleven-year old boy watching the show in our living room that night.

It changed me.

Shortly after the telecast, RCA released the soundtrack to the special. I played it so often the vinyl disc had streaks of gray from the record player needle wearing down the grooves.

The special had some dance numbers that did not impress me at the time, and even today have a look of dated variety-show razzmatazz. But on the record player, I did not see the dancing. It’s all about the music. In the broadcast, there was an extensive section with Elvis and a few musicians surrounded by about two-hundred fans.

The segment included Elvis talking about some of his experiences from the early years and the frequent playing the old hits. While Singer used the broadcast to sell sewing machines, the special was used by RCA to release two singles. One was Memories, written by Scott Davis who would later become a performer changing his name to Mac Davis.

If I can Dream

The other single was If I Can Dream. It was the song that closed the show. Written by W. Earl Brown, the song essentially asks if we can put aside the tribulations of any time and dream of a “better land, where all my brothers walk hand in hand”.

In 1968, the symbolic message was simple: can we get past the bad from that year (the assassinations, the violence, the Vietnam War), and work toward a promising tomorrow?

It was a positive message coming at the end of a difficult year. In later years, the program was called the Comeback Special because it led to Elvis resuming a performing career.

He’d have a few good recordings during what would become his final years of life before all his troubles with success, prescription drugs, and a hard-living lifestyle caught up with him. He died in 1977.

Putting that all aside, I encourage you to listen to If I Can Dream on YouTube. In recent years, the Presley estate endorsed an updated version of several Elvis songs, including this one, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The result is satisfying. But I’m still partial to the original recording. That recording was intended to close the 1968 special, and for me it closed 1968 on an upbeat.

The song is a call for positivity in a year full of negativity. It challenges the listener to imagine something better.

In a time of divided politics, random acts of violence, and plenty of uncertainty, the song inspires.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

His new book Stand-By Camera One will soon be published on Lulu.com

Stub at 85

My dad celebrates a milestone surrounded by family

Ed Newvine turns 85 in November.

He’s my dad.

He’s been a loyal son, fair-minded brother, loving husband, proud father, devoted grandfather, and revered great-grandfather.

My Dad, Ed “Stub “ Newvine

My Dad, Ed “Stub “ Newvine

He was born in 1933 at home in northern New York State. He was the third of what would become four children of Art and Vera Newvine.

He lived on the family farm (which is still in the family, operated by my aunt Betty’s family), went to Port Leyden Central School, and built a life together with my mom Beatrice.

He’s remained in his native Lewis County New York all his life.

While short and stubby Ed grew up tall and slender, the nickname Stub has stayed with him all his life. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

While short and stubby Ed grew up tall and slender, the nickname Stub has stayed with him all his life. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

As a little boy before entering kindergarten, he had a round face and a little extra fat around his waist. Someone referred to him as “short and stubby”.

The name Stubby stuck.

He quit high school in his junior year because he was needed to help on the family farm.

He married Beatrice when he was twenty. Dad did not want to stay on the family farm any longer than he needed to. He left the farm the day he got married.

Over the years, he did factory work, road construction, and eventually became a union carpenter.
Bea and Stub raised three children: Terry, Steve, and Becky.

My brother Terry, dad, sister Becky, and me. Photo; Newvine Personal Collection

My brother Terry, dad, sister Becky, and me. Photo; Newvine Personal Collection

Along with my grandfather Art and my uncle Jim, Dad worked on construction projects primarily in the Utica and Rome area of upstate New York.

Occasionally, work would take him as far away as Oswego (seventy miles) to the west and Albany (one-hundred, twenty miles) to the south of our hometown.

One summer in the early 1970s, the three Newvine carpenters worked on the Empire State Plaza project at the state capitol in Albany.

The trio rented a mobile home near the job site and would spend work nights there and come back to Port Leyden on weekends.

Empire State Plaza was the largest state office building complex at the time of its controversial construction.

Then Governor Nelson Rockefeller wanted to leave a legacy.

The two-billion dollar project, kept a lot of union workers busy.

My Mom and Dad from a 1980 photo. Mom passed away in 2000..Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

My Mom and Dad from a 1980 photo. Mom passed away in 2000..Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

I’ve written about my dad over the years in my books and in the Our Community Story column.

What follows are some random memories: How scared I was in fifth grade after accidentally breaking a full length mirror in our living room.

He was coming home from work and I was sure I was going to be punished. Instead, he hugged me and told me everything was going to be all right.

The advice he gave me on the phone the night a tire came off a car I was driving. It was snowing, and, the tire just flew off.

I walked to a nearby house and I called Dad. He said, “If you need me to come, I will. But try to find the tire, and then take one lug nut off each of the remaining three wheels and put the tire on with those three lug nuts.”

I found the tire, put it back on, and was on my way. More than anything, he was really saying, “stay calm, and everything will be okay.” How much he likes to laugh. He repeats jokes or funny stories others have told him.

If he really likes the joke, he will repeat the punchline.

My favorite Dad retelling of a funny story is about a deer hunter who shot a doe.

Shooting does was against the law without a special permit, which this guy did not have.

"The hunter went to a bar to brag to his friends. A man at the end of the bar listened as the story of the doe unfolded, and then approached the hunter. Man: Do you know me? Hunter: No. Man: I’m the game warden. Hunter (pauses, looks up at the game warden): Do you know me? Man: No. Hunter: Well, I’m the biggest damned liar in Lewis County."

How good of a friend he has been.

There are many men in and around my hometown who would call him a good friend.

There’s Bill who attends daily Mass along with Dad and stops in for coffee afterwards. Larry is another friend who stops by for coffee on a regular basis.

And there was Fred, a neighbor who Dad would take to the VA hospital in Syracuse in the years leading up to Fred’s passing.

There are others, but I’m not around all the time to see them.

How he will perform an act of kindness just because that’s what he does. Whether it is helping out around his church, tending to a neighbor’s problem in their yard, or taking action when he sees someone in need, he does it because that’s what people do.

How he would never miss Sunday Mass or a Holy Day of Obligation.

How he always thanks me for calling, something I try to do every other week.

We tried it every week, but not a whole lot changes from one week to the next. The calls got better when I got into the every-other-week routine.

When I saw him cry for the first time. It was at the graveside of his brother Bill who died in a car crash at the age of twenty-five, just six months after returning from Vietnam.

How he’s renewed my subscription to a weekly newspaper from home ever since I left in 1979.

What a good relative he is, especially in how he treated his elders. Most of them are gone now: Grandma and Grandpa Newvine, Mary and Dennis, Vaughn and Francis, Charlie and Rose, Peachy and Joe, Myrtle, Kenny, and Grandma Snyder.

But they had a reliable son, nephew, brother-in-law, and son-in-law with Dad.

The same can be said for those who are still with us such as his brother Jim and sister Betty.

How I’ll never forget the night in 2000 when I saw him kneeling at my dying mom’s bedside and saying his prayers next to her ear so that she could hear them.

Mom passed away that night, and I’m sure his loving prayers were the last words she heard on this earth.

My dad and me. Newvine Personal Collection

My dad and me. Newvine Personal Collection

So I raise a bottle of Genesee Beer and celebrate with an old-fashion donut with peanut butter (a family tradition) to wish my day a happy birthday.

Stub at 85 is not a whole lot different than Stub at just about any other age.

He’s a good man and I’m proud to be his son.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

He wrote about his family in two memoirs: Growing Up, Upstate and Grown Up, Going Home. Both are available at Lulu.com

Veterans Memorial Signs Pay Tribute to Merced’s Heroes

Signs Along Veterans Boulevard Call Out 80 Military Killed in Action

Signs Along Veterans Boulevard Call Out 80 Military Killed in Action. Photo by Steve Newvine.

Signs Along Veterans Boulevard Call Out 80 Military Killed in Action. Photo by Steve Newvine.

Chances are family members of US Army Private Cornelius W. Tuyn are no longer in our community.

The same can be likely said for US Army Mechanic John R. Veary.

Both lived in Merced. Both lost their lives in World War I.

Thanks to the City of Merced, both are being remembered.

Chronologically, they are the first veterans to be honored in the City of Merced’s Memorial Plaque initiative.

*By Veterans Day on November 11, eighty signs will be lining a broad section of M Street in the City of Merced.

One of eighty memorial signs honoring veterans who lost their lives in US military service. Each sign names a service member from the City of Merced who was killed in action. Photo- Steve Newvine.

One of eighty memorial signs honoring veterans who lost their lives in US military service. Each sign names a service member from the City of Merced who was killed in action. Photo- Steve Newvine.

Among the men whose names appear on the signs is US Navy Corporal Robert M. Crowell who lost his life in World War II.

He was born in the same month that Private Tuyn was killed during World War I: October 1918. Crowell who served in the US Navy, died on July 2, 1944.

The signs are memorials to members of the armed services killed in action who were from the City of Merced. The memorials cover service members from World War I on up to the war in Afghanistan.

The signs have white lettering over a blue background. Individually, they recognize a soldier, his rank, branch of service, and years served.

Collectively, they make a very strong statement as to how our community shows respect to those who gave their lives defending our country.

“They are all from the City of Merced and all members who died in combat zones,” says Mike Conway, the City of Merced Information Officer.

These white on blue signs are on utility poles up and down M Street. Each one recognizes the service of a soldier from the City of Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

These white on blue signs are on utility poles up and down M Street. Each one recognizes the service of a soldier from the City of Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

Army Private Tuyn and Mechanic Veary are the only two Merced residents known to be killed in action during World War I.

Thirty-seven of the eighty soldiers memorialized on the signs served in World War II. The signs include the names of thirteen soldiers killed in the Korean War, twenty-one from the Vietnam War, and four from Operation Iraqi Freedom through the war in Afghanistan.

Among the Korean veterans is US Air Force Captain Ralph A. Ellis, Junior. Captain Ellis died on July 21, 1950.

The memorial to fallen veterans was a natural next step in the City of Merced’s journey to pay tribute for the contributions of all who have served in the military.

In recent years, Merced City Council renamed the bridge on M Street spanning Bear Creek to Veterans Memorial Bridge.

A section of M Street near the bridge now carries the name Veterans Boulevard.

In the most recent stage of renovation for the bridge, five flag poles were installed representing each of the five branches of the Armed Forces.

Flags from those branches of the military will now be flown on the bridge during special occasions and at other times to honor veterans.

Part of the list naming the eighty soldiers from Merced who were killed in action in our nation’s wars. Photo: Steve Newvine

Part of the list naming the eighty soldiers from Merced who were killed in action in our nation’s wars. Photo: Steve Newvine

The City’s Department of Public Works has been posting the new signs along M Street.

Of the twenty-one soldiers listed among the veterans who died in action in Vietnam, five were Marines.

That list includes Lance Corporal Juan B. Valtierra who was killed on January 5, 1966.

It’s an ambitious undertaking, and it will be an ongoing task to find, verify, and post memorials to other City of Merced veterans who may not be on the current list.

“We don’t believe it is a complete list,”Mike Conway says.“We are seeking the public’s help in making it complete.”

The city staff has started this project with the names of 80 military personnel from the City who have died while serving during combat.

One complication is limited records on World War I Veterans.

That is why Assistant City Manager Stephanie Dietz says her team needs help from the community.

“If your loved one was a City resident who died in battle and is not on this list, please let us know.”

The current list of the eighty City residents being memorialized is posted at www.cityofmerced.org/veterans.

The most recent death memorialized on the signs is US Army Private First Class Luca C. Hopper. Private Hopper died on October 30, 2009.

More names will be added as City staff, working with local veterans groups, verifies other City of Merced residents who were killed in action.

More names may be added if there are more deaths of City residents serving in the current war in Afghanistan. The names I chose to use in the column represent four branches of the armed services: Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

I selected one from each war America has fought since World War I, and I included two for World War I as there were only two in that category. Hopefully, when we see these signs we remember not only the soldier whose name appears, but all the men and women throughout the country who made the sacrifice.

Soldiers like Army Private Tuyn and Mechanic John R. Veary are remembered today, more than one-hundred years after they were killed in action thanks to this effort by the City of Merced.

We are grateful to these brave men for their service and proud of the sacrifice from all our veterans.**

Steve Newvine lives in Merced

He remembers his Uncle Bill Newvine who served in Vietnam in the book Finding Bill, available at Lulu.com

Making History at the Fossil Discovery Center

Madera County’s museum houses fossils from the 1993 Fairmead Mammoth discovery.

The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County. Photo by Steve Newvine

The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County. Photo by Steve Newvine

Inside the main entrance of the Fossil Discovery Center, the visitor gets a glimpse at a reproduction of a Columbia Mammoth.  That generally drops the jaw of a typical school aged explorer.

“The students are amazed as soon as they walk in through the main entrance,” staff person Dawn Guthrie says.  

We’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County.  

The organization is in the middle of a big project with three Madera County Rotary clubs to restore the former Mammoth Orange stand to a site on the Center grounds.  

The Orange Mammoth stand restoration is drawing attention to the Center’s work of supporting and promoting paleontology.  The Center was built in the years following the discovery of mammoth fossils at the site of the Fairmead landfill. The landfill is across the road from the museum entrance.

The San Joaquin Paleontology Foundation was formed in 1993 shortly after the mammoth fossils and others from the Pleistocene era were discovered.  Support from the Madera County Board of Supervisors and grants made the construction of the facility possible.

Since opening in 2010 the Center has hosted an estimated ten-thousand students annually who come in buses from area schools.  

Executive Director Michele Picina looks at some of the exhibits at the Fossil Discovery Center. Photo: Steve Newvine

Executive Director Michele Picina looks at some of the exhibits at the Fossil Discovery Center. Photo: Steve Newvine

The Center’s Executive Director Michele Picina is a retired school principal from the Madera Unified School District.  

She’s always had an interest in archaeology, so when the opportunity to serve the Center came her way, she jumped at the chance.

“The Center is devoted to paleontology,” she told me this summer.  “I believed this would be the closest I could get to archaeology so this has been a real adventure for me.”

The Center gets visitors from all over California, with most of the school student patrons coming from Madera, Merced, and Fresno Counties.  

“But our reach goes beyond those three counties,” says Dawn who sets up the tours with area schools.  “We get Turlock, Bakersfield, Stockton and several other cities making plans to bring school buses with students to the Center.”

A Fossil Discovery Center volunteer shows an exhibit to a visitor. Photo: Steve Newvine)

A Fossil Discovery Center volunteer shows an exhibit to a visitor. Photo: Steve Newvine)

A typical school tour divides the class into four sections.  Each section is assigned a docent and a portion of the Center.  

The sections rotate so that every student sees everything the Center has to offer with no one feeling as though they are lost in the crowd.

Students view where fossils are brought in for examination by paleontologists.  As anyone with a passing interest in the physical sciences knows, this work requires time and patience.  

The Center is helped by volunteers; many of them have a background in paleontology.

Many of the fossils discovered in the Fairmead landfill site are stored behind these locked cases. Photo: Steve Newvine

Many of the fossils discovered in the Fairmead landfill site are stored behind these locked cases. Photo: Steve Newvine

In another section, a visitor can see some of the fossils that have been recovered from the Fairmead landfill site.  

More than fifteen-thousand fossils from the site have been found since the first discovery in 1993. Fossils from the Fairmead discovery site are locked behind glass cases.  Those exhibits are considered fragile and best handled by experts.

Behind the main building, the Center has a dining area, and two unique outdoor exhibits: a Yokuts house and a Water Resource Exhibit. Photo: Steve Newvine

Behind the main building, the Center has a dining area, and two unique outdoor exhibits: a Yokuts house and a Water Resource Exhibit. Photo: Steve Newvine

There are plenty of things to see and explore outside the Center building.  Behind the building is the Pleistocene Water Resource Exhibit.

The exhibit is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat.  

It presents a scaled down experience of what the terrain in this part of the Central Valley might have looked like in the Pleistocene era.

There is a re-creation of a Yokut house near the Water Resource Exhibit.  Valley Yokuts were the largest Native American tribe in California with an estimated sixty-thousand living in the region.

A house like this one is made from fourteen thousand tules and would take approximately one-hundred-twenty-five hours to build.

On the side of the Center is a simulated archaeology dig site where children can try a special kind of hands-on science.  The digs allow students to experience what the real scientists experience in the field.

The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County. Photo: Steve Newvine

The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County. Photo: Steve Newvine

Over the years, the Center has added new features to enhance the visitor experience.  A recent partnership brought in a display that explores water in the San Joaquin Valley.   

The Center also has a strategic alliance with the Sierra Mono Museum in North Fork, Madera County.

The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County was founded as a natural next step for the San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation.  

“There was such diversity of life here in the region during that era,” Michele says. “Sloths, camels, llama, elephants, and horses were all common here.”  

And don’t forget the mammoths.

Columbia mammoths define the discovery of the first bones in the Fairmead landfill site from 1993.  

So popular was that discovery that the orange stand on highway 99 was named the Mammoth Orange hamburger stand.  

From the front entrance of the Fossil Discovery Center, a visitor can see the Fairmead landfill where the first Columbia Mammoth bones were discovered in 1993. Photo: Steve Newvine

From the front entrance of the Fossil Discovery Center, a visitor can see the Fairmead landfill where the first Columbia Mammoth bones were discovered in 1993. Photo: Steve Newvine

The Fairmead area embraced the mammoth discovery back in the 1990s, and the Center is doing everything it can to maximize the connection between that discovery and the future of the facility.  

The Foundation would like to see steady increases in the numbers of school trips to the Center, and more visitors from throughout California.

The Center recently hosted Madera County teachers for a reception to kick off the new school year and to showcase the offerings.  The facility is available as a meeting and conference space to the public.

Expansion is always a possibility if the demand for more visitor space grows and financial support increases.  The Center is positioned as a community resource.

So if you haven’t experienced seeing the wide eyes of a child brighten up to the sight of a life-sized mammoth skeleton reproduction, come and see it yourself.  

You will see why the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County is making history in the Central Valley.

 For more information on the Fossil Discovery Center:

go to MaderaMammoths.org

Or call 559-665-7107.

Join the Center for Fossil Fest on October 20.  Free admission and a free pumpkin for the first 100 families.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

70th Anniversary of Billy Graham’s Central Valley Crusade

An impressive anniversary is coming up in November in the Central Valley.

Photo-ad – This is what one of the advertisements for the Billy Graham Modesto Crusade looked like in the Modesto Bee. Photo from the Modesto Bee.

Photo-ad – This is what one of the advertisements for the Billy Graham Modesto Crusade looked like in the Modesto Bee. Photo from the Modesto Bee.

October 24 will mark the seventieth anniversary of the Billy Graham Modesto Crusade.

More importantly, that anniversary will note the creation of the guiding principles the Graham organization wrote during their daytime breaks from that two-week Crusade.  

The principles were called the Modesto Manifesto.

An advertisement that ran in the October 23 1948 issue of the Modesto Bee called the event the Canvas Cathedral.  There was a reference to the huge tent that was put up in a field near the corner of Burney and La Loma Streets.

Today, Burney is still called a street and La Loma is now referred to as an avenue.

At the time, local Christian ministers were asked by the Graham organization to help fill that tent for the first night.  

They were assured that if the first night was successful, the rest of the crusade attendance would take care of itself.

For two weeks, an estimated nightly crowd of two-thousand came to the Canvas Cathedral.  The Modesto Crusade was deemed a success, and it would help propel Billy Graham to other venues including the Los Angeles event held one year later.

Billy Graham, who died at the age of 99 on February 21, 2018, wrote dozens of books including Personal Thoughts of a Public Man. Photo from the book cover.

Billy Graham, who died at the age of 99 on February 21, 2018, wrote dozens of books including Personal Thoughts of a Public Man. Photo from the book cover.

The rest of the story is now in the history books.  Billy Graham traveled all over the world for the next six decades.  

He embraced television, wrote dozens of books, and was considered the “nation’s pastor” by the next eleven presidents.

But it’s the Modesto Manifesto that makes this incredible story of the life of Billy Graham so meaningful to many in the Central Valley.

I’ve written about the Manifesto on a few occasions since 2008 when I came across an article commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Modesto Crusade.

Modesto was a crucial stop in the fledgling period of the Graham ministry.  The evangelist had his eyes on Los Angeles, but wanted every event leading up to the planned 1949 L.A. crusade to continue building momentum.  

His close friend and associate Cliff Barrows came from Ceres, Stanislaus County. Barrows suggested the Modesto stop hoping that his connections with the local faith communities would come through to help make it a success.

While hundreds upon hundreds of people attended the nightly crusade, Billy and his team took advantage of the daytime hours to critically analyze the ministry and the potential problems that could sidetrack an evangelist.

Graham’s close associate was Ceres native Cliff Barrows.  

Barrows, who met Billy while on his honeymoon in Wisconsin, spoke to me in 2010 for a book I wrote about the Central Valley.  We discussed the Modesto Manifesto.

Barrows told me the group was directed by Billy to identify potential pitfalls for the organization, and later decide together on a strategy to avoid these pitfalls.

While the crowds came to experience the Crusade at night, during the day Graham and his top three associates George Beverly Shea, Grady Wilson, and Barrows worked and prayed on the issue.

“The book Elmer Gantry (by Sinclair Lewis) was popular at the time,” he said in 2010.  “It did not put evangelists in a positive light. Billy asked the three of us to think about the pitfalls that other evangelists had encountered.  We each went back to our motel rooms and reconvened the next day to learn that our lists were very similar.”

In the 1966 book, Crusades, published by the Billy Graham organization, the official account of the meetings indicate the men had come up with about fifteen potential pitfalls ranging from finances to infidelity.

What emerged from those daily meetings with the Graham team was a list of four guiding principles.  They are:

  • Accountability-transparency in reporting finances and Crusade attendance

  • Purity-specifically addressing sexual immorality.  This led to a directive that no one working for the Graham organization be allowed to have a closed door meeting with someone from the opposite sex.

  • Integrity-no criticism of local churches or local pastors

  • Humility-no seeking out “exaggerated publicity” for the crusade events

It’s believed Cliff Barrows gave the principles the name Modesto Manifesto.  

Short of the Ten Commandments, the Manifesto was likely the first time a religious organization publicly stated their operating guidelines.

Billy Graham died in February 2018 at the age of 99.  His son Franklin, who is also a minister, visited Turlock later in the year for a prayer convocation event.

Cliff Barrows died in 2016.  At the time of his death, I wrote an appreciation piece that was published in the Modesto Bee.  

In that essay, I recalled how interested Barrows seemed to be in what was going on in his native region.  As we prepared for the taped telephone interview for my book 9 from 99, he wanted me to know that he still thought fondly of the Central Valley.

The Modesto Gospel Mission was founded with $5,000 of the proceeds from the 1948 Billy Graham Modesto Crusade. Photo: Modesto Gospel Mission

The Modesto Gospel Mission was founded with $5,000 of the proceeds from the 1948 Billy Graham Modesto Crusade. Photo: Modesto Gospel Mission

The only memento of the 1948 Graham Modesto Crusade is an anti-poverty organization.  

The Modesto Gospel Mission was founded using five-thousand dollars from local share of the 1948 Central Valley event.  The Mission continues to feed hundreds of homeless every week and provides over fifty-thousand bed nights to those in need.

The Mission recently celebrated its seventieth anniversary with a gala fundraising event at the Doubletree Hotel in Modesto.  It continues to serve the community.

So it appears that the Modesto Manifesto tenet dealing with accountability was put into action immediately following the 1948 Crusade.  

That gift of $5,000 has come back many times in the form of meals for the hungry, bed nights for those needing a place to stay in the community, and hope for those who may have lost hope.

Billy Graham and his team of associates would be very proud.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

He’s working on a new book about his first years working in television news.

Mammoths and a giant orange stand- A “marriage of terms”

A fund-raising effort has been going on just south of the Merced County border to restore the giant orange juice stand that once stood off highway 99 at Fairmead.

A vintage photograph of the locally famous Fairmead Orange Stand on Highway 99.  The stand closed about ten years ago. Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

A vintage photograph of the locally famous Fairmead Orange Stand on Highway 99.  The stand closed about ten years ago. Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

There was a time back in the 1950s and 60s when giant orange refreshment stands were a common site on California roads.

Oranges were a much bigger piece of California agriculture back in those days. 

The stands sold orange juice and other drinks along with hamburgers and hot dogs to people traveling throughout the state. 

Over time, orange juice was frequently replaced by soft drinks and milkshakes as consumer tastes shifted.

The orange stands were places where a motorist could stop, use the facilities, and enjoy a hamburger and an orange flavored beverage outdoors in the California sun.  

Families could rest at picnic tables under the outdoor canopy and watch the traffic pass by.

The stands disappeared as air conditioning and highway expansion became commonplace. 

This is what the people restoring the giant orange stand are facing with the project.  The stand is not in great shape now, but will be brought back to its former presence.  Photo by Steve Newvine

This is what the people restoring the giant orange stand are facing with the project.  The stand is not in great shape now, but will be brought back to its former presence.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The last orange stand in the state was in Fairmead, Madera County. 

It closed a decade ago.  The stand was moved to storage in the City of Chowchilla.  Six years ago,   it was sold so that the non-profit organization that runs the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County could help organize an effort to restore it.

Enter the three Rotary clubs in Madera and Chowchilla who adopted this restoration project. 

The clubs have raised over $15,000 so far and continue to solicit funds through a Go Fund Me campaign and other efforts.  

Additional donations are coming in as well in a separate campaign being run by the Fossil Discovery Center.

Little by little, the restoration project is moving forward.

The restoration project is a collaboration project among the Madera Sunrise Rotary, Chowchilla Rotary, and Madera Rotary clubs.  Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

The restoration project is a collaboration project among the Madera Sunrise Rotary, Chowchilla Rotary, and Madera Rotary clubs.  Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

“This was the vision of the late Lori Pond, a member of our board and a passionate supporter of the Center and of local history,” says Fossil Center director Michele Pecina.  “She made the appeal to the City of Chowchilla to acquire the orange stand.”

According to local media accounts from that time, the Foundation paid $2,050 to the City of Chowchilla for the stand. The City got some storage space back.  

The Foundation got the centerpiece of a new era for the Fossil Center.

A 2012 story on the Sierra News Online site, Lori spoke of requests to Caltrans to rename the road between highway 99 and the Center entrance to Mammoth Parkway, and the reserving of the web address MammothOrange.com for future use.

The Fossil Center was founded in the years following the discovery of Columbia Mammoth bones at the Fairmead landfill in 1993.  The San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation was formed shortly after the discovery.   The Foundation received official non-profit status in 2001.  The organization oversaw the building of the Fossil Center.  

Today more than ten thousand people, mostly school-aged children coming for field trips, visit the Center.

 This is the inside of the former Fairmead Orange Stand.  It’s very clear that the team working on this restoration have a big job on their hands.  Photo: Steve Newvine

 This is the inside of the former Fairmead Orange Stand.  It’s very clear that the team working on this restoration have a big job on their hands.  Photo: Steve Newvine

It’s fair to ask what is the connection is between the Fossil Discovery Center and the restoration of the giant orange stand.

Michele, who spells her first name with just one “L”, can explain that connection.  

“This will be a marriage of terms.  The Mammoth Orange Stand will sit at the site near where the Columbia Mammoth bones were found right here in Fairmead.”

The Fossil Discovery Center is located off the Avenue 21-and- a- half exit in Fairmead west of highway 99. From the Center’s location, the visitor can see the Fairmead landfill where the Columbia Mammoth bones were first discovered.

Center director Michele Pecina shows the round work that has already started for the Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Center director Michele Pecina shows the round work that has already started for the Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Building permits have been acquired, and ground work is already underway.  It is hoped the stand will be ready for use in 2019.  Once the restoration is complete, the Orange stand will be a permanent exhibit.

Michele says, “Food events will be celebrated during the opening and year round.”

Initially, the stand will be used for private food events with the Center considering whether it makes sense to turn it into a regular refreshment stop for visitors.  The Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center will offer an exciting new opportunity for the region.

All these goals will come in time according to Michele. 

“We will eventually move to have the state consider designating the stand as a historical landmark.”

The Fairmead Orange Stand was the last of the California big orange stands to close.    

If all goes as planned, the Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla will be the first one to come back in service.

With that eventual opening day coming up in about a year, one might work up a thirst for a cold cup of orange soda over ice or some other beverage.

It’s possible too that one might get a chance to relive a sentimental moment from the past.  The restoration may help one return to a simpler time when a stop at a roadside orange stand was commonplace in California.  

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He has written California Back Roads- Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine.  It is available at Lulu.com.

A column about the Fossil Discovery Center will be published on MercedCountyEvents.com in the near future.

To learn more about the Fossil Discovery Center, go to www.maderamammoths.org

To consider supporting the fund drive to restore the Mammoth Orange Stand, go to GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

Lessons Learned on the Job

With about forty years of professional work experience, there come lessons.  This letter was so significant to my life, I’ve held on to it for nearly fifty years.

A letter received in my senior year of high school inviting me to audition for a school news reporter at a local radio station.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection)

A letter received in my senior year of high school inviting me to audition for a school news reporter at a local radio station.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection)

The letter was in response to an inquiry I made to my hometown radio station about doing a weekly school news report over the airwaves.  

The person who had previously done the job had graduated from high school.

In the letter, the station’s News Director invited me to set up a time for a voice audition.  I promptly called the station, set up an appointment, auditioned, was reminded it did not pay anything, and got the job.

It was the first step in my broadcasting career.

Labor Day is as good a time as any to look back on the virtue of work.  Most of us have to work. We support our families, add value to the economy, and reap the benefits that come from doing a job.

In forty years as a working professional, I have had ten employers.  There’s a lesson from each one.

 

Reading the news on station WBRV in Boonville, New York.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

Reading the news on station WBRV in Boonville, New York.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

 

The no-compensation job of reporting school news in my senior year of high school paid off about seven months after graduation.  

The station was in need of a weekend announcer. The weekday morning DJ who would replay my taped school news reports, suggested the station manager give me a call.  

Thanks to my recent successful test for my Federal Communications Commission Broadcast License, I got the gig.

After landing that weekend announcer job at WBRV in Boonville, my outlook for a planned career in broadcasting looked promising.  Now, just a few months after starting college here was a job in the field where I was pursuing my degree. The lesson learned: sometimes you are the link that connects an employer’s need with the solution they are seeking.

Between records on the air, I read announcements for lost pets, weather reports warning of pending snow storms, and generally kept company with my small audience in rural upstate New York.

An art card depicting television station WKTV in Utica, New York.

An art card depicting television station WKTV in Utica, New York.

From the disc jockey job in radio, I secured a television news internship at station WKTV in Utica, New York for my final semester at Syracuse University.  

The college class schedule permitted me flexibility so that I could make that eighty-mile round trip drive from my college dormitory to the station three days a week.  

By the end of the internship, I was filing on-air reports. Those stories helped make up an audition tape to show potential employers.

It was an unpaid internship, so the lesson learned was don’t let money get in the way of a good job.

The Eyewitness News team at WICZ-TV in Binghamton, New York.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

The Eyewitness News team at WICZ-TV in Binghamton, New York.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

That audition tape caught the eye of the News Director at WICZ-TV in Binghamton, New York.  The interview took place during the finals week at Syracuse.

The News Director is the department head for a broadcast newsroom.  An offer was made one week after graduation.

I was on the job three days later. The lesson learned: when an employer asks “when can you start” the answer is “right away”.

This photo from my personal collection was used as the cover of the book Microphones, Moon Rocks, and Memories. It was taken while I was reporting in the field at station WAAY in Huntsville, Alabama.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

This photo from my personal collection was used as the cover of the book Microphones, Moon Rocks, and Memories. It was taken while I was reporting in the field at station WAAY in Huntsville, Alabama.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama hired me a year-and-a-half after starting in Binghamton.  Newly married and looking for adventure, my wife and I headed south. Putting away fond memories of upstate New York, we headed to Dixie for the next chapter.  The lesson learned: never get too comfortable.

Developing some management skills in the latter part of the tenure in Huntsville paid off when a station in Rockford, Illinois wanted to hire a News Director.   I couldn’t wait to start this job. The lesson learned: be ready to move on if you want to move up.

Rochester, New York was the next stop.  With relatives in upstate New York, and one child new to our nest, my wife and I chose family proximity over anything else as I accepted the job as Senior Producer at the ABC affiliate.  

The job lasted eight years. We added another child to our family during that time.

While I enjoyed my coworkers immensely, there was a feeling I had not reached my potential as quickly as I would have liked.  While knowing I would miss my colleagues, I knew it was the right choice to accept a new position with another station in Rochester.   

The lesson learned: know when it’s time to leave.

Working with the WROC-TV anchor team where I served as Executive Producer, rounding out a twenty-year career in broadcasting.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

Working with the WROC-TV anchor team where I served as Executive Producer, rounding out a twenty-year career in broadcasting.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

The post of Executive Producer was mine at WROC-TV for three years.  Oddly enough, and with the benefit of hindsight, I knew that the career I had chosen was no longer right for me about six months into that job.  

It took two-and-a-half years to quietly figure out what my next career would be. The lesson learned: always have a back-up.

Counting that part-time, no-pay, radio job in my senior year of high school, I spent twenty years in the broadcasting field.  It was at times exciting, rewarding, and satisfying. Working odd shifts, including some holidays, often made family time a challenge.  

Every day seemed to bring on new and usually rewarding experiences.

The time in broadcast news also showed me other career paths.  I would eventually embark on a new journey down an entirely new pathway.  

But the lessons are similar:

  • Be the link between what an employer needs and the solution they seek.
  • Don’t worry about the money.
  • Be ready to work.
  • Never grow too comfortable.
  • Know when it’s time to leave.
  • Always have a back-up.

These are lessons learned on the job.  Lessons that started with a letter from that small town radio station offering an opportunity that would help define a big portion of my professional life.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

In September, he begins his thirteenth year as a director on the Merced County Workforce Investment Board.  

He wrote about working and learning on-the-job in the book Soft Skills for Hard Times, available now at Lulu.com

Summertime Enrichment at UC Merced

A summer learning program on the UC Merced Campus is helping children and providing career insight for UC students.

UC Student Florence presents a lesson on careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the Summer Enrichment Program.  Photo by Steve Newvine

UC Student Florence presents a lesson on careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the Summer Enrichment Program.  Photo by Steve Newvine

For Florence, it all clicked into place when she saw a student’s eyes light up after grasping a concept in the classroom.

“I never worked with children,” she said.  “So when I could tell they really got it, it was a real sense of achievement.”

Florence, a UC Merced Sociology major, is one of the intern presenters at an enrichment program taking place on the campus this summer.

On the surface, this summer school class looks like any other enrichment program.  Children from kindergarten through fifth grade are getting help with social skills, learning strategies, and fun activities through the curriculum. 

But with a closer look, it’s apparent the elementary and middle school students are not the only ones learning.

This is the Summer Enrichment Program of the Harvest Park Educational Center sponsored by the Valley Harvest Church. 

The Center is partnering with UC Merced to offer the program for young learners.  This program includes internship opportunities for UC Merced students like Florence and her two colleagues Rose and Diana.

Harvest Park Education Center Managing Director Gloria Morris emphasizes a point to students and internees in the Summer Enrichment Program.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Harvest Park Education Center Managing Director Gloria Morris emphasizes a point to students and internees in the Summer Enrichment Program.  Photo by Steve Newvine

 

 

“They are educators, not credentialed teachers” said Harvest Park Managing Director Gloria Morris when talking about the UC Merced students. 
“They present some of the sessions, serve as classroom facilitators, and help keep the classes moving.”

The program is running for five weeks during the summer for three days each week. 

Classes begin after eight in the morning, and the class is dismissed shortly after noon. 

 For the other UC Merced students serving as interns in the program, this is one of the first exposures they have working directly with children. 

UC Merced interns Rose and Diana are learning from one another as well as learning from their students in the Summer Enrichment Program of the Harvest Park Educational Center.  Photo by Steve Newvine

UC Merced interns Rose and Diana are learning from one another as well as learning from their students in the Summer Enrichment Program of the Harvest Park Educational Center.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Rose, a psychology major, presented sessions on English Language Arts (ELA) and found the summer enrichment program to be an eye-opening experience. 

“The hands-on work with the students has been helpful,” she said.  “Students learn in different ways so we work a strategy to explain concepts at their level.”

Diana is a sociology major with a minor in psychology. 

She presented sessions on the human brain.  That topic may seem a little heavy for this age group, but Diana worked with Director Gloria to tailor the program for the specific audience.

“When I explained something to the whole class, I was worried I might not be reaching them,” Diana said.  “But we moved into small groups based on their ages, and working with their interns and internees, we were able to connect the material to them.”

 

The Summer Enrichment Program of Harvest Park Education Center is providing learning opportunities on two levels- the grade school children participating in the five-week sessions, and the UC Merced interns who are gaining experience working with children.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Summer Enrichment Program of Harvest Park Education Center is providing learning opportunities on two levels- the grade school children participating in the five-week sessions, and the UC Merced interns who are gaining experience working with children.  Photo by Steve Newvine

With the help of a classroom assistant known as Ms. V, videos are selected to illustrate lessons on improving learning outcomes. 

On the day I visited, a video explaining a five-step problem-solving process was shown to the class.  The video was followed with a hands-on application of the process.   

The video’s five steps are: 

  • Identify the problem
  • Strategize on how to solve
  • Set-up a way to solve
  • Solve the problem
  • Check the work. 

Ms. V provides other program support such as nutrition identification and working directly with the students.

The program embodies the vision of Gloria, a professional psychologist who has authored a book on Principle-Based Lifestyle Training.  The expected result from successful Principle-Based Lifestyle Training is the preservation and development of human capital.

“The primary outcome is closing gaps in the academic achievement of our students,” Gloria said.  “We do this through the learning going on thanks to our UC Merced interns, and through our focus on helping the children better understand their emotional behavior.”
The Summer Enrichment Program meets three days a week for five weeks during the summer. Students attend for a morning session that runs for about four hours. Photo by Steve Newvine)

The Summer Enrichment Program meets three days a week for five weeks during the summer. Students attend for a morning session that runs for about four hours. Photo by Steve Newvine)

The enrichment program has been a great opportunity for the UC Merced interns and internees who are trying out new potential career paths.  They may become educators, or they may use the experience to help them in whatever line of work they choose after graduation.

For this column, I visited the class on the day of a presentation on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  

I was given a seat at the front of the room. From the front of the room, I could see the anxious hands raise up as the young people took advantage of the opportunity to participate.  

I could see those faces of children as they responded to questions. I saw eyes brighten as they connected the lesson plan with their own thoughts and ideas.

The real winners from this special summertime experience are the children.  

For a few hours a day, a few days each week this summer, they have been immersed in an educational environment that recognizes emotional well-being is just as important as embracing successful learning skills.  

The expected results are best expressed with the mission statement found on the website for Principle-Based Lifestyle Training  (www.pblt.org): 

All students on the Honor roll!

 

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

A Three-Dollar Tour at the Mission at San Juan Bautista

Being relatively new to the state, it did not take long to learn about the Spanish Missions that mark California along the historic route known as Camino Real.  

One of those stops Camino Real is San Juan Bautista in San Benito County bordering Merced County.

The bell in front of San Juan Bautista along Camino Real, translated as Royal Highway.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The bell in front of San Juan Bautista along Camino Real, translated as Royal Highway.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The history of California’s Spanish Missions begins in the late 1700s when a Spanish Franciscan Catholic priest was dispatched to the region to convert the people of the area.  

This Mission continues to serve the area with weekend Masses, and daily services.

There’s more to this history than just the establishment of a Mission, and thanks to dedicated volunteers and generous donors, parts of that history are being preserved.

The grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista in San Benito County in California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista in San Benito County in California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The effort included an archaeological dig that uncovered remnants from the period of time when the Mission was started.  

The effort continues with a three-dollar tour of the Mission’s main building where volunteer docents help interpret this active piece of California history.

The Mission has displays of a dining room and parlor that recall what life might have been like for people living in the region in the 1800s.  

The Church at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Church at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Church inside the Mission functions like any other Catholic Church with regular Mass offered daily.  

Two nuns from the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement live on site. A priest is assigned to the Church to celebrate Mass and serve the community of San Juan Bautista.  

According to a Wikipedia entry, the community of San Juan Bautista had a population of 1,862 in the 2010 US Census.

Parts of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, were filmed on the grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Parts of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, were filmed on the grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Scenes from the movie Vertigo directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Jimmy Stewart were filmed at the Mission.  

The movie includes many sequences filmed on location in California: including the Seventeen Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, San Francisco, and San Juan Bautista.  

The bell tower in the movie is much higher than the real tower at the Mission, but Hitchcock took care of that detail through the use of a model bell tower, and some studio re-creation of what a taller structure might look like.  

There is a small public display about the on-location filming of Vertigo at the Mission.

Courtyard at the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Courtyard at the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

There are lots of flowers and trees in the courtyard at the Mission.  Many are drought resistant and ideal for the climate.

As with most museums and similar attractions, this tour begins and ends with a gift shop.  

For this trip, I took about fifty digital photographs, purchased a refrigerator magnet, and spent three dollars on admission.  

I walked away with a greater appreciation for early California/Spanish influenced architecture.

Not bad for a three-dollar tour.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced and travels throughout the state looking for new stories to share.

 His latest book is California Back Roads- Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine. It is available at Lulu.com

Going Beyond Common Course Courtesy

Asking a stranger to join in a round of golf is common course courtesy.  Asking a second time is a special gift.

Brilliant red flowers frame the putting green at Stanislaus Golf Course in Modesto.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Brilliant red flowers frame the putting green at Stanislaus Golf Course in Modesto.  Photo by Steve Newvine

I was waiting my turn at the first tee at a Central Valley golf course.  My thoughts were centered on a solo round where I might work on some new clubs, drop an extra ball if it did not hold up play, and just be alone with my thoughts.  

When the pair in front was far enough away to assure me it was safe to tee off, my plans for a solo round were about to change.

A golfer in a motorized cart pulled up near my golf bag and pull cart.

“You can go in front of me,” I told the older golfer who sat behind the wheel of the cart.  “I’m walking.”

“Wanna play together?” he asked.

“No, that’s all right,” I said.

I really didn’t want to play with someone else.  I have a regular golf partner and get plenty of socializing when we get together for a round every few weeks.

 When I’m not playing with my regular golf buddy, I go out alone. I’ve grown accustomed to playing alone. I just wanted nine holes of solitude: me and the course.

“You sure you don’t want to play together?” he asked once more.  “I really don’t mind.”

“Okay,” I said.  I didn’t want to belabor the conversation.

“I’m Tony,” he said extending his hand.

“Steve,” I said completing the handshake.

My scorecard would show I ended several shots over par.  But as what usually happens in a story about golf, this is not about the score.

Our conversation started over where our opening drives landed.  We covered missed approaches, clutch putts, and places where we’ve played over the years.

He told me about his older brother who became a golf professional shortly after taking up the game.  Sadly, his brother had passed away a few years ago.

Then it got even more personal.

“You married Steve?”

“Yes, thirty-eight years this summer.”

I would soon learn that Tony lost his wife four years ago to cancer.  

“We would have made it to fifty-two years this July,” he told me.

He spoke about his two grown sons who live with him.  

“One of them likes to be confrontational,” he said.  His laugh told me more about why he liked to get out of the house and onto a course.  

“All the more reason to play golf,” I said to him.

We talked about why we love the game.  

“You can just come out here and forget about your bills,” he said.  “Forget your worries, forget anything and everything. Just think about hitting that ball.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that sentence,” I said.  That’s a phrase I use a lot when I hear something good.  My family is sick of hearing it, but Tony never heard it before.

Like all good things in life, a round of golf comes to a close.  We shook hands one last time. I thanked him for twice asking me to join him.

“I said no the first time, but you asked me again,” I said to him.  “And for that, I am grateful.”

“We had a good round, didn’t we?” he smiled.

“We sure did,” I said.  “Thank you.”

He adjusted his hat, put both hands on his motorized golf cart and said, “You’re welcome, my friend.”

Steve Newvine lives in Merced

He has authored California Back Roads, Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine.  It is available at Lulu.com

School Administrative Assistants- In Charge

Memories are stirring up about two outstanding secretaries who made a difference while I was going to school in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mrs. Mekkelson, our high school principal’s secretary. Photo:  South Lewis School Yearbook.

Mrs. Mekkelson, our high school principal’s secretary. Photo:  South Lewis School Yearbook.

When we think about high school, there’s likely a favorite teacher that comes to mind.  Sometimes, our memories recall an administrator or guidance counselor who made a difference.

But for the graduates who have walked across the stage to receive their diplomas at my high school, there may be some special memories attached to two very special women.

They made the announcements in the morning, wrote out hall passes when necessary, or tended to unique problems that came about with students, their parents, and the faculty.

They would help keep bus routes on schedule, track down an administrator who was needed immediately in the school auditorium and ran an office with all the associated functions.

They were school secretaries. That’s what we called them back in the 1960s and 1970s.  They are known today as administrative assistants or similar titles that reflect their level of responsibility.

An early picture of Christine Allen (now Christine Chaufty).  She would soon return to the school after graduation in 1971 and build a forty-seven year career in the administrative offices.  Photo: South Lewis year book.

An early picture of Christine Allen (now Christine Chaufty).  She would soon return to the school after graduation in 1971 and build a forty-seven year career in the administrative offices.  Photo: South Lewis year book.

At my alma mater South Lewis in upstate New York, Christine Chaufty retired at the end of the school year.  

She graduated from the school in 1971, and then went to work there as a secretary. With forty-seven years on the job, combined with six years in junior high and high school, she’s been part of South Lewis Junior/Senior High for fifty-three years.  

She was interviewed by the local paper in a story recognizing her service to the students at South Lewis. Her secret to success was very simple.  

She told reporter Jamie Cook, “I have always liked how people worked together here. It is one very large family here.”

Christine stayed in her hometown because she loved her life there.  She remained on the job at South Lewis because she cared about the students, her coworkers, and the school itself.  

She told the Watertown Daily Times, “I live and breathe South Lewis and I have always been happy here.”

Christine had many people to show her the ropes more than forty years ago.  Among them was Mrs. Laura Mekkelson, a school principal secretary who worked for the elementary and secondary schools I attended.  

The Principal’s secretary at South Lewis School who enjoyed a long and prosperous retirement.  Photo: Legacy.com

The Principal’s secretary at South Lewis School who enjoyed a long and prosperous retirement.  Photo: Legacy.com

Mrs. Mekkelson, as I always called her, started her career at Port Leyden Central School long before I entered kindergarten.  When the school merged into the larger South Lewis district in 1967, she continued her work there until her retirement.

Mrs. Mekkelson passed away in June at the age of 96.  Her family made sure her obituary announcement captured the kind of person she was.  

She went to a business school after high school graduation.  She worked for the Ration Board during World War II.

Her working career missed a full inclusion within the computer age, but that didn’t stop her from becoming a master at her own computer that she bought when she was seventy.  She was skilled at spreadsheets and applied those skills to a number of volunteer activities.

Non-profit organizations appreciated her time and many credits her with bringing their organizations into the computer age.  

Her children and grandchildren looked forward to her emails. She did genealogy research, historical searches, and would often go online just to find an answer to a question that had been tugging at her.  

Her obituary also described how much she was respected and loved by the students at the two schools where she served.  

The words sweet, compassionate, and understanding are used to describe how she was regarded by the students she knew from her forty-plus years of work as a principal’s secretary.

I spoke with Mrs. Mekkelson several years ago after delivering a copy of one of my books to her home.  She was a very special person.

Christine Chaufty (third from the left) devoted a lot of her time away from work on such community endeavors as the Lyons Falls Farmers Market.  Photo: LivingInLewisCounty.com

Christine Chaufty (third from the left) devoted a lot of her time away from work on such community endeavors as the Lyons Falls Farmers Market.  Photo: LivingInLewisCounty.com

Graduating seniors will leave their high school days with a diploma in hand, and memories of friends and teachers.  

At my high school, this year’s class will remember Christine as a dynamic person who led by her example of enthusiasm for the job and the people who make the job special.  

For alumni like me, we’ll appreciate Christine for those same reasons.

And we’ll call to mind another school secretary who loved her job, was respected by students, contributed her talent to her community, and was adored by her family.  

Mrs. Mekkelson’s life of purpose will be remembered by all who knew her.

Both women made an impact on thousands of people at the schools where they worked.  

A Journey of a Lifetime Cycling Through Merced

Francois Hennebert is a bicyclist from France who takes his recreational activities seriously.  

Francois Hennebert is a long way from his native France, but he’s enjoying California and the western states as he travels from Mexico to Canada on his bicycle.  Photo: Steve Newvine

Francois Hennebert is a long way from his native France, but he’s enjoying California and the western states as he travels from Mexico to Canada on his bicycle.  Photo: Steve Newvine

François has cycled all over the globe and is currently on a four-month, twenty-five hundred mile journey that started in Guadalupe, Mexico in March and is expected to end in Vancouver, British Columbia in July.

François enjoyed his repair pit stop at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

François enjoyed his repair pit stop at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

One way to get from Mexico to Canada is to cycle through the Golden State.    The trip has already taken him through the desert of Death Valley and to the high peaks at Yosemite National Park.

He encountered a tire and wheel problem while in Yosemite, so he sought out the help of a professional.

Francois inspects the tire that was damaged on his bicycle.  His tire and wheel were fixed at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced and he was on his way after a couple of hours.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

Francois inspects the tire that was damaged on his bicycle.  His tire and wheel were fixed at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced and he was on his way after a couple of hours.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

His bicycle wear and tear problem led him to Kevin’s Bikes in the Save Mart Plaza at Olive and G Streets in Merced.

For the better part of an afternoon in the week before Memorial Day, Francois watched as the staff at Kevin’s Bikes repaired the wheel and got the bike back in tip-top shape.

The staff at Kevin’s Bikes understood the problem and knew immediately what needed to be done.  While the staff worked on the bike, Francois kept everyone entertained with his stories and his personality.

I would have missed the story entirely had I not run into an associate who was leaving the shop with his own repaired bike.  As he relayed the story to me, I was hooked. I went inside to meet Francois Hennebert.

Francois Hennebert estimates he has put over forty-five thousand miles on his bicycle.  His current trip from Mexico to Canada will add another twenty-five hundred miles, and probably many more miles as he takes various detours to see the western United States.  He’s shown here with Kevin from Kevin’s Bikes. Photo: Steve Newvine

Francois Hennebert estimates he has put over forty-five thousand miles on his bicycle.  His current trip from Mexico to Canada will add another twenty-five hundred miles, and probably many more miles as he takes various detours to see the western United States.  He’s shown here with Kevin from Kevin’s Bikes. Photo: Steve Newvine

He spoke hardly any English, but he was able to understand some of my questions.  He wrote his name on the paper I was using to make notes. He also provided a web address where he maintains a site dedicated to telling the stories of his worldwide bicycling adventures.

In 2008, Francois and a group of one-hundred people cycled from Paris to Beijing China.  That trip took one-hundred, forty days with all but twenty of those days spent on a bike seat.  

That trip is five-thousand, one-hundred miles (or eight-thousand, two-hundred kilometers).

In 2010, he bicycled in South America.  That trip started in Buena Aires, Argentina.  

Anyone who understands French can read about it at his website velo.hennebert.fz  

Francois at the Great Wall of China during his 2008 trip with one-hundred other bicyclists that took them from Paris to Beijing.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

Francois at the Great Wall of China during his 2008 trip with one-hundred other bicyclists that took them from Paris to Beijing.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

The Mexico to Canada trip has been a dream come true for Francois, who is seventy-two years old.  So far, he has seen the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Yosemite National Park.

During these trips, he tries not to bike every day.  If he’s on schedule, he’ll take time to enjoy the vistas, meet people, and rest.  

Usually, he camps in a small tent. He lives his bicycling life on the road with backpacks and saddlebags carrying all he needs.  He’s prepared for just about any emergency. A highway map is with him at all times.

 This is the luggage Francois carries with him on his bike as he travels all over the globe.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

 This is the luggage Francois carries with him on his bike as he travels all over the globe.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

Whether it was the universal language of bicyclists, or just the common decency of being a good neighbor, anyone who stopped in Kevin’s Bikes that spring afternoon enjoyed the company of Merced’s international visitor.  

Francois guesses that he’s put about seventy-three thousand kilometers (or forty-five thousand miles) on his bicycle.  

With all those miles, repairs are just part of what most cyclists expect as they put their bikes through some of the toughest tests imaginable.  

This is Francois’ bike loaded with his travel bags.  This picture was taken from a South American journey in 2010.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

This is Francois’ bike loaded with his travel bags.  This picture was taken from a South American journey in 2010.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

Upon arrival later in the year in Vancouver, Francois will fly back to France and get to work on planning his next bicycling adventure.

“Thailand and Laos,” he told me when I finally phrased the question about his future travels in a way he could understand.   

And after a slight pause, and a smile, he was quick to add, “Maybe.”

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His new book California Back Roads is available at Lulu.com

Social Media Memories of My Uncle Bill

 

I thought I had told every possible story related to my uncle Bill Newvine, a Vietnam veteran who died in a car accident six months after returning from military service.

High School Photograph from Port Leyden Central School (NY) of William Newvine, known to his friends as Bill or Billy.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

High School Photograph from Port Leyden Central School (NY) of William Newvine, known to his friends as Bill or Billy.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

Over the years, I have written about what his life was like growing up in my hometown of Port Leyden, New York.  With the help of an organization that connects soldiers from the same unit my uncle served in, I was able to talk to men who knew him in the Army.  

In recent years, Bill’s sister Betty and my dad Ed have provided me with letters from their brother written while he was in Vietnam.

I thought we had covered it all, but thanks to social media, a new wave of Bill Newvine memories have surfaced in recent weeks.

My Facebook post marking the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Bill Newvine.  Photo: Steve Newvine

My Facebook post marking the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Bill Newvine.  Photo: Steve Newvine

On May 5, 2018, I posted Bill’s high school photograph on Facebook and told my followers that the date marked the fiftieth anniversary of his death.  

Naturally, the post got several likes. But some comments from friends and classmates of Bill provided some additional insight into who my uncle was.

One woman knew Bill from Port Leyden Central School where he graduated in 1963.

 “He was a seemingly shy young man but when we got together as a group, he opened up to his fun-loving self.”
Bill Newvine is the only soldier wearing glasses in this photograph from his time in the US Army.  Photo: Alpha Association

Bill Newvine is the only soldier wearing glasses in this photograph from his time in the US Army.  Photo: Alpha Association

This comment reminded me of interviews I did with some of the men who served with Bill in Vietnam.  

They had similar observations about my uncle: quiet at first, but someone who opened up after getting to know you.  

Being just eleven years old when he died, I never experienced that fun-loving side of him. But my Dad confirmed that his brother was shy, but after getting to know someone, he lost that shyness.

Another woman who commented on the post said, “I had the biggest crush on him in high school.”  This reminded me of something I saw posted on the Port Leyden Central School Facebook page from a few years ago. 

That post recalled the class of 1963 Senior Trip to New York City that included a ride on a Ferris Wheel.  The person posting about that trip recalled how scared she was on that ride, but “Bill Newvine rode with me so I wasn’t so scared.”

Bill Newvine’s school picture from his middle school years.  Photo: Newvine Family Collection

Bill Newvine’s school picture from his middle school years.  Photo: Newvine Family Collection

A friend and neighbor of our family commented by speaking to Bill’s depth of sincerity.  “Very nice neighbor and friend... Made many memories growing up.”

There was a comment about his service to the country as well as to others who were in the armed forces. “We owe so much to those who served.”

Bill Comeau, the organizer of Alpha Association, a group that was instrumental in my getting to talk to the soldiers who served with my uncle, weighed in with this comment:

“Bill was a very likable soldier in Vietnam and had many friends. It was tragic that he survived the year in Vietnam and lost his life in such an unfortunate way.”  

Bill Comeau knew Bill but did not know him well.  His work with Alpha Association has brought a lot of Vietnam era veterans together in a safe place where they can open up about their experiences, celebrate their successes, and honor those who served.

Bill Newvine didn’t seek the spotlight or even the camera’s lens in this photo from his time in Vietnam.  He’s the soldier wearing glasses. Photo: Alpha Association

Bill Newvine didn’t seek the spotlight or even the camera’s lens in this photo from his time in Vietnam.  He’s the soldier wearing glasses. Photo: Alpha Association

It was my hope that posting Bill’s high school yearbook photo and reminding folks about him on the anniversary of his passing will keep his memory alive.  His two brothers and one sister have done a lot to remember him.

The passing of that responsibility has now been made to the next generation including me.  

On this Memorial Day holiday, we’ll do a lot of remembering. I am aware of at least four soldiers who served with Bill in Vietnam and were killed in action.  

I made Bill’s visit to the Vietnam Memorial for him in 2012. I found their names on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial and paid my respects to those men.

Bill Newvine is fourth from the left in the top row of this yearbook photo from his freshman year in high school.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

Bill Newvine is fourth from the left in the top row of this yearbook photo from his freshman year in high school.  Photo: Newvine Personal Collection.

This journey to learn more about Bill has helped me drill down to find my own memories.  Being so young when he passed in 1968, it was hard at first to get past the tragedy and the family grief.  Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the moments that have churned up in my memory.

I remember his snowmobile, an Evinrude.  I recall a farewell party his parents had before he went off to basic training.  I remember playing cards with him along with my family sometime shortly after he returned home from Vietnam.  

I remember seeing him every Sunday morning at the nine o’clock Mass at St. Martin’s Church with my grandparents.  The three of them sat in the same pew week after week.

It’s my hope that justice has been done in trying to tell the story about Bill Newvine; not so much by how he died, but by how he lived. His passing permitted me to learn so much about his life.

Whether it was the sharing of Army stories with the soldiers who served with him in Vietnam or the many reflections from friends and neighbors who posted their thoughts on social media, the memory lives on.

There are many friends in my hometown of Port Leyden who still remember him.

We’ve done our best to be sure no one has forgotten Bill.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He wrote about his uncle in the book Finding Bill, available at Lulu.com

Bishop Myron Cotta- Service Influenced by Family, Friends, and Faith

Merced County Native Myron Cotta became Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton in March 2917.

Bishop Myron Cotta. The Dos Palos native is now Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton.  Photo: Diocese of Stockton

Bishop Myron Cotta. The Dos Palos native is now Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton.  Photo: Diocese of Stockton

He’s never forgotten the words a nun in his Catholic school said to him growing up.

“Myron, one day you’re going to be a priest.”  

His response to the Sister at that time was a smile and just two words, “Yeah, right.”

While he may have responded to the nun with a quick answer, her comment and the words of others who used gentle encouragement stayed with him.

“When people have the courage to bring it up, that stays with you.”

 

Dos Palos in Merced County has a population of about five-thousand.  Photo: Steve Newvine

Dos Palos in Merced County has a population of about five-thousand.  Photo: Steve Newvine

As a boy growing up in Dos Palos, Merced County, Myron Cotta loved his family, enjoyed his friends, and wondered what he would do when he grew up.  He attended Mass every weekend at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

He grew up on a dairy farm on the outskirts of town.  His family included one brother and two sisters.

He speaks fondly of his family upbringing.  “I’m Portuguese, so that comes with an extended family.  Cousins, uncles, and aunts, were always around. That was the way I was brought up.”

Sacred Heart Catholic Church is where Myron Cotta went to weekly Mass growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.  Photo: Steve Newvine

Sacred Heart Catholic Church is where Myron Cotta went to weekly Mass growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.  Photo: Steve Newvine

In his teens, he would occasionally entertain ideas of becoming a priest.

After high school, he put those ideas out of his mind as he pursued a degree at West Hills College in Coalinga.  

He also started to move away from the church.  “I sort of drifted away from all this.”

Upon graduation from college, he worked at a grocery store in Dos Palos and found his way back to the church.  

“I believe God allows us to drift in the process of our lives.  But he also permits us to come back.”

Downtown Dos Palos where Myron Cotta hung out as a teen.  It was also where he was influenced by family and friends. Photo: Steve Newvine

Downtown Dos Palos where Myron Cotta hung out as a teen.  It was also where he was influenced by family and friends. Photo: Steve Newvine

Within a few years, he made the decision that would change his life.  

He chose the priesthood.

“At my high school reunion, I had already made my decision to enter the priesthood.  I shared this with some classmates and they said ‘we had a feeling when you were in school that you might go down this path.”

He entered St. John’s Seminary to prepare for the priesthood in 1980.  

Those years in the seminary created strong bonds with his classmates.  His class included seminarians from the Los Angeles area who were taken by the strong bond of friendship among the Central Valley classmates.

“One of the Los Angeles seminarians asked those of us from the Valley whether we knew each other before entering the seminary.  My answer was no, and I think that’s something special about the Valley. It is a special connectivity.”

He was ordained on September 17, 1987.  In Merced County, Father Cotta served as an assistant pastor in parishes in Atwater and Gustine.  In Fresno County, he served at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Laton.

He was called back to Gustine following his assignment in Laton where he served at Our Lady of Miracles Church again, this time as Pastor.

Soon, he was called by the Bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, the late John Steinbock, to serve as Vicar General.  As the Bishop’s right-hand man, the now Monsignor Cotta helped run the Diocese that covers the Central Valley from Merced County to Bakersfield.

He served in that post for two six-year terms and might have considered another assignment when events happened that would ultimately change the course of his life.

Bishop Steinbock passed away in 2010.  Monsignor Cotta stayed on as Diocese Administrator in Fresno until a new Bishop was appointed.

In 2012 Bishop Armando Ochoa was installed as the new Bishop for the Fresno Diocese.  He asked Monsignor Cotta to stay on for a while to help during the Bishop’s first year in Fresno.

That assignment would run for another two years until he received a phone call from the Papal Nunzio in Washington, DC (the Papal Nunzio is a diplomatic representative of the Pope).

The Papal Nunzio notified Monsignor that Pope Francis was appointing him to the Auxiliary Bishop post in the Diocese of Sacramento.

A few years later in December 2017, he got another call from the Papal Nunzio.  This time, he was being asked to accept the appointment as Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton.

Bishop Myron Cotta was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton at a ceremony held at   -- Chruch in Modesto. Photo; Diocese of Stockton

Bishop Myron Cotta was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton at a ceremony held at   -- Chruch in Modesto. Photo; Diocese of Stockton

He was installed on March 2018 at a service at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Modesto.  The church was filled with family, friends, and his colleagues.

“I had a good idea what to expect when I came to the Stockton Diocese,” he said.  “We’ve had some staff changes due to retirements and deaths, but we’re off to a fresh start.”

Bishop Cotta welcomes the opportunity to lead the Catholic faith communities in the Stockton Diocese that covers Stockton east to the Motherlode region.

He is a product of the Central Valley and feels blessed to be able to serve in the area he loves.

“At my installation, I spoke about family, friends, and faith.  These are important things to me.”

With family, he is grateful to have so many relatives within a short distance from one another in Merced County when growing up.  

With friends, he is satisfied with so many of them encouraging him as he responded to his calling to the priesthood.

With faith, he ties it all together back to that nun from Merced County who first told him:

“Myron, someday you are going to be a priest.”

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  He has written California Back Roads, Stories from the Land of the Palm and Pine, available at lulu.com

Steve congratulates the ten winners of this book from a recent contest conducted by MercedCountyEvents.com



 

158 Rooms, 53 Bells, and 2 Commanders in Chief

Santa Nella Hotel/Conference Center Honors Two US Presidents

Hotel Mission De Oro is one of those unusual points of interest in Central California.  

The architecture tries to capture the feel of a California Spanish mission with long sections of rooms, isolated spaces for reflection, and a bell tower.

The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The bell tower is nine stories high, and has over fifty bells.  

There is no public access to the tower’s upper levels.  

But it is impressive to the drivers passing by on Interstate 5 as well as to the visitors on the Hotel grounds.

I did not count the number of bells in the tower, but a travel website did.  

That website says there are fifty-three bells and that none of them ring.

Unfortunately, there is no public access to the inside of the nine-story bell tower, but thanks to the Hotel’s Director of Sales Shannon Cook, there is a photograph.  

To think of the vista one could experience from any window in that tower.

Inside the bell tower at The Hotel Mission De Oro.  Photo courtesy Shannon Cook, Director of Sales.

Inside the bell tower at The Hotel Mission De Oro.  Photo courtesy Shannon Cook, Director of Sales.

Amidst the sprawling grounds of the hotel, conference, and restaurant facility there is a tribute to two former U.S. Presidents.

Facing the complex from the back of a reflecting pool is the statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower.  A plaque beneath the bust of the thirty-fourth President commends Ike’s major domestic achievement:  the launch of the Interstate Highway system that includes Interstate Five.

The likeness of the thirty-fourth President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower on the grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The likeness of the thirty-fourth President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower on the grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The back of the Eisenhower statue faces the interstate highway.  

About thirty feet away from the Eisenhower representation is another reflecting pool and another statue.  This one is in honor of John F. Kennedy.

A statue of John F. Kennedy at The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

A statue of John F. Kennedy at The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The plaque beneath JFK’s bust cites the start of the San Luis Reservoir project in 1962.  

Kennedy traveled to the site of the Reservoir in August of 1962.

The Reservoir has provided flood protection for the area since formally opening in 1967, five years after the President’s visit.  

The Reservoir is just a few miles from The Hotel Mission De Oro.

The Kennedy statue faces the interstate.  

The sprawling grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The sprawling grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Hotel opened in 1975 and was acquired by a new owner four years ago.  Chris Rufer, the owner of the Morning Star Corporation, began renovations shortly after buying The Hotel Mission De Oro.  

A dining venue called the Kitchen at the Mission opened in July of 2017.  It is open every day for all three meals.

Mission Lounge is next door to the Kitchen at the Mission.  The bar has comfortable chairs, eighteen brands of beer on tap, and live music on weekends.  It opened in September 2017.

The Mission Lounge opened next door to the Kitchen at the Mission in 2-17.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Mission Lounge opened next door to the Kitchen at the Mission in 2-17.  Photo by Steve Newvine

According to Shannon Cook, there is more work taking place in the near future.

 “Renovations include more landscaping, creating a new wine cellar to hold two-thousand bottles of wine, and building a sound wall on the Interstate Five side to block the sound of traffic are in the works.”  

Other renovations will include work on the guest rooms, completion of the work on meeting and event space, and the addition of a gift shop.

The Hotel is actively marketing the facility for social and business events.  With one-hundred, fifty-eight hotel rooms, it can handle larger meetings and parties.

“I love introducing people to our newly renovated hotel,” Shannon says.  “We have lots going on. It’s very exciting.”

De Oro means “of gold” in English.  

The name likely connects the hotel to the discovery of gold in California back in the mid-1800s.

I stopped in to see the place after hearing some radio ads promoting the restaurant.  While I was impressed by seeing the bell tower up close, I kept going back to those statues of Kennedy and Eisenhower.  

They were two presidents and two structures that changed life in the Central Valley: Eisenhower and Interstate 5,  Kennedy and the San Luis Reservoir.

The men and the structures are connected on the grounds of The Hotel Mission De Oro in Santa Nella, Merced County.  

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He writes about the fiftieth-fifth anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit to the San Luis Reservoir in 2017 and other points of interest in his book California Back Roads, available at Lulu.com

Surviving Sixty-Eight

With a perspective of fifty years, those of us who endured 1968 can now put things in proper perspective.

The Newvine family camper provided a lot of fun during a tumultuous 1968.  Photo: Newvine Family Collection

The Newvine family camper provided a lot of fun during a tumultuous 1968.  Photo: Newvine Family Collection

For the past five decades, we could summarize 1968 with a few quick images:  

  • The springtime assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy within two months,
  • The violence in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention that summer,
  • The election of Richard Nixon in the fall
  • The daily presence of the Vietnam War on the national television news.  

There is little doubt that year changed many of us.  

By the mid-1960s, seniors who were among the first to pay into Social Security were now collecting their benefits.  

Middle-aged people who thought they had been through the worst in World War II now scratched their heads as they watched television images of draft card burnings, college campus protests, and death in the jungles of Vietnam.  

Those in their teens and twenties feared the military draft as more and more young men would be brought into the south-east Asian quagmire.

I saw it all from a different perspective.  I was a fifth-grader in the spring of 1968. I grew up a lot during that year.

In April, we saw the aftermath of the King shooting, the rioting, the funeral procession, and the updates on the manhunt for the man who pulled the trigger.

The next month would bring tragedy to my family when my uncle Bill was killed in a car accident near my hometown.  Bill had endured a tour of duty in Vietnam. He had finished his service just six months prior to that accident.

 Finding Bill is the story about my efforts to learn more about my uncle who died six months after returning home from Vietnam.

 Finding Bill is the story about my efforts to learn more about my uncle who died six months after returning home from Vietnam.

I spent a good amount of time in later years tracking down soldiers who knew him.  I never got the chance to talk to him about his military service. He died when I was just eleven years old.  I knew that I would never know him as an uncle.

With that accident coming just a month after the King shooting, I put the events from the south out of my mind and focused on going through the grieving process with my family as we mourned the death of Bill Newvine.

In early June, the world saw Robert Kennedy gunned down in Los Angeles.  

I have distinct memories of spending a Saturday afternoon at my cousin’s dairy farm.  My cousins and I spent most of the day outside.

But whenever I came inside, my aunt Betty would be watching the Kennedy funeral on television.

I survived 1968.  Thanks to my parents.

My parents, Ed and Bea Newvine in a photo likely taken in 1968.  Photo: Newvine Family Collection

My parents, Ed and Bea Newvine in a photo likely taken in 1968.  Photo: Newvine Family Collection

Like most parents, Ed and Bea sought to protect their children, and provide enriching experiences for them.

Our annual camping trips over the summer months remained on the calendar in 1968.  

We packed our camper and headed to Golden Beach State Park on Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks.  There, we joined with several other families from my hometown for a week of vacation.

The remainder of that summer would take us through images of violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago later that summer.

The Vietnam War would continue to rage seemingly out of control as more American soldiers paid the ultimate price.

But my parents sought to keep our summer as normal as possible.  In addition to the camping trips, we’d go to the weekly firemen’s field days in Port Leyden and surrounding communities.  

My brother, sister, and I would help Mom tend to the garden or assist Dad with projects around the house.  I spent many days riding my bike and being with friends.

On weekends, my parents would take us on family day trips to such places at the Saint Lawrence Seaway or a boat cruise through the Thousand Islands of northern New York State.

The summer ended with one final camping trip to another Adirondack state park.  We returned home on Labor Day, and I entered the sixth grade the next day.

On one level, the events of 1968 made me feel as though the world was falling apart.  But in my family circle, my parents were trying to fill our free time with things to do.  This in spite of the fact my Dad was dealing with his own grief over the death of his brother earlier in the spring.

Earthrise is the name of this photograph taken during the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968.  Photo: NASA

Earthrise is the name of this photograph taken during the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968.  Photo: NASA

The most hope-filled moment of 1968 came at Christmastime when the Apollo 8 mission took three astronauts around the moon for the first time ever.  

Circling the moon was an important milestone for the space program as it proved NASA could safely travel there. Astronauts Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell would fly close enough to the surface to identify favorable landing spots for the mission that would land there later in 1969.

But the moment that remains as a hopeful sign that times would get better came when the astronauts read from the Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve, 1968.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

Those words, coupled with pictures showing the earth looking like a bright blue marble, put a final touch on a year many would just as soon forget.  

The passage ended a year of tragedy with words of hope.

“And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

1968 was filled with tragic events.  It was more than enough to endure for any child, or any adult for that matter.  

Thanks to my parents, there were some pleasant memories from 1968.

And for that, I am grateful.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He wrote about the 1968 death of his uncle Bill in his book Finding Bill, available from Lulu.com



 

When a Pastor Dies

When a beloved member of the clergy passes away, a faith community feels the impact of that life.

Father Bert Mello.  Photo from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Bakersfield

Father Bert Mello.  Photo from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Bakersfield

Bert Mello of Atwater, Merced County came to his decision on becoming a Catholic priest late in life.  He entered the seminary in his fifties.

He was ordained in 2013 just a few weeks before celebrating his sixtieth birthday.

So when he passed away March 21 just a few months short of turning sixty-five, there was surprise and shock that this tenure in parish ministry was seemingly cut too short.

I first saw Bert Mello serve in the Lector ministry at St. Patrick’s Church in Merced shortly after arriving in the community in 2006.  

The Lector reads scripture out loud before the congregation during Mass.

What impressed me about Bert’s style of oral interpretation was his apparent memorization of some of the readings he delivered.  

A friend told me this was one of Bert’s signature habits as a Lector.

He would practice the readings so intently that by the time he read to the congregation, he usually knew the text so well that he could deliver it without looking at the written page.

The faith community at St. Patrick’s Church would see Bert during his years in the seminary.  He would come back to visit family and help out at the church during breaks from his studies.

While I did not know him well, his presence was felt in a positive way.

That presence was more than just being a familiar face.  In church, he was full of enthusiasm. When we learned of his backstory, we understood why he was so passionate about his faith.

At age 50, divorced from his spouse and separated from his church, Bert turned back to his faith.  He sought and received reconciliation. In that process, he found his life calling.

He entered the seminary at a relatively older age.  His enthusiasm came across as a man in a hurry to make up for lost time.  

My wife and I attended his first Mass as an ordained priest in 2013.  

The church was packed. I remember how everyone was proud that someone from our parish had become a priest.  

Father Bert gave a powerful homily describing his faith journey that led him to that very day.

He was immediately assigned to a church in Fresno and would eventually accept a post in Bakersfield.  The congregation in Merced would see him once or twice a year when he visited family and celebrated Mass.

In my forty-plus years of adult life, I have attended the funeral Mass for three priests.  While there is joy through our faith in knowing the soul lives on in heaven, there is sadness with the earthly reality of a special person separated from us.

People develop some kind of relationship with their pastors.  They are present at some of the most important times in family life:  marriages, baptisms, even funerals. Some become close personal friends.  

Some feel there is a comfort in life personified through the person who leads a faith community.

Many pastors generally work to keep some distance from their flocks.  Transfers in assignments are common. There’s a realization that the person serving in that role is loyal first to the church.  They go where they are needed.

Still, they are people.  They appreciate the kindness we show.  We acknowledge the sacrifice they make when they choose to enter church ministry.

And that takes us back to Father Bert Mello.  He was a man who came into religious life at a later age.  

A man described by some of his parishioners in Bakersfield as intent on cramming in as much activity in his church as he could possibly give.   

He did just that.  And for those who knew him, even for a brief amount of time, we are feeling the impact of his service and expressing our gratefulness for having him cross our path.


Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His 2007 book Go Where You Are Needed is about a group of Sisters dealing with the closing of their convent.  

It is available at Lulu.com