Pocket resident enjoying life as successful softball executive

Pocket area resident Fran Dowell has been serving as the executive director of Senior Softball-USA since 2006. The organization was founded in the Pocket in 1988. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Pocket area resident Fran Dowell has been serving as the executive director of Senior Softball-USA since 2006. The organization was founded in the Pocket in 1988. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Fran Dowell, a resident of the Pocket area for more than a quarter century, said that she thoroughly enjoys the community in which she lives. But she added that she is, nonetheless, often many miles away from her home.
For about the past eight years, Fran has served as the executive director of Senior Softball-USA (SSUSA), which is the nation’s largest senior softball organization. With that job, she travels from coast to coast.
Despite her current position, Fran, 61, said that she was actually never a softball player, if one does not count her brief time playing the game when she was attending Kit Carson Junior High School (now Kit Carson Middle School), which was then located at 1324 54th St.
“At Kit Carson, I played on a tournament (softball) team,” Fran said. “It was just a thing on ‘Play Day.’ I have a picture of myself on my wall in my office (from that day).”
In recalling her years of growing up in East Sacramento, Fran, who was born in Sacramento, said that she enjoyed spending time with her friends. And she added that she has maintained several of those friendships in her adult life.
Since Fran was raised in East Sacramento, she attended schools in that area. Those schools were David Lubin School at 3575 K St., the aforementioned Kit Carson Junior High School and St. Francis High School at 6051 M St. She graduated from the latter school in 1971 before attending Sacramento City College.
Fran’s life went in a new direction after she met Dave Dowell in Phoenix, and they were married on July 31, 1976.
Together, Fran and Dave, who worked for a certified public accounting firm, lived in Phoenix for the following eight years, during which time they had their three children, Kelley, Matthew and Christopher.
The family next resided in Denver, where Dave had been hired to work as the financial officer of a construction company.
In 1987, Fran, Dave and their children became residents of the Pocket area, since Dave had accepted employment as an accountant in Sacramento.
During her earlier years of living in the Pocket area, Fran, who was officially recognized as a distinguished alumna of St. Francis High in about 2007, was a member of the St. Francis’ board, a room mother at Genevieve Didion K-8 School, a catechism teacher at St. Anthony Parish and a “soccer mom.”
When Kelley went to college in about 1996, Fran decided to go to work, becoming a part-time teller at Wells Fargo Bank at 5660 Freeport Blvd.
Fran explained that, in 1998, she left her banking position for another job that was recommended to her by a local resident.
“I was getting my haircut in the Pocket and some lady said that there was a company (SSUSA) looking for a part-time bookkeeper,” Fran said. “So, I went out on an interview and I was hired on spot.”
Ultimately, after excelling in work with the company, Fran became a full-time employee.
SSUSA was founded by Bob Mitchell (1930-2010), who established the company in his garage in the Pocket in 1988. Mitchell sold the organization to Terry Hennessy and Bill Ruth in 2002.
SSUSA, which provides softball playing opportunities for men and women, ages 40 and older, had its headquarters in a duplex on Pocket Road for many years, before moving to its present headquarters at 2701 K St. in about the early 2000s.
Members of the Bucs & Bulls, a softball team from Florida, are shown during a game in Las Vegas last October. Photo courtesy of SSUSA

Members of the Bucs & Bulls, a softball team from Florida, are shown during a game in Las Vegas last October. Photo courtesy of SSUSA

Around the same time, Fran began her move toward her current position with SSUSA when she became the business’s marketing director.
In 2006, Fran accepted an offer to become the company’s executive director, and in doing so, she explained that she made history.
“I was the first lady executive director in the history of the sport,” said Fran, who often refers to softball as a country club without the membership. “It turned out to be really great, because I listened to the players, their complaints, and I treat them with the utmost respect. We’ve been able to grow and grow and grow, and I think it’s because we’re such a great partnership – Terry and myself. He and I both are really great visionaries. And I think customer service has been the thing that has made us absolutely do so well, and I really truly believe in customer service.”
After being asked to discuss some of the responsibilities of her job, Fran said, “We have about 60 tournaments across the United States in a year. There are 20 (tournaments) that we physically put on from the Sacramento office, and they’re all over the country. So, I set up with the cities, I set up with all the fields, I set up all of the contracts with all of the hotels. I have to set up and make sure that all the field preps are ready, do the awards and the merchandise. I get to do it all.”
Because of her expertise at her position, in 2009 and 2012, Fran was named as one of the top 12 sports promoters in the United States by SportsEvents Magazine.
In a SportsEvents Magazine report, Hennesy was quoted as saying, “Fran Dowell began with us in 1998 and greatly exceeded our expectations in every job we gave her. She flat out earned the position. She has become one of the best known people in the sport in America and one of the most respected.”
The magnitude of Fran’s respectability in her position is better understood when considering the size of SSUSA. The organization consists of about 1,700 teams.
In addition to creating an entertaining and competitive environment for its teams, SSUSA annually generates millions of dollars in economic impact for host cities of its championship tournaments.
For instance, according to SSUSA, its Western Nationals Championships in Sacramento last year had an economic impact of $3.4 million.
Furthermore, the organization has taken on a global approach, bringing international tournament teams to Europe, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Australia and New Zealand.
Fran, who was anticipating the birth of her fourth grandchild while she was meeting with this publication last week, said that she has enjoyed her career with SSUSA.
“I’ve enjoyed my career in senior softball,” said Fran, who foresees herself working for many more years with the company. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people across the country and I’m thankful that I’ve had this opportunity.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

Parkside Community Church welcomes settled pastor

Parkside Community Church, UCC is excited to welcome its new pastor, Rev. Elizabeth Griswold, who is coming from Irvine United Congregational Church, UCC.  Community involvement, youth programs and alternative worship were Rev. Griswold’s focus in Irvine, where she launched a children’s garden and composting program.  Reflecting her social justice commitment, she helped her church toward becoming a Global Mission Church, and organized service trips to Guatemala and Mexico.
As an associate Pastor, Rev. Griswold was seeking to lead a congregation.  As Rev. Griswold put it, “I was looking for a vibrant and growing, Open and Affirming, Just Peace congregation, with commitment to progressive Christian values and theology.  Parkside is a church where there is diversity in beliefs and backgrounds, yet unity in striving to love our neighbors and our God with our whole hearts, souls and minds.”
Parkside’s congregation looks forward to continuing its leadership in the South Sacramento Food Closet, Sacramento’s Crop Walk and interfaith understanding, and invites all to attend.
Parkside worships at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, at the corner of 35th Ave. and South Land Park Drive.
For more about Elizabeth and Parkside Community Church, please visit their website at  www.parksideucc.org

In the Pocket

Shane Singh

Shane Singh

Lost Pets: Sad to report that a neighborhood pet store, Pet Haven, was shuttered in May, leaving the Greenhaven Plaza shopping center in an unannounced move that caught many residents by surprise.  Countless Greenhaven-Pocket dogs, cats and birds found their human families at Pet Haven, which was a full-service shop featuring low-cost vaccinations in addition to adoptions and pet supplies. So it’s a double loss to the community — one less option to outfit our four-legged and winged friends, and farther travel for Spot’s and Snowball’s needs.

Ice Creamed: Another local business, the Cold Stone Creamery, went dark months before the hot summer heat was scheduled to arrive at Lake Crest Center.  The good news is that the neighboring Rite Aid opened an old fashioned “Thrifty Ice Cream” counter to put some chill into June, July and August.  Neighborhood parents won’t complain about the price break found at Thrifty …

Dusted for Prints: In case you wondered why hundreds of people were snaked around the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library a couple of weeks ago, the answer is: protecting our kids.  The lines were for “Live Scan” fingerprinting of the soccer coaches who will oversee hundreds of recreational youth teams in the fall.  More than 340 coaches and administrators’ prints were processed at this event hosted by Greenhaven Soccer.  Club vice-president Jean Seaton comments, “The volunteer coaches are the backbone of our soccer program, we thank them for waiting in line for the fingerprints.”  And yes, wise guy, no two prints were alike …

The Beautiful Game: Speaking of soccer, Norwich City FC, a bottom-feeder in the English Premier League, takes on Club Dorados of Sinaloa, Mexico in a friendly match at Raley Field on July 18 as part of “Sacramento Soccer Day.”

Warren Smith, the owner of the new pro soccer team notes, “Sacramento Soccer Day will marry the past, present and future of soccer in the Sacramento region. Sacramento has an incredibly rich and intriguing soccer history that has flown under the radar for too long. It is time to celebrate the generations of dedicated people that have laid the groundwork for the incredible soccer culture that exists here today. This event is for them.”  Expect a sell-out crowd. With the Kings staying, you’d think we could have attracted Manchester City, but no such luck. Get your tickets early. I’ll buy a pint at Pocket Bistro for the first reader who can tell me what city Norwich plays in (hint, it’s not London) …

Baby Vice: Exhaustive research by this column has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the bouncing new baby girl delivered by Angelique Ashby represents the first time a Vice Mayor of Sacramento has given birth on the job (well, Angelique wasn’t exactly on the job at the time, but you know what I mean). Congratulations to Mom and family …

Gaggle: Another springtime arrival has taken up residence in The Pocket.  A gaggle of geese has taken up residence in and around Florin Rd. and Windward Way.  The baby geese are about the size of old duck, I’m told (but taste better, I’ll wager).

Summer Reading: The annual Friends of The Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library Summer Reading program kicks off on June 15th at 10 am.  Friends president Kathi Windheim reports that this year’s theme is “Reading is So Delicious!”  Show up for the free entertainment and delicious goodies …

Sacramento Kings: Under the leadership of Mayor Kevin Johnson, the community united and saved our sole major league franchise.  The NBA approved the sale of the team from the Maloofs to a group led by software magnate Vivek Randadive. Randadive Tweeted, “…It is an honor & a privilege to be part of such an amazing community.” We agree.

American River floods created many challenges in capital city

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series about the history of the American River in relation to the area of Sacramento today.

Many non-native people were attracted to the American River and its surrounding areas during the 19th century.
The dynamic fur-bearing and hide-producing animal population combined with the rich, fertile soil encouraged the earliest of these people to attempt to build permanent, non-Indian settlements along the banks of the American River.
The first person to accomplish this was the Swiss-German adventurer and entrepreneur Captain Johann Augustus Sutter, who became known to his Mexican hosts as Juan Sutter and who is known today as John Sutter.
Sutter had come to the banks of the American River through a circuitous route that included stops in New York City, Westport (now Kansas City, Mo.), Santa Fe, Mexico (present day New Mexico) and overland across the Rocky Mountains.
He then traveled by ship to the Sandwich Islands (today’s Hawaiian Islands), Fort Sitka in Russian Alaska, Yerba Buena (later renamed San Francisco), Monterey and finally up the American River to what became known as Sutter’s Landing at present day 28th and C streets.
Sutter, who arrived at this latter mentioned site in mid-August 1839, was able to acquire a nearly 50,000-acre land grant from the Mexican government.
The grant included the mouth of the American River and a large portion of the lower Sacramento Valley.
The Mexican government of California freely gave this land because of its belief that Sutter could not successfully subjugate and control the large native population.
Since Gabriel Moraga became the first non-Indian to visit the American River in 1806, many non-Indians attempted or dreamt of establishing a permanent presence in the Sacramento Valley.
In each case, the native population repelled the invaders and drove them back to the coast.
However, Sutter, with a landing force of two German sailors, 10 Hawaiians (two of whom were women), and possibly an English bulldog, was able to make peace with the local natives and build the American River’s first permanent settlement.
The settlement, which Sutter named Nueva Helvetia (New Switzerland and commonly known as New Helvetia), began as a small trading post that incorporated these local natives into the day-to-day business and agriculture of this settlement.
The trading post grew into a fort – which would become known as Sutter’s Fort – and an agricultural and manufacturing complex that attracted entrepreneurs, opportunists, a few miscreants and simple settlers from throughout the world.
The community burgeoned and with it grew the importance and value of the American River.
Sutter’s first non-Indian neighbor was Scotland native John Sinclair, the representative of Eliab Grimes, a businessman from the Sandwich Islands who received a land grant from Sutter across the American River from New Helvetia.
Sinclair was followed by William Leidesdorff, who acquired a land grant east of New Helvetia and south of the American River. This grant included the present day cities of Rancho Cordova and Folsom.
Leidesdorff was the son of a Dutch trader and a West Indian Creole and he was probably the first person of African descent to be a property owner in California.
Following these two men, many others rushed to Sutter’s settlement. Among these people was James Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey.
Marshall contracted with Sutter to build a sawmill on the American River that would satisfy the lumber needs of the growing community.
The famous, yet infamous, conclusion of this sawmill was the discovery of gold on the south fork of the American in the native village of Colluma – present day Coloma.
At this point, as historian J. S. Holliday wrote, “The World Rushed In.”
The Gold Rush led to the founding of Sacramento City – the original name of Sacramento – and radical changes in the purpose and course of the American River.
This influx of humanity and the quest to leave no stone unturned in the search for gold altered the powerful mountain stream that meandered through the valley to its confluence with the Sacramento River.
Near this confluence, in an area that was once abundant with trees and shrubs, a commercial center rapidly grew.
However, when a city is built where two major rivers come together, flooding is inevitable.
The new metropolis, which would soon become the capital of the new state of California, flooded in each of its first few years of existence.
But the indomitable spirit of the citizens of the new city could not be broken. They constructed levees that they hoped would hold back the powerful waters of the river. But these rudimentary earthworks were no match for the force of the American.
The most significant flood in the history of the capital city came in the winter of 1861-62. At that time, the rains began to fall and they continued nearly unabated for more than a month.
Around 8 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1861, the river broke through the levee at Smith’s Gardens in the area of today’s River Park.
The water coursed down Burns Slough and inundated the eastern part of the city, all the way to the railroad levee in the south.
The flooding was so intense that merchants and residents from Front Street to 12th Street and from the American River to the R Street levee reacted by raising their buildings as much as 14 feet, or constructing an additional story to these structures.
These modifications are what created the famed underground of Sacramento. This flooding also led to outcries about the poor conditions of the levee system and the need to alter the course of the American River.
The immediate step was to force the river north, near Rabel’s Tannery at 28th Street, in order to direct the water away from the city.
The larger step was the engineering endeavor that would take the big bend out of the west end of the river, near its confluence with the Sacramento River. This project began in 1864 and was completed four years later.
As a result of this rechanneling, the American River met with the Sacramento River one mile further north than it did when Sutter established his settlement.
But even these dramatic engineering feats were not sufficient to guarantee the safe control of the river. The river continued to flood on a regular basis and heavy rains combined with spring snowmelt made localized inundations a regular occurrence.
The next major flood occurred in February 1878, when almost the entire city was once again covered with water. This event prompted citizens to call upon the government to create meaningful, regional flood control.
The first comprehensive flood control plan was introduced in 1880.
The plan, which was designed by California’s first state engineer William Hammond Hall (1846-1934), was an integrated course of action for the entire Sacramento Valley that included a system of levees, weirs and bypass channels in an attempt to protect existing population centers.
With at least some control over the river, its power could be managed for the good of the citizenry.
In 1895, Sacramento staged its elaborate Grand Electric Carnival in celebration of the new Folsom Powerhouse, which carried electricity 22 miles from Folsom to Sacramento.
At the time, this event was considered an amazing distance for the transmission of electricity.
Folsom was also the site of another major American River development.
In 1917, Congress had authorized the Sacramento Flood Control System, and in 1944, authorization was given by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a dam on the lower American River to provide an excess of 500-year flood protection.
However, beginning in 1951, five major storms brought record floods before a dam could be constructed. Finally, in 1956, the Folsom Dam was completed.
It was estimated at that time that it would take a year to fill the reservoir behind the dam, but once again Mother Nature had other ideas.
A major storm rolled in and the reservoir was filled in one week.
Even though Sacramento exists because of the American River, the river continuously tried to destroy the city.
But each time, the citizens fought back, first with picks and shovels and finally with a concrete barrier.
Now, only nature knows what the future holds for the American River and its communities.

lance@valcomnews.com

Noah’s Bagels Baseball Gang is a hit in Town and Country Village

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series highlighting local baseball players who live in the publishing area of Valley Community Newspapers.

For a group of mostly Sacramento natives who grew up playing baseball in this very rich baseball city and a few other places, a tradition was born about five years ago.

The Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang meets weekly at Noah’s Bagels in Town and Country Village. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang meets weekly at Noah’s Bagels in Town and Country Village. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

It was around this time that a group of seniors calling themselves the Noah’s Bagels Baseball Gang began meeting once a week at Noah’s Bagels in Town and Country Village.

Continuing their weekly gatherings since this time, this social group has grown to include 18 members.

The very first members of the group were Jim Westlake, Dick Alejo and the late Danny Mooradian, who are considered the founders of the group.

In speaking about the formation of the group, Dick said, “We just felt like every time we would go out and see some guy, we would say, ‘Hey, we meet here for coffee. Why don’t you join us.’ Pretty soon, here we are (as a large group).”

Joe Duarte, one of the earliest members to join the group, said that there are various ways that one can be eligible to become a member of the group.

“(To join the group, one should) know somebody, played ball with somebody (or) went to school with them and played ball with them,” Duarte said. “Some of these guys played minor league baseball. Only one – Cuno Barragan – played in the big leagues. He caught for the (Chicago) Cubs for (three) years. Almost all of them, except for two or three, played high school baseball. I never played high school baseball, because I went in the merchant Marines in 1944, when I was 15 years old.”

Duarte said that he eventually became a baker, but chuckled when asked about bagels, saying (back then, in the 1940s), I’d never heard of them.”

During one of the group’s recent gatherings, the following members of the group in attendance shared information about their connections to baseball.

Barragan: “I was born (on June 20, 1932) and raised in Sacramento. I graduated from Sacramento High School in January 1950, and I played football and baseball at Sacramento Junior College. I signed a contract with the Sacramento Solons in 1952, and I played my first year of professional baseball in 1953 for Idaho Falls and then came back and went in the service in 1954 and 1955. I did two years of active duty in the Navy. I went to spring training with the Solons in 1956, was optioned to Amarillo, Texas, Western League, and had a reasonably good year there, and played with the Sacramento Solons in 1957.”

Barragan added that after a brief retirement in 1958, he eventually was drafted from the Solons by the Chicago Cubs in 1961.

“My first at bat was (at Wrigley Field on) Sept. 1 against the San Francisco Giants and I hit a home run off of Dick LeMay on the first pitch. It was pretty exciting.”

Members of the “bagel boys,” as the group is sometimes called, enjoy a moment during a recent gathering at Noah’s Bagels. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Members of the “bagel boys,” as the group is sometimes called, enjoy a moment during a recent gathering at Noah’s Bagels. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Dick Alejo: “I was born in 1936. My professional career was not that big. I just went down to Mexico and played for a team, called Puebla, with Cuno Barragan and Sparky Anderson (who later played and managed in Major League Baseball). Besides that, I played for the American Legion Post 61, McClatchy High School and in the Winter League and at Sacramento Junior College. I did well, but I’m not going to (the National Baseball Hall of Fame in) Cooperstown!”

Nick Capachi: “I played on all the city leagues growing up – the 125-pound, 75-pound leagues – then I played for (American) Legion, high school, county leagues, the Placer-Nevada League and the KFBK all-star team,” said Capachi, who turned 77 last April. “I also played on the (Sacramento Junior) College team. We won the state championship in 1953. We beat Long Beach for the state championship right here at (William) Land Park. I also played in the Army, while I was stationed in the Presidio (in San Francisco).”

Augie Amorena: “I went to Sacramento High School and graduated in 1948. My parents (Amelia and Augustine Amorena) were immigrants from Spain. I started playing baseball when I was about 14. I played Summer League in the different weight divisions. I played (American) Legion, Sac JC and local Winter League, Spring League. We had a team in the Winter League, Julius Style Shop, and Joe Freitas was the manager. We were all young kids, just out of high school. The enthusiasm, the fun, we could hardly wait until Sunday to play ball. We did okay. We won a championship one year. And I played minor league baseball four years (including his time in the International League with the Edmonton Eskimos). I also played in the service for the Army team (in Hawaii).”

Cuno Barragan, a member of the Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang, played baseball for the Chicago Cubs from 1961 to 1963. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Cuno Barragan, a member of the Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang, played baseball for the Chicago Cubs from 1961 to 1963. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Mike Bakarich: “I was born on Mother’s Day, 1944, at Sacramento County Hospital. When we were younger, there was no Little League. You played in the 100-pound league, got weighed.  I grew up in West Sacramento and I had to take the Gibson bus and the streetcar to go to McClatchy Park to play baseball. They couldn’t remember my name, so they called me ‘the kid from across the river.’ I played with these guys since I was in the 7th grade, probably. I went to Grant Tech (College, which was located across the street from Grant High School) and I played all three sports there. Then I played baseball in the Winter League, in the National Division, played in the County League and the Rural League and I quit playing hard ball in 1960 or 1961, because I like to play fast-pitch softball. We were playing maybe 75 or 80 ball games a summer, and trying to play baseball and softball was kind of tough. With the fast-pitch softball, I’ve been to two world tournaments and two national tournaments. I played all over the United States. I’m in the fast-pitch hall of fame and the baseball hall of fame in Sacramento.”

The group had its own T-shirts printed to wear at their meetings and to present to some of their friends. Shown above is a close-up view of the front, center part of one of the shirts. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The group had its own T-shirts printed to wear at their meetings and to present to some of their friends. Shown above is a close-up view of the front, center part of one of the shirts. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Taste and see: Friends of Sutter’s Fort to present two events – one culinary, one haunted

Sutter’s Fort will be the site of two upcoming events, which will serve as fundraisers for the Friends of Sutter’s Fort.

A Taste of History

DINNER SERVICE will be provided by Plates Café, a division of St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

DINNER SERVICE will be provided by Plates Café, a division of St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

The first of these events, A Taste of History, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This event will feature some of the city’s top chefs, who will use 19th century recipes and add their own modern touches to them.

One of the event’s major sponsors will be Whole Foods, which will provide quality produce that will be used throughout the evening.

The event will begin with a reception, and wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres will be served while guests will have the opportunity to interact with the chefs, who will be preparing various levels of their dishes in the fort’s period facilities.

The event, which will also include live, historic, acoustic music, will be highlighted by a four-course, seated dinner, which will begin with a chicken mole salad prepared by Jay Veregee, executive chef of Old Sacramento’s Ten 22 restaurant.

Lisa Mealoy, executive director of the Friends of Sutter’s Fort, said that when it comes to early Sutter’s Fort history, presenting a Mexican-type dish at this event is very fitting.

“One of the things that people don’t necessarily know is that California was actually a part of Mexico,” Mealoy said. “During the time of Sutter, there was a lot of excitement and transition with Mexico and Sutter was very involved with the Mexican government. So, we’re talking about highlighting the chicken mole, the Mexican aspect of things.”

Also taking part in the event will be Patrick Mulvaney of midtown Sacramento’s Mulvaney’s B & L restaurant.

CHEFS PREPARE FOOD on the fire pit at Sutter’s Fort during last year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

CHEFS PREPARE FOOD on the fire pit at Sutter’s Fort during last year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

Mulvaney will be preparing local, grilled, king salmon with American River fennel and West Sacramento heirloom tomatoes. The dish will be paired with pinot noir wine from Rail Bridge Cellars of Sacramento.

Mealoy said that it will be a pleasurable experience to have such fine chefs at the event.

“They are Sacramento’s local celebrity chefs and they are extraordinarily talented, but they also happen to be extraordinarily nice people, who are very generous in the community and lots of fun to get to work with,” Mealoy said.

Tickets to this fundraiser are presently being sold for $85 per person.

For additional information regarding this event, call (916) 323-7626.

The Haunted Fort

The second upcoming event presented by the Friends of Sutter’s Fort will be the very timely fall event, The Haunted Fort, which will be held on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

An official Sutter’s Fort news release notes that the fort was “once a portal for weary pioneers (and) again serves as the gateway to their restless spirits, who return to tell the tales of their lives and melancholy deaths at this special family-friendly event.”

WARM WELCOME. Brightly colored table décor welcomes guests to last year’s edition of A Taste of History. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

WARM WELCOME. Brightly colored table décor welcomes guests to last year’s edition of A Taste of History. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

The Haunted Fort will feature 45-minute, guided, in-the-dark, “spooky,” historic tours of the fort that will present characters from different eras of the fort’s past. These tours will begin about every 10 minutes.

Mealoy describes this event as an opportunity to hear about “dark and creepy and intriguing stories of the pioneers and people of Sacramento who came through and had some sort of relationship with the fort.”

Continuing, Mealoy said that guests will meet people who will be portraying such characters as former Sutter’s Fort curator Harry Peterson and members of the Donner Party.

“(Guests) will learn about the characters themselves and why they’re so fascinating and why they may have left their marks, their spirits, here at the fort,” Mealoy said. “They all have very dramatic stories. And part of the goal behind this (event) is to help people see that we have tremendous stories that are a part of history that go way beyond just the dates and the numbers and the facts and the figures.”

As for actual ghosts at the fort, Mealoy said, “We do have reports of ghosts and ghosts sightings here (at the fort), but it’s all in one’s belief. But any stories that we hear, nobody seems to feel that there’s anything malevolent or threatening here, and this event itself is intended to be a family event. It’s not a horror house type of event.”

Admission for The Haunted Fort event will be $6 for ages 17 and older, $4 for ages 6 to 16, and free for ages 5 and younger.

STEP TO THE BEAT. A Taste of History will include live, historic, acoustic music. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

STEP TO THE BEAT. A Taste of History will include live, historic, acoustic music. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

For further information regarding this event, call (916) 445-4422.

Friends of Sutter’s Fort

Because proceeds from both of the aforementioned events benefit the Friends of Sutter’s Fort, Mealoy believes that it is important for the community to be informed about this nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization.

Although the Friends of Sutter’s Fort is only about three years old, it evolved from the Sacramento Historic Sites Association, a much older foundation that supported Sutter’s Fort, as well as the California State Railroad Museum, the Stanford Mansion, the California State Indian Museum and the California State Capitol Museum.

Eventually, the Sacramento Historic Sites Association was divided into individual cooperating associations that were dedicated to specific state parks.

Volunteers are absolutely essential to the success of the organization, which also operates the trade store at Sutter’s Fort.

In regard to The Haunted Fort event, Mealoy said, “(The volunteers) help in the research for the stories, because it’s important to us that they be historically accurate. They help to design the scenarios, they help to put everything together and they just knock your socks off. There’s no way that this event could happen if we didn’t have (the volunteers).”

BREW MASTER Brian Cofresi of the River City Brewing Co. will prepare a special brew for this year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

BREW MASTER Brian Cofresi of the River City Brewing Co. will prepare a special brew for this year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

Mealoy said that having a foundation specifically dedicated to supporting the historical programming at Sutter’s Fort is very beneficial in continuously improving upon the functions and activities of this longtime popular state historic park.

For additional information regarding upcoming Sutter’s Fort events, visit www.suttersfort.org.

Final resting place of city’s founder located in Sacramento’s oldest cemetery

Since the early years of Sacramento, one of the city’s premier landmarks has been the city cemetery at the modern day address of 1000 Broadway. And considering that it was the Swiss-born John Augustus Sutter, Jr. who founded the city and donated the initial 10 acres of this Land Park area cemetery to the city for burial purposes on about Dec. 1, 1849, it seems fitting that his final resting place sits just inside the main gates of this cemetery, which is the city’s oldest existing cemetery.
The final resting place of the city’s founder, John Augustus Sutter, Jr., is one of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery’s most notable gravesites. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The final resting place of the city’s founder, John Augustus Sutter, Jr., is one of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery’s most notable gravesites. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Nine years following the landing of his father, John Augustus Sutter, Sr., on the south bank of the American River – an historic moment that led to the construction of Sutter’s Fort – John Sutter, Jr. reunited with his father at the fort.

Less than two months after his arrival, John Sutter, Jr. announced that he would build a new town, called Sacramento City – the original name of Sacramento – along the Sacramento River.

Although John Sutter, Jr., who was the eldest of five children, passed away at the age of 70 in 1897, efforts to have his remains buried in Sacramento was no simple procedure.

Furthermore, another 66 years passed before his remains were buried in the capital city.

This fact is so, since the younger John Sutter died and was originally buried in Acapulco, Mexico, where he resided after leaving Sacramento in July 1850.

In Acapulco, Mexico, John Sutter, Jr. became a respected civic leader and a representative of the American government. He served as American consul to Acapulco from 1870 to 1887.

Although John Sutter, Jr. had been buried in Acapulco, a major drive to have his remains reinterred in Sacramento began in 1963 as a result of the news that the St. Francis Cemetery, where he was buried, was being moved to a different location due to a redevelopment project in that area.

This drive included the creation of the John A. Sutter, Jr. Memorial Committee of Sacramento – a group consisting of Sacramento historians and civic leaders – and the support of the

John Augustus Sutter, Jr. is shown in this image from an historic painting. / Image courtesy, California State Library

John Augustus Sutter, Jr. is shown in this image from an historic painting. / Image courtesy, California State Library

Sacramento County Historical Society.

Additionally benefitting the relocation of the remains was the support of the project by heirs of John Sutter, Jr., who was the father of 12 children, all of whom were born in Mexico.

By the time that the relocation project began, only one of these children – Anna (Sutter) Young – was living.

Also in support of the project was Ricardo Sutter Morlett, a great-grandson of Sacramento City’s founder. Ironically, Morlett happened to be serving as the mayor of Acapulco at the time.

Another great-grandson of John Sutter, Jr., Art Sutter, Jr., was locally pledging his support, since he had then-recently moved to the Sacramento area to join a mortgage firm.

Antonio Islas, Mexican consul in Sacramento, also expressed his support of the relocation project.

During the process of obtaining full approval and arrangements for the relocation of the remains, efforts were also made to select a new burial site.

In addition to the city cemetery, Sutter’s Fort, the embarcadero area of Old Sacramento and the city plaza – today’s Cesar Chavez Plaza – were among the proposed sites.

After months of deliberations, complete approval for the re-interment was obtained and arrangements were made for the reburial in the city cemetery.

Sacramento newspapers announced on February 26, 1964 that the city’s founder would be reburied in the city cemetery on March 11, 1964 at 11 a.m.

It was also reported that the relocation of these remains would be temporary, as they would later be exhumed and reburied once more; this time in the West End section of the city following the redevelopment of Old Sacramento. These plans, however, were eventually abandoned.

The remains of John Sutter, Jr. were transported from Acapulco aboard the USS Leonard F. Mason, and after the Navy ship’s arrival in Long Beach, these remains were then flown via a U.S. Navy plane, which arrived at Municipal Airport – today’s Executive Airport – on Monday, March 9, 1964 at 12:30 p.m.

Two days later at 10:30 a.m., a procession left the Clark, Booth and Yardley funeral home at 917 H St. and made its way to the cemetery.

Graveside services were conducted at 11 a.m. at the city cemetery by the Rev. Noel F. Moholy of the St. Francis Catholic Church.

Among those in attendance at the ceremony were: Islas, J. Studer, Swiss consul general in San Francisco, Fred A. Barbaria of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, City Councilman Albert Talkin and descendants of John Sutter, Jr., his daughter Anna Young, his grandchildren, Art Sutter, Jr., Reginald Sutter, Jr., Alba (Sutter) Robinson, Dolores (Sutter) Kason, Gloria (Sutter) Parson and Nicholas Sutter, and his great-grandchildren, Ricardo and Marco Morlett.

Pallbearers at the services were memorial committee members, Frank Christy, Raymond Momboisse, Lee Richardson and Miles Snyder.

A memorial luncheon was held at the Mansion Inn – now Clarion Hotel Mansion Inn – at 16th and H streets following the services.

In September 1967, as a response to Anna (Sutter) Young’s expressed disappointment with her father’s 24-inch by 24-inch, flat, marble marker at the cemetery, the Sacramento City Historical Landmarks Commission suggested that a more appropriate marker be placed at the cemetery.

The suggestion led to the installation of a much larger, black granite marker at the site. This memorial marker, which also incorporates the original Mexican cemetery marker, was dedicated on Saturday, Oct. 12, 1968 at 11 a.m.

Anna (Sutter) Young and James A. Brown, Jr., chairman of the landmarks commission, unveiled the marker during the brief dedication ceremony, which was followed by a no-host luncheon at the Mansion Inn.

The ceremony was a cherished moment, as well as a timely moment for Anna (Sutter) Young, since she passed away at the age of 81 in a San Francisco hospital only 15 months later.

Services for Anna (Sutter) Young, who was buried alongside her father, were held at the city cemetery on January 27, 1970.

Dr. Bob LaPerriere, who was involved in establishing the committee to preserve the city cemetery and is among the many locals who appreciate efforts that were made to reinter the remains of John Sutter, Jr. in Sacramento, explained what it means to him to view the gravesite of the city’s founder at the city cemetery.

“A jolt of historic stimulation comes whenever I enter the gates to the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery at 10th and Broadway,” LaPerriere said. “Walking past the gravesite of John Sutter Jr., who founded the city of Sacramento as we know it today, and also donated the first acreage to establish the city cemetery, is a great reminder of the 150-plus years of the wonderful, historic heritage that Sacramento offers.”

The final resting place of John Sutter, Jr., as well as the gravesites of many other early, prominent residents of the city, can be visited at the city cemetery daily, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Wednesdays, Thursdays and city holidays.

lance@valcomnews.com

Three Sisters restaurant: Great authentic Mexican food, three authentic Mexican sisters

 

As a community newspaper reporter, it is my ongoing quest to continuously gain a more thorough knowledge and understanding of the past and present businesses of local communities. And it was just last week, for instance, that this quest led me to Three Sisters Mexican Kitchen and Cantina.

The three sisters of Three Sisters restaurant in East Sacramento also own Tres Hermanas Restaurant in midtown Sacramento. They are (left to right): Norma, Dora and Sonia Saenz. / Valley Community Newspapers photo by Lance Armstrong

The three sisters of Three Sisters restaurant in East Sacramento also own Tres Hermanas Restaurant in midtown Sacramento. They are, left to right, Norma, Dora and Sonia Saenz. / Valley Community Newspapers photo by Lance Armstrong

Three years ago, while covering a Cinco de Mayo story at Tres Hermanas Restaurant at 2416 K St., I learned from this midtown Sacramento business’s co-owner, Sergio Saenz, that there really were “tres hermanas” or “three sisters” behind the naming of the restaurant.

Sergio explained to me that the midtown restaurant, which opened its doors for the first time on Oct. 18, 1996, had been named after his sisters.

And it certainly came as no surprise to me when Sergio revealed to me how many sisters were in his family.

After telling me that his “tres hermanas” were Norma, Dora and Sonia, he also informed me that Three Sisters restaurant at 5100 Folsom Blvd. was also part of his family’s restaurant endeavors.

In an attempt to enhance my Cinco de Mayo story, I asked Sergio if I could arrange a meeting with all three sisters.

Sergio informed me that it would be best to leave such a meeting to another time, since Norma and Dora were operating the East Sacramento restaurant and Sonia was working with him at the midtown restaurant.

Although my Cinco de Mayo Tres Hermanas story was successfully completed without the presence of all three sisters, the idea of one day gathering these sisters together for one interview continued to intrigue me.

Undoubtedly, there were many people in Sacramento who were familiar with Tres Hermanas and Three Sisters restaurants, yet had no idea why these restaurants received these names.

Being that my travels often take me past Three Sisters restaurant, it recently occurred to me that it was about time to make an effort to obtain my desired interview with all three sisters.

In my attempt to secure an interview with all three sisters, Dora informed me that I would have to wait until the following week in order to conduct my “tres hermanas” interview.

Considering that in a way, I had already waited 181 weeks for this interview, I figured that it would not be too much trouble on my part to wait just another week.

When the day of my interview finally arrived, it was nice to see not una hermana or dos hermanas, but actually tres hermanas.

After confirming that these women were the three sisters that I had arrived to meet and not just three unsuspecting women at the restaurant who I suddenly sat down with – that could be an awkward moment – I began to learn about these local business women.

Born in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua and raised in the town of Cuahtemoc – a place of about 80,000 people that is comparable to Stockton, with a downtown, suburbs and orchards – the three sisters are among the seven children of Guadalupe Saenz and her late husband, Simon Saenz.

After arriving in the United States with their family in 1988, Norma, Dora and Sonia worked in different restaurants in Sacramento for eight years prior to making the decision to open their own restaurant.

The sisters’ search for a restaurant ended when local real estate broker Angelo Tsorakis of Elk Grove offered them the K Street restaurant site that had formerly housed Food for Thought.

After the three sisters acquired their midtown business location, Tsorakis presented the idea of naming the restaurant, Tres Hermanas.

Norma admits that the name was initially rejected, but was later reevaluated and accepted.

Dora, who often enjoys telling young visitors of Three Sisters restaurant that she is the real life character from the animated children’s television series, Dora the Explorer, recalled how challenging it was to operate a new restaurant for the first time.

“We thought we knew everything, but we’re still learning, actually,” Dora said. “It was funny. Everybody thought, ‘I’m going start my own business and I’m going to be the boss.’ It is not exactly that way.”

The sisters quickly learned that owning the business also meant performing just about every duty that was necessary to operate a successful restaurant.

As the sisters’ midtown business progressed, Tsorakis approached Norma about the possibility of moving the restaurant to East Sacramento.

After Norma told Tsorakis that she was happy with the midtown site, the topic arose about the sisters acquiring a second restaurant location.

Norma related the humorous scenario in which the sisters purchased the East Sacramento restaurant site, which formerly housed the Irish pub, Gallagher’s Bar and Grill.

“Angelo said to me, ‘I think you need a second restaurant,’ and I said, ‘Oh no, Angelo,’” Norma recalled. “I told him I didn’t want to see it, but he didn’t take no for an answer. It was only about five minutes away, so I finally went and looked at it. The building already looked Mexican with the arched windows. I later called Angelo and said, ‘Nice, but no.’”

Since Tsorakis remained persistent about the sisters acquiring the second site, Norma offered $30,000 on the location, which was being offered for $65,000.

Norma said that it was her way of easing out of the situation with Tsorakis.

“I offered him $30,000, because I knew they were not going to take it,” Norma said. “(Tsorakis) came back like two days later and said, ‘Norma, they think the offer is too low.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to offer any more, Angelo.’ He later came back and told me they took the offer. Instead of being happy, I was like, ‘Oh no, don’t tell me this, Angelo.’ And here we are and thank God, because we’ve been very, very successful.”

With the notoriety of Tres Hermanas, Three Sisters was more easily able to establish itself as a popular restaurant.

In addition to having similarities to the midtown restaurant, Three Sisters was established with different characteristics, including a few different food items, a distinct décor and a full bar, including many tequilas, as opposed to the midtown site’s small, beer and wine bar.

But one undeniably similar aspect about both locations is the Saenz family’s concentration on presenting a friendly atmosphere.

“We’re doing what we love and we love to entertain people,” Norma said. “This is our life. The customers become our friends. The greatest friends we have, we found in here at the restaurant.”

Sonia added, “I like to see people happy. It’s so nice just to see people when they’re eating and on their faces they look happy.”

But certainly, a great aid in having people look happy when they’re eating is presenting quality food, which is something that both restaurants understand quite well.

Already having high expectations for Three Sisters’ food, since I have great memories of enjoying the carnitas entrée at Tres Hermanas, I decided to try out the Chicken Mole Poblano ($13.99).

And what a wise choice this was, as with my first bite, the many wonderful flavors of the mole sauce instantly danced upon my taste buds.

The sauce, which takes almost a whole day to prepare and includes about 35 ingredients, is undoubtedly one of the best mole sauces that I have ever tasted.

Furthermore, the chicken, which was topped off with thin strips of onions and sesame seeds, was extremely tender and the entrée was complimented with homemade beans and rice, fresh tortillas, chips and salsa.

But the quality of both restaurants’ food should come as no surprise for those who have heard the passion in which the business’s owners speak about their love for using high quality, fresh ingredients and creating all their dishes from scratch.

New guests of these excellent Sacramento restaurants will discover that these eating establishments offer different tasting, more spicier foods, since these restaurants are inspired by the northern Mexico cooking of Guadalupe, her mother and her nine sisters.

Norma said that these notable differences in tastes are due to the fact that most of the Mexican restaurants in the Sacramento area present food derived from recipes from Jalisco and Michoacan in the south part of Mexico.

Other popular dinner entrées at both restaurants include: Camarones (shrimp) a la Three Sisters/Tres Hermanas ($14.99), Carne Asada ($13.99), Beef Chimichanga with Chipotle Sauce ($13.99), Vegetarian Tamales ($12.99) and Navajo Chicken Salad ($11.99) with house creamy cilantro dressing.

Welcoming the community to visit Three Sisters Mexican Kitchen and Cantina and Tres Hermanas Restaurant, as well as the family’s other restaurants, Sabores Mexican Cuisine at 10341 Fairway Drive in Rocklin and Tres Hermanas Restaurant at 805 2nd St. in Davis, which opens this month, Dora said, “Everybody should come and try our restaurants. If you give us one chance, you’ll be coming back.”

And based on my visits to the Saenz family’s Sacramento restaurants, I couldn’t agree more.

Three Sisters and Tres Hermanas restaurants, which serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, are open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For additional information about these restaurants, call (916) 452-7442.

lance@valcomnews.com

Sacramento resident Ed Rivera discusses his lifelong passion for art

 
Land Park resident Ed Rivera has had a lifelong love of art.
Land Park resident Ed Rivera has had a lifelong love of art.

At the lower right hand corner of a large mural that covers the majority of the exterior wall at the front of Sacramento State University’s Lassen Hall is the signature of artist, Ed Rivera. And although this work is his best known local art piece, it represents only a part of the story of this Sacramento artist.

Rivera, who is a Sacramento resident and a former Sacramento Police Department officer, has certainly drawn much attention for his mural on this university building, which houses the office of the university registrar, the academic advising and career center, a testing center and other services.

After all, the artwork was painted on the building as the resolution to a controversy, which received much widespread media coverage, including coverage in Mexico.

As the story goes, during a six-month period in 1970, Rivera, who is a native Sacramentan of Mexican descent, had painted a previous mural on panels that were placed on the front, exterior wall of the same building, which then housed the school’s library.

In a discussion with Valley Community Newspapers, Rivera, 67, recounted his memories of a dreadful time back in 1976, when he found out that the mural, which had been presented as a gift, had been removed from the building.

Ed Rivera Photo 02

Ed Rivera (top) interacts with a local poet during his time working on his original mural at Sacramento State University.

“Somebody came by and said, ‘Ed, you know your mural is not up there any more,’” recalled Rivera, who was a student at Sacramento State during the 1960s. “I said, ‘You’re kidding.’ I went down there (to the Sacramento State building) and it was stark white. They tore the panels down and called that a ‘beautification (project).’ We immediately went (to the school) and said, ‘Hey, you can’t do this. We gave this to the community and the state college as a figure of solidarity, peace and culture. What did you do here?’ And then the movement started with Joe Serna, (Rivera and others) and the community rose up and said, ‘You can’t do that.’”

Fate of ‘La Cultura’

The mural, which was named ‘La Cultura’ (‘The Culture’) and had been created as a tribute to Mexican culture, had taken months of negotiations and fundraising and the support of the Chicano community to become a reality.

But in just six years, the artwork was removed and disposed of, except for pieces of the mural, which Rivera said had been cut up and given a new life at the school.

“They made shelves out of (parts of) the panels,” Rivera said. “I saw my artwork on shelving in different parts of the college.”

The protest movement relating to the removal and destruction of the mural led to a September 1976 letter of apology from then-Sacramento State President James Bond.

Two months later, Henry Lopez, executive director of the Sacramento Chicano community organization, Concilio, wrote a letter to Bond demanding that the university finance a new mural, repay the $800 used in community donations that paid for the old mural, produce a public apology from the school and submit a written statement about the university’s policy regarding the mural.

Responding to Lopez’s letter on Feb. 9, 1977, Bond once again apologized for the removal of the mural and extended an offer to have a new mural paid for by the university.

Rivera said that Bond recommended that the mural be painted inside the building to protect it from the outside elements. But after visiting the building’s interior, Rivera rejected this recommendation.

Arrangements were eventually made for Rivera to repaint the mural in a different style on the front of the building. But this time, the mural was painted directly onto the wall.

 

Ed Rivera Photo 03

Ed Rivera’s mural on the exterior, front wall of Lassen Hall at Sacramento State University includes this image of the Aztec ruler, Montezuma.

The Rebirth of ’La Cultura’ 

On Oct. 30, 1978, a dedication ceremony at the building, which had been converted into the Student Services Center, was held in honor of the completed mural. The event, which celebrated “The Rebirth of the La Cultura,” included speakers, music, poetry and folk dancing.

The 96-foot-wide by 24-foot-tall mural, which depicts the Mexican community’s American Indian-Spanish heritage, features major symbols of the Mexican culture, including an image of the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, an eagle with a serpent in its beak, the Aztec calendar and an ear of corn.

The mural, which is painted with permanent, water-based acrylics, also includes a pair of frogs moving forward, which Rivera said represents the constantly moving forward and never looking back progression of the Mexican people.

A concise description of the mural is located just inside Lassen Hall.

In 1999, Rivera returned to the campus to provide a touch-up paint job to the then-fading mural and to place a protective finish over the work.

Protected art

Unlike the building’s original mural, today’s mural is protected, Rivera explained.

“That (current) mural, they cannot take it down for 50 years after I die,” Rivera said. “If they’re going to take it down, they have to notify the next of kin, which would be my son (John, who was named after Rivera’s favorite author, John Steinbeck). So, it’s there for a long time.”

Rivera added that even 50 years after his passing, negotiations could be made to preserve the mural and have it touched-up with some fresh paint by an assigned artist.

The Sacramento State mural is but one of Rivera’s murals that have appeared on public buildings.

Rivera also painted murals for the Washington Neighborhood Center at 400 16th St. and the Legal Aid Society at 920 9th St. in Sacramento and Boalt Hall at the University of California, Berkeley. Unfortunately for Rivera, not all of his murals exist today.

Diverting from the story of his murals, Rivera said that his love for art began at a very young age, as he watched his father, who was a pastry chef, decorate a cake with the image of an eagle.

Fascinated how his father could create something so artistic with his hands, Rivera gained an instant appreciation for art.

This appreciation led to Rivera’s study of art at Sacramento High School under the direction of art instructor, John Moore.

After attending Sacramento City College and Sacramento State, Rivera attended the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute for three years. And while at the art institute, he studied under renowned artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bishoff, Nathan Oliveira, James Weeks, Julius Hytofsky and Frank Lobdell.

Although he eventually became a police officer, serving in this position from 1967 to 1996, Rivera never lost his love for art.

To the contrary, this love grew, as Rivera continued to create art and gain recognition in the art world throughout his time with the police department.

Prolific artist

This painting is one of the many original works of Land Park artist, Ed Rivera.

This painting is one of the many original works of Land Park artist, Ed Rivera.

During his time as an artist, Rivera has created hundreds of paintings and although he has painted such art images as local architecture, landscapes and sailing scenes, the majority of his work features pre-Columbian, Aztec and Mayan images.

Explaining his deep connection to this form of art, Rivera said, “I really feel I’m part pre-Columbian, Aztec, Mayan culture.”

Additionally, Rivera, who participates in occasional art shows, but said that he otherwise advertises by “word of mouth” only, refers to himself as a “tool of what the Hispanic community is about.”

“I’m just a tool,” Rivera said. “I just happen to have the talent as a painter. I’m fortunate I can do this. I enjoy painting. It’s my life.”

Rivera, who credits his mentor, artist Benny Barrios, for showing him not just how to paint, but showing him the life of an artist and what it takes to be an artist, said that he is among a select group of artists.

“There are a few of us (artists), we just don’t live art, we breathe art,” Rivera said. “Everything is art. We don’t see things the way other people see them. We see things in an art view. We see things way, way differently. For me, art is like breathing. You have to breathe. You have to do art.”

Email Lance Armstrong at lance@valcomnews.com