Stan Atkinson had a ‘career to remember’

Stan Atkinson, shown at the center of this 1980s photograph, spent about 15 years dedicating his time to the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon. Photo courtesy of Stan Atkinson

Stan Atkinson, shown at the center of this 1980s photograph, spent about 15 years dedicating his time to the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon. Photo courtesy of Stan Atkinson

Editor’s Note: This is part six in a series about local people connected to the early days of television.

Stan Atkinson, one of the Arden area’s more notable residents, continued his discussions about his storied career in television during a recent interview with this publication.
After spending two years working in television in Spokane, Wash., Stan and his wife at that time were experiencing a bit of California dreaming, Stan explained.
“My wife and I had both grown up in Southern California,” Stan said. “We were not crazy about the snow. We had a real bad winter up there (in Spokane). So we decided we were going to California and get the first job we could find. So, we took off in our little VW and drove to California and stopped in Redding to get some gas. And I asked one of the guys in the gas station, ‘Are there any TV stations around here?’ And he said, “Yeah, there’s one (KVIP Channel 7) that just opened up by the junior college.’”
Stan explained that he quickly made his way to that station and found that the people who were working there were in the midst of a crisis, as a snow storm had blanked out part of the signal between the studio and the transmitter, which was located on about a 6,000-foot peak above Redding.
“I walked in and everyone was beside themselves with this crisis they were dealing with,” Stan recalled. “So, they were kind of annoyed when I walked in the door. ‘What do you want?’ (he was asked). I said, “I want a job.” And they said, ‘What do you mean you want a job?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve been working at the ABC affiliate in Spokane for two years.’ And, they said, ‘You’ve been in television for two years?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I was hired on the spot.”
Among the employees of KVIP-TV at that time was Jon S. Kelly, who was one of the sons of Ewing Cole “Gene” Kelly, a founder of KCRA-TV in Sacramento.
Stan said that it was upon the recommendation of Jon to people at KCRA-TV that led to his hiring at that Sacramento station in 1957.
In describing an early experience he had at KCRA-TV, Stan said, “What happened, when I got hired, I looked like I was about 15 years old. So, the legend is that after my first night on the air doing the news, Gene Kelly came into the managers’ meeting the next morning and said, ‘Who in the blankety blank hired that blankety blank kid?’ He wasn’t involved in my hiring process. And at the same time, somebody had made note of all the phone calls that had been made the night before in the following morning, in response to my first night on the air. They were mostly from elderly ladies, who said, ‘Who is that young, sweet boy you have doing the news? We just think he is terrific. We’ll be watching him every time.’ So, I’ve always said it was the blue hairs who saved my career.”
Because television business was not compartmentalized like it is today, Stan’s early work with KCRA-TV was quite diversified.
Stan noted that he became involved in documentary work, including Channel 3’s first documentary, “Black Harvest,” which focused on a huge forest fire. He also worked on a documentary about the transient population in Old Sacramento.
In about 1959, Stan dedicated himself to working on a documentary pertaining to mental patients who had died under the responsibility of psychiatric technicians at the DeWitt Hospital in Auburn.
Stan explained that that the project led to a unique experience in his life.
“(The documentary) won a national award, the Albert Lasker Award for medical journalism,” Stan said. “There were four award winners and we were all presented the awards in New York by Lyndon Johnson, who was vice president then, and Mrs. (Mary Woodard) Lasker. Johnson invited us to go on this trip he was about to take around the world (in May 1961). And I went with one of our cameramen, THE LATE Ed Sweetman. And it was an amazing, amazing awakening for me to see what the rest of the world was like.
“We went around the world. The target really was Vietnam. President (John F.) Kennedy wanted Johnson to access the situation there. We had 500 American soldiers there who were training in the South Vietnamese army in the battle against the Northerners, which had started a few years before.
“It was really the precursor to upping the American investment of men and machines in Vietnam, because it was clear that the efforts from the North were dedicated to taking over the South and that the Army of the South simply wasn’t up to the task. The trip also went to India, Pakistan, Greece and Italy. I was really intrigued by the time we had in Saigon.”
Stan eventually returned to Vietnam after convincing KCRA’s owners to allow him to produce the documentary, “The Village that Refuses to Die.” The documentary focused on Father Nguyen Lac Hoa, the “fighting priest,” who led an anticommunist militia in the Ca Mau Peninsula in the southernmost section of Vietnam.

Stan Atkinson, bottom center, is shown with other members of television station KFTY Channel 50 in this early 1970s photograph. Photo courtesy of Stan Atkinson

Stan Atkinson, bottom center, is shown with other members of television station KFTY Channel 50 in this early 1970s photograph. Photo courtesy of Stan Atkinson

In recalling that experience, Stan said, “(Hoa’s) men settled there and began fighting and beating the Viet Cong. By the time I was there, I think it was 200 square miles he had liberated. So, I did this documentary and it was a big success, because in those days there wasn’t anything really much known of or about, and there wasn’t any pictorial record of what Vietnam was like and that included the defense department. And so, the Pentagon bought 200 copies of this film and used it in the training process for officers and (noncommissioned officers) who were going to Vietnam.”
In 1963, Stan left KCRA-TV to join David Wolper (1928-2010), the major independent producer of documentaries in the United States, in making documentaries.
During his time with Wolper, who was later the executive producer of the television miniseries, “Roots,” Stan worked on three series, including specials about actress Bette Davis and singer and actor Bing Crosby.
After departing from his work with Wolper, Stan joined a friend in establishing a production company.
Stan noted that he eventually opted to return to daily news.
“I decided to come back to work (in television), and I did, first at KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland, then I got a Ford journalism fellowship at Stanford (University), and then from Stanford, I went to KNBC and NBC News in Burbank,” Stan said. “That was a great experience in a top-of-the-line, incredible facility. It was a huge news machine. In those days, it was just amazing the work we did do and the people you worked with. And that was during the time that I covered the (Charles) Manson case, and that became the hallmark of my career there. It was 16 months and going to court every day and doing a lot of investigative stuff on the side to try to develop more about what had actually happened, which mostly came out in court. There were other diversions that took place in that case that you would want to pursue as a reporter. Also, it was the drudgery of sitting in court each and every day trying to glean something out that was newsworthy to put on the news that night. Manson and his girls would act up in court from time to time.”
Stan said that he later left KNBC to establish television station KFTY Channel 50 in Santa Rosa with a couple of his friends from KNBC.
“We put the station on the air (in about 1972),” Stan said. “We got clobbered by a huge recession and we just didn’t have enough money up front to sustain the two years that we needed to get on our feet financially. And after one year, we went under.”
After the collapse of Channel 50, Stan briefly took a different direction in his life, as he planted a vineyard in Sebastopol and taught journalism classes in a summer graduate program at Stanford University.
Stan’s time teaching at Stanford and his thoughts about the sudden closure of KFTY caused him to reevaluate his life, and he returned to television, first as a reporter with KGO-TV in San Francisco.
That experience led to his rehiring at KTVU Channel 2 in 1973.
Three years later, Stan left his work as an anchor at KTVU, as he was presented with an opportunity to return to KCRA Channel 3.
In recalling that moment, Stan said, “I knew that (KCRA) is where I always wanted to be. I loved the time that I’d been here in the early days. I always had a feeling I’d come back, always did, even from when I left before. I was so glad to be back, and of course the station was the best in the market. Everything was first class and professional and (the station had a) great gang of people to work with and work for. And the best part was I got a chance to not just anchor, but to go about and do some serious reporting a couple times every year on a major assignment somewhere in the world. I think there was something like 18 or 20 assignments in 30 different countries.”
After spending 18 years in his second stint with KCRA, Stan was hired to work as an anchor at KOVR Channel 13.
In explaining why he left Channel 3 to work for Channel 13, Stan said, “It was a bit of a contract dispute and (KOVR) found out about it. They had just changed ownership (at KOVR) and so they came after me and wanted me to come to work for them. The timing was perfect and I said, ‘Sure.’ It was a great time for me (at KCRA) and it was wonderful. I never had a regret about it, but I figured maybe after all that time, it was good to make a change. And it was good.”
Stan ended his lengthy career with a special edition of the 10 p.m. news on July 30, 1999. Following the broadcast, KOVR aired a special, hour-long program, entitled “Stan Atkinson: A Career to Remember.”
After being asked to summarize his career, Stan, who is enjoying his retirement years with his wife, Kristen, said, “I had 46 years of working in radio and television. I loved it on the last day as much as I did the first day. There isn’t much I would ever change. Overall, I was one lucky duck.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

South Land Park resident donates funds to local Chinese school

Editor’s note: Lance Armstrong’s series on dairies in Land Park will be continued on Dec. 27.

South Land Park resident Dr. Herbert Yee, far right, recently donated a $12,500 check to Sacramento’s Confucius Chinese School. To the left of Yee stand three of the school’s students, who are holding a sign representing the school’s appreciation for this charitable donation. Photo by Lance Armstrong

South Land Park resident Dr. Herbert Yee, far right, recently donated a $12,500 check to Sacramento’s Confucius Chinese School. To the left of Yee stand three of the school’s students, who are holding a sign representing the school’s appreciation for this charitable donation. Photo by Lance Armstrong

South Land Park resident and philanthropist Dr. Herbert Yee, who is also recognized for his many years of working as a dentist in the capital city, makes it no secret that he is a staunch supporter of education.
Already known for assisting in the advancement of education through other projects, Herbert recently presented a check in the amount of $12,500 to Sacramento’s Confucius Chinese School.
The school, which has an enrollment of about 70 students, received this charitable donation during a special dinner honoring Herbert. The donation will be used for teachers’ salaries, janitorial services and school supplies.
The event, which was held on Sunday, Dec. 2 at Rice Bowl restaurant at 2378 Florin Road, began with a performance by some of the school’s students, who sang “God Bless America.”

Left to right, Dr. Jong Chen, Senator Leland Yee, Dr. Herbert Yee and Supervisor Jimmie Yee pose for this photograph after Leland Yee presented Herbert Yee with a state senate proclamation. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Left to right, Dr. Jong Chen, Senator Leland Yee, Dr. Herbert Yee and Supervisor Jimmie Yee pose for this photograph after Leland Yee presented Herbert Yee with a state senate proclamation. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Directing the event, which was attended by about 250 people, were its masters of ceremony Alfred Yee, the school’s principal, who spoke in English, and Henry Yee, who spoke in Chinese.
Represented at the event were the local Chinese Confucius Church and school, the Chinese Benevolent Association of Sacramento, the Yee Association and the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Association.
And attending the gathering as special honored guests were Alan Yee, the western grand president of the Yee Association from Los Angeles, Eddie Yee, the president of San Francisco’s Yee Association, Yi Hua Yu of Stockton’s Yee Association and Bill Wong, president of the Chinese Benevolent Association of San Francisco.
As a prelude to the dinner, the event included several speakers and presentations.
Among these speakers were Senator Leland Yee, who represents District 8 in the western half of San Francisco and the majority of San Mateo County, Sacramento County Supervisor Jimmie Yee, Dr. Jong Chen, president of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Sacramento, and Frank Kwong, president of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial and Soo Yuen Benevolent associations.
In speaking beyond the topic of Herbert’s monetary contributions, Kwong said, “(Herbert is) the nicest person, he’s my mentor, he’s a good friend, a good father. That means a lot to our community. It’s a good example of how we put our community together.”
Herbert also spoke to the gathering’s attendees, who also included his wife, Inez, their sons, Randy, Alan and Wesley, their four daughter-in-laws, and five of their grandchildren.

Dr. Herbert Yee (upper right, holding microphone) is joined on stage by students and other representatives of the local Confucius Chinese School. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Dr. Herbert Yee (upper right, holding microphone) is joined on stage by students and other representatives of the local Confucius Chinese School. Photo by Lance Armstrong

In honor of his goodwill to the Sacramento community, Herbert was presented with a state senate proclamation from Leland Yee.
He also received a proclamation from the People’s Republic of China and a plaque from the Chinese Benevolent Association of Sacramento.
And as a show of appreciation for Herbert’s financial donation to the school, students of the school presented him with a large, artistically decorated, heavy stock paper that included a drawing of an apple on a stack of books and a bullhorn-like image with the words: “Thank you, Dr. Yee, Confucius Chinese School.”
Surrounding these features were signatures of the school’s students.
Herbert is very well connected to Sacramento’s Confucius Chinese School, considering that in addition to attending the school himself, his father, Henry, and all of his sons and grandchildren were once students at the school.
Furthermore, Henry, Herbert and Randy Yee have all served on the school’s board.

Wesley Yee, the fourth son of Herbert and Inez Yee, gave a speech about his father’s life. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Wesley Yee, the fourth son of Herbert and Inez Yee, gave a speech about his father’s life. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Herbert described his longtime involvement in assisting in the advancement of education and his overall love for education.
“My love is in education,” Herbert said. “I built a school in China. That’s education. I’m on the board of the University of the Pacific. That’s education. I love the Chinese school. That’s education. I have an exhibit at the (California State) Railroad Museum. I’m on the board yet, 32 years. And that’s education about trains, transportation. I have a hologram at The California Museum about the history of our family, so that’s education. In Fiddletown, you’ll see my great-grandfather’s herb store. So, I am more attuned to encourage young people to go to college, and especially the Chinese. But now you really don’t need to encourage them. They know, especially the immigrants who come from even Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, China. That’s why (at the University of California,) Berkeley, more than half of the students are Asian, because their parents encouraged them to study.”
Herbert, who graduated from Sacramento High School in June 1942, said that his own father, who began attending Stanford University in 1918, encouraged him to attend schools to further his education.
“I skipped low 7th (grade) and I just went straight from 6th grade to high 7th (grade) and I skipped the last six months of high school,” Herbert said. “Of course, my father pushed me a little bit. Then he said, ‘You try Stanford.’ I didn’t know it was so tough to get (into Stanford), but I got in. I was there 70 years ago. Now I’m 88, almost.”
Eventually, Herbert spent more than a half century working as a dentist. This time included his work as the official dentist for the staff of governors Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan.

Confucius Chinese School students and several adults sang, “God Bless America,” at the event. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Confucius Chinese School students and several adults sang, “God Bless America,” at the event. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Herbert, who is a longtime member of the Sutter Club, American Legion Post 692, Lion’s Club District 4 C5 and Del Paso Country Club, has served as president of many organizations, including the California State Board of Dental Examiners, American Cancer Society for Sacramento County, Sacramento Chinese Benevolent Association and the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Association.
Additionally, Herbert recently reached a milestone as a South Land Park resident.
After experiencing difficulty purchasing a home in the area due to his ethnicity, Herbert was finally able to buy his current home on Nov. 2, 1952.
He celebrated the 60th anniversary of this event with his sons, and noted, “Dad is kind of a sentimental guy.”
In speaking about his achievement of purchasing a home in South Land Park, Herbert said, “I was one of the first (Chinese to live in the area). I don’t want to claim to be the (first). Since that time, quite a number of Asians have lived here.”
With his love for education, Herbert said that he is proud that his sons were able to graduate from college and become successful in their professional lives.
Randy is a retired dentist, as well as a member of the Confucius Chinese School board, Alan is a pulmonary doctor, Wesley is a dentist, and his late son, Douglas, was a dentist.
Herbert and Inez also have a granddaughter, Juliana, who is attending Stanford Law School.
Wesley, who gave a speech about his father’s life during the event, recognized the importance of his mother in his Herbert’s life.
“What my father accomplished would not have happened without the love his life and his soul mate, our mother, Inez,” Wesley said. “She raised four boys, was a Cub Scouts den leader, attended our PTA meetings and worked in my father’s office. Later she would accompany my father worldwide on his missions to help people around the world and in our nation.”
As a man who is always involved in many projects, Herbert does not feel that the word, “retired,” is a word that would best describe his current status in life.
“Now, I’d like to say I’m retired, but you know a man like me, we never retire,” Herbert said. “My mind is always thinking. I always say when I wake up in the morning, I want to think that I want to be a better person – a better person today than yesterday. And I want to see how I can best take care of my little wife, who I married 67, going on 68 years (ago), and, of course, my family and all the business I have.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

Sacramento resident calls the shots as he sees them in the Pac-10

 
David Lambros has interesting weekends every fall – he officiates at Pac-10 football games as a referee. A retired police officer, he dons his zebra stripes, whistle and yellow flag and travels to the games. “I take it seriously. I try not to smile too much on the field,” he said with a grin. “It just wouldn’t do to see a ‘happy ref’ out there.” / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Susan Laird
David Lambros has interesting weekends every fall – he officiates at Pac-10 football games as a referee. A retired police officer, he dons his zebra stripes, whistle and yellow flag and travels to the games. “I take it seriously. I try not to smile too much on the field,” he said with a grin. “It just wouldn’t do to see a ‘happy ref’ out there.” / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Susan Laird

Most people have probably seen Land Park resident David Lambros without even being aware of it.

If you watch a lot of Pac-12 football on Saturdays or catch the evening sports news, you might just catch a glimpse of him.

He can easily be spotted because of his zebra stripes, whistle and yellow flag.

Lambros started officiating in the Pac-10 in 2001, but the life of this husband and father of two began his life as a referee with more humble roots.

After spending time in the Navy (and Vietnam), Lambros came back to northern California to go to school. He attended both American River College and Sac State and eventually became a deputy sheriff in Sacramento. In a throwback to his days as a football player in high school, Lambros participated in the first four Pig Bowls which annually pits cops vs. firemen.

In 1982, Lambros found a local high school association of officials, bought his books, paid his dues and started on his way to becoming a big time official.

“They train you in the classroom and on the field,” Lambros said. “It’s kind of like an apprenticeship. You don’t get paid at first but the instructors talk to you as the game progresses and critique you.”

He started out working high school and Pop Warner games to hone his craft. In 1986, he started working junior college games before moving on to what was then called Division I-AA and Division II college games in 1992. In 1995 he moved up the latter to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and to the Mountain West Conference in 1998.

But it was 2001 that Lambros called “a big year” for him.

He moved on to the Pac-10, one of the biggest stages in college football that year. He also began officiating in the Arena Football League, which he did for eight years. He went on to explain some of the ins and outs of officiating in the Pac-10.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

“There are six Pac-10 crews,” he said. “My crew gets together in February to begin studying for the upcoming season.”

The crew meets twice per month until May, when they begin meeting weekly.

“At the end of July we have conferences and clinics and in August we work scrimmages.”

When it comes to calling games on Saturdays, Lambros still feels like it’s his first time out there.

“Every game I am at I get chills looking around at all the people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter which stadium I’m in.”

As far as his favorite venues in the Pac-10, Lambros is partial to The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, home of the UCLA Bruins. The craziest atmosphere, though, comes from up north.

“Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon is the loudest stadium I have ever been in,” he said.

It was particularly loud when he officiated the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers at their annual “Civil War” game. The rival universities have played each other every year since 1894.

The travel for a referee can be draining, but Lambros said that it isn’t too bad, because the Pac-10 schools are somewhat close to each other. Outside of bowl season, he never has to travel further than Arizona or Washington.

His list of memorable games includes a 72–68 marathon of a bowl game on Christmas Day as well as the 43–42 Idaho victory over Bowling Green in last year’s Humanitarian Bowl.

In his years as an official, Lambros was blown away by the talents of one player in particular.

Lambros is a “back judge,” which means that he deals mostly with wide receivers and defensive backs. One of the players that stuck in his mind as truly great was former USC wide receiver Mike Williams.

He also said that during his time referreeing in the Mountain West that Brian Urlacher once made a play that even he couldn’t believe while he was at New Mexico.

And as for those penalty calls viewers get irritated by, the officials’ agenda is not as sinister as some make it out to be, according to Lambros.

“When a play goes off, I have no idea who the players are or sometimes even which team is which,” he said. “I’ll see that green pushed white, so the foul is on green. I have to try my best to remember what number the guy was.”

Oct. 23 was Lambros’ final day off of the season before traveling to call the Oregon-USC game on Oct. 30 in Los Angeles. So when you are watching a Pac-10 game on the television, watch for this veteran ref chasing after receivers and throwing his pesky yellow flag.

benn@valcomnews.com

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

How the Summer of ’64 changed Janey Way

Marty Relles
Marty Relles
I graduated from Sacramento High School on June 11, 1964. Life’s possibilities seemed limitless. I enrolled for two summer classes at Sacramento City College the next week. My adult life had begun in earnest. Then something happened that summer which changed my life and the lives of all the Janey Way gang forever.

On Aug. 2, 1964, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats engaged the destroyer USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam. The Maddox sustained some moderate damage. The story made the network news that night. Two days later another attack supposedly occurred on the same ship. Then, the next day, Aug. 7, the U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which authorized the President to do whatever necessary to assist the government of South Vietnam. This didn’t seem like such a big deal to us.

Little did we know.

That fall, my friend Mike Gilson joined the U.S. Marines and went off to train at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. After eight months of training, Mike came home on leave at the beginning of summer, 1965. He swam with us at the river, went to movies and generally had a great time. After his leave, Mike shipped out for Vietnam.

We would never see Mike again.

He lost his life in a fire fight in February of the next year. When that happened, we grieved and also realized how serious the war in Vietnam was. More Janey Way kids would soon follow Mike into battle.

Jim Ducray volunteered for the Army in late 1966. He trained at Fort Ord and then received his orders for Vietnam. As he prepared to leave, his older brother Bill told him, “when you get there, tell them you can type.”

Of course, Jim couldn’t type, but when he arrived in Vietnam, he set out in search of the administrative company. He found an officer there and asked if they needed a typist. Fortunately, the officer said they did, and Jim got reassigned from his infantry unit to the typing pool.  Jim did most of his Vietnam service behind the lines and returned home unscathed.

Dick Kinzel wasn’t as lucky. He was drafted in 1967 and soon followed Jim over to Vietnam. Dick served in an artillery battery which supported the infantrymen on maneuvers in the field.  He lived through the infamous Tet Offensive of 1968 when the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong attacked U.S. bases throughout South Vietnam. It was a horrible battle and many U.S. lives were lost.

Dick told me, “It got so bad, we lowered our cannons to ground level and fired them directly at oncoming Vietnamese attackers. I was lucky to survive.”

Some of his buddies were not so lucky. Fortunately, Dick returned home in 1968.

That year my brother Terry volunteered for the U.S. Army, and soon after our neighbor Roger Thomsen received his draft notice.

Terry trained as a military policeman and shipped out to serve in Saigon.

Roger was not so lucky. He trained as an infantryman and when he reached Vietnam in mid-1969, shipped directly out to the field. Three months later he sustained serious wounds in a fire fight.

When Terry heard of Roger’s condition, he visited Roger at the hospital. There, he arranged for Roger to call his parents back home and the whole neighborhood breathed a sigh of relief. The Army soon sent Roger home to recuperate, ending his assignment to Vietnam.

Meanwhile, I received my draft notice, in April of 1969. As I was training at Fort Lewis, Washington, my brother shipped out for Vietnam. So when I finished my training, in accordance with U.S. military policy, the Army could not station me in the same combat zone with my brother.

Consequently, I received my orders to serve in West Germany along with the 80,000 other U.S. soldiers serving there. I spent the rest of my two-year army career as a member of the 510th Ordinance Battalion in Southern Germany. There I learned how to destroy my ordinance base, using C-4 plastic explosive and detonating cord in the event of a Russian attack on our base. Fortunately, that never happened. I returned home to the U.S. in the fall of 1971.

When I returned home, Sacramento seemed a much different place. Its borders stretched out to Rancho Cordova on the east, to near Elk Grove on the south and toward Roseville on the north.

Janey Way had changed too. Most of the kids of my generation had moved out of the neighborhood. I would soon follow. By this time, the war in Vietnam was winding down. Others like Denis and John Tomassetti would get the call, but they too soon returned home uninjured.

The war had changed us all.

We had to grow up quickly. We had all served our county honorably. After all was said and done, we had lost a dear friend, others sustained life-changing injuries, both physical and mental, and on Janey Way life would never be the same again.

‘The Last Full Measure of Devotion’ Wall of Honor ceremony to induct fallen hero

 

 

One of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District’s most unique parks, Patriots Park, will add one more name to its Wall of Honor during a special ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 10 a.m.

A ceremony will be held on Saturday, Nov. 6 to introduce the twelfth inductee of the Wall of Honor at Patriots Park. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

A ceremony will be held on Saturday, Nov. 6 to introduce the twelfth inductee of the Wall of Honor at Patriots Park. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Although the park is only three years old, many who are familiar with this 3.68-acre neighborhood park know that it is far from an ordinary recreation and leisure spot.

At the center of the park sits a 20-foot-long by 3-foot-tall by 3-foot-wide concrete and stone wall with much more significance than its durable materials.

Recognized as the Wall of Honor, the wall is so significant, in fact, that when the park was dedicated on Nov. 15, 2008, an entirely separate dedication was held on the same day to present the Wall of Honor and its first inductees to the public.

The park, which is located just east of the Carmichael-Fair Oaks border at 6827 Palm Avenue, off Dewey Drive, features the latest in park designs with walking paths, a playground, a picnic area, a basketball court and a butterfly garden.

But it is the Wall of Honor, which is the park’s most treasured feature.

Tracy Kerth, recreation services manager of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District, observes a photograph of the wall’s newest inductee, Lt. j.g. David A. Warne. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Tracy Kerth, recreation services manager of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District, observes a photograph of the wall’s newest inductee, Lt. j.g. David A. Warne. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The wall features 11 plaques with the names of local heroes, who gave their lives serving their country or community.

The Nov. 6 ceremony will honor former Navy pilot, Lt. j.g. David A. Warne, who was lost at sea at the age of 27 on Jan. 12, 1991 during a nighttime training mission over the Mediterranean Sea.

Tracy Kerth, recreation services manager of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District, explained the background of the creation of the Wall of Honor.

“We were trying to name the park and the community came forward and they said, ‘Well, how about we name it after this young man (the late Army Sgt. Ronald L. Coffelt), who grew up in the area and his family still lives here.’ But then we started thinking about all of our heroes. So, then we thought about naming (the park) Patriots Park and having a Wall of Honor and that would include not only military people, but it would include firefighters and police and CHP and Sheriffs and civilians who died in the line of duty.”

With the creation of the wall, such local heroes who resided, worked in or served the community within the park district boundaries could be honored as part of this lasting monument.

This honor is available to those who showed acts of courage beginning as early as 1945, when the district was established.

 

Nominations for candidates for the Wall of Honor are accepted until July 31 every year.

Official nomination forms are available through the district’s Web site www.carmichaelpark.com or by calling (916) 485-5322 to arrange for a form to be mailed via the United States Postal Service.

The first inductees

The first inductees to have their names placed on plaques and displayed on the Wall of Honor were:: As previously mentioned, Coffelt was the inspiration for the Wall of Honor.

Photographs of the Wall of Honor’s first inductees sit on the wall in 2008. / Photo courtesy of Carmichael RPD

Photographs of the Wall of Honor’s first inductees sit on the wall in 2008. / Photo courtesy of Carmichael RPD

Army Sgt. Ronald L. Coffelt

Raised within walking distance from the park, Coffelt, a graduate of Del Campo High School, died on July 19, 2007 from wounds that he suffered as a result of a bomb that exploded near him in Baghdad.

Army Spc. Raymond Nigel Spencer, Jr.: Spencer, who was raised in Carmichael and excelled in hockey during his youth, was killed less than a month prior to Coffelt’s death when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.

Sheriff Deputies Kevin Patrick Blount and Joseph Kievernagel: Blount and Kievernagel, who worked as partners in the North Division serving Carmichael, lost their lives during a burglary call on July 15, 2005, when the engine of the helicopter they were flying failed and the helicopter crashed.

CHP Officer Ronald Eugene Davis: Following his graduation from the California Highway Patrol academy, Davis moved his family from Carmichael to Barstow.

Davis died at the age of 25 when he was driving about 100 miles per hour while en route to a traffic accident.

When a pair of motorists failed to heed his siren, Davis, in order to avoid a collision, died when he drove off the highway into the desert.

Army 1st Lt. Robert Scott Byrnes: A graduate of La Sierra High School, Byrnes, a former lifeguard and swimming instructor at Carmichael Park, lost his life in Vietnam.

Firefighter Dean Wesley Rhoades: An El Camino High School graduate, Rhoades died shortly after fighting a house fire in Carmichael on Jan. 6, 1981.

The second inductees

Last year, plaques for the following inductees were also added to the wall:

Army Spc. James Edward Schlottman: An El Camino High School graduate, Schlottman was killed by a booby trap while on patrol in Vietnam on Aug. 22, 1967.

Sgt. Brian E. Dunlap: A graduate of Del Campo High School, Dunlap was killed at the age of 38 on Sept. 24, 2005, when a roadside bomb exploded during his patrol in northern Baghdad.

Sgt. Larry Morford: The courage of Morford is recognized in the book, “The Least Beastly,” by Bernard “Burn” Loeffke.

Within a memorial tribute to Morford in this book, it is explained that despite being a young man who did not believe in war as a method of resolving disputes, Morford felt that he could not stay at home knowing that other young men were fighting for his country.

On Feb. 12, 1970, Morford, a graduate of La Sierra High School, was killed at the age of 21 in Vietnam while serving in his patrol just a few days prior to when he was scheduled to return home.

Cpt. Olin E. Gilbert, Jr.: While flying an F-106 in a training mission at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on June 11, 1968, Gilbert was met with the plane’s sudden mechanical difficulties.

Instead of parachuting to safety, Gilbert, a Vietnam veteran, piloted the plane out to sea and away from coastline homes in Port St. Joe, Fla.

This act of heroism cost Gilbert his life, but in turn saved the lives of many other people.

A special honor for a local heroUnlike the previous two Wall of Honor ceremonies, the upcoming Nov. 6 ceremony will honor only one inductee.

This year’s inductee, David A. Warne, formerly resided in Fair Oaks and graduated from Sacramento State University in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

David, who enjoyed skiing and fishing and briefly worked at Aerojet prior to entering active duty in the Navy in 1987, completed his pilot training two years later and was assigned as an F/A-18 pilot.

Although David has a marker in the Arlington National Cemetery, since his body was never recovered after he was lost at sea, it was not possible for his remains to be buried in a local cemetery.

Because of this fact, David’s family and some of his closest friends, who will be attending the event, are additionally appreciative that David will have his name officially placed on the Wall of Honor.

David’s mother, Betty Warne, recently expressed her appreciation that her son will have a local memorial to honor him.

“We don’t have the grave marker here in the area for him, so that’s really nice to have (David’s name on the Wall of Honor) here in this area,” Betty said.

David’s father, Evans Warne, a retired Air Force colonel, pilot and Vietnam veteran, also expressed his appreciation that his son’s name will be placed on the wall.

Navy Lt. j.g. David A. Warne will become the twelfth local hero to have his name placed on the Wall of Honor. / Photo courtesy of Carmichael RPD

Navy Lt. j.g. David A. Warne will become the twelfth local hero to have his name placed on the Wall of Honor. / Photo courtesy of Carmichael RPD

“(Having David honored on the wall) means an awful lot to me,” Evans said. “It means that somebody is recognizing his service and that whoever goes to that park will realize what a sacrifice he made and recognize what he did.”

Lee Ann Yarber, administrative analyst of the park district, said that the ceremony, which will also be attended by park district advisory board members and Sacramento County District 3 Supervisor Susan Peters, is a great opportunity for the community to show appreciation for David, as well as other heroes of the Wall of Honor.

“We absolutely invite all the community to come out – anybody who ever lost a loved one or anybody who wants to pay honor to the family of the fallen hero,” Yarber said. “It’s just a nice ceremony, so come on out and honor our local heroes.”

Navy Lt. j.g. David A. Warne, who was lost at sea at the age of 27 on Jan. 12, 1991, will be honored in a special ceremony at Patriots Park on Saturday, Nov. 6. / Photo courtesy of Carmichael RPD

Navy Lt. j.g. David A. Warne, who was lost at sea at the age of 27 on Jan. 12, 1991, will be honored in a special ceremony at Patriots Park on Saturday, Nov. 6. / Photo courtesy of Carmichael RPD

Growing goodwill, one flower at a time

A rose can mean any number of things to any number of people. It can symbolize love, friendship, appreciation and myriad other feelings. But what does it mean to have the best rose garden in the United States? The State Capitol rose garden in Sacramento hopes to find out come July.

Sylvia Villalobos and TJ David, co-creators of the International World Peace Rose Gardens, stand among the roses at the State Capitol World Peace Rose Garden. (Photo courtesy)
Sylvia Villalobos and TJ David, co-creators of the International World Peace Rose Gardens, stand among the roses at the State Capitol World Peace Rose Garden. (Photo courtesy)
But before the bells and whistles of competition, knowing what this rose garden is about is more important.

Odds are you’ve been there and seen the garden. It is a Sacramento landmark. But why is it there? Certainly many are glad that it is, but what is the real reason behind it?

If you were to ask people on the streets of Sacramento why the rose garden is part of the grounds of the capitol building, many would answer that it’s a war memorial. Others might say that it’s there just because it’s pretty. Both good answers, but the message this garden conveys is on an even grander scale.

The full name of the garden is actually the State Capitol World Peace Rose Garden.

Why world peace? Simple, according to Sylvia Villalobos, former Sacramento resident and co-creator and President of International World Peace Rose Gardens.

“There’s nothing more meaningful than peace and love,” she said. “We wanted to try to unite people from all nations and religions.”

T.J. David, Pocket area resident and co-creator and chief financial officer of the aforementioned group, talked about how these roses came to be in our own backyard.

“We got the concept in 1995,” he said. “We wanted to create a garden for the community that would honor the diversity of California and the world.”

The dedication of the garden took place in May of 2003, showing that the process was an arduous one.

The first step was to get permission to revitalize the pre-existing rose garden on the capitol lot. The idea was put before both the state legislature, which was eventually passed by the senate and the assembly. Then it was a matter of coming up with fundraising programs and pitching presentations to a number of local groups.

This all took time. Not to mention the fact that the plan was delayed further after a truck slammed into the capitol building back in 2001. Before the dedication, the roses were transplanted from a location where they had been growing for two years prior in 50-pound pots. David said that the total weight of the transplanted roses weighed an astounding 16 and three quarter tons.

Villalobos called the whole ordeal “a million dollar project.”

 

The peace garden project

The garden is one of five world peace rose gardens in the world. The first of which was The Gandhi World Peace Memorial in Pacific Palisades, California in 1984. Since then there have been gardens erected in Atlanta, Ga.; Mexico City, Mexico; Assisi, Italy and the one here in Sacramento. There are proposals in place for gardens in Vietnam, Brazil and China as well, according to Villalobos.

Throughout the Sacramento garden, there are messages of peace from children all over the area. Thirty-four local schools participated. There are also benches throughout that were sponsored by different groups around Sacramento including the Muslim, gay/lesbian and Hmong communities.

All of the peace gardens are spectacular in their own right, but ask David or Villalobos what they think is the best-looking rose garden in the world and they’ll tell you it’s the one just down the street.

“We believe ours is tops,” Villalobos said. “It is elegant, well-maintained and has meaning to the community.”

“Some gardens may be larger than ours, but none of them have our amenities,” David said of Sacramento’s half-acre spread. “It’s like no other garden in the world. It’s architecturally stunning.”

Sacramento’s garden has 165 different varieties of rose, according to David, and at any one time there can be as many as 700 blooms.

 

The contest

The chance for the Sacramento garden to prove it grows the best blossom comes in the form of a contest put on by All-America Rose Selections (AARS), an organization that annually names official roses of the year. This year, however, a new contest has arisen to name the best rose garden in the United States.

The “America’s Best Rose Garden Contest” is an online contest that is open for voting now through July 1. There are 134 accredited gardens in the country; 14 of which reside in California according to Villalobos.

“It’s a contest about beauty, but also about meaning,” Villalobos said.

If you think Sacramento’s garden deserves to win it you can go to www.worldpeacerosegardens.org and follow the directions therein. For more information about Sacramento’s garden, go to the above Web site of call   1-800-205-1223 .

 

E-mail Benn Hodapp at benn@valcomnews.com.