Sunday, 14 July 2024


Nelson Hopper and wife, Earlene, at their home at the Big Valley Rancheria. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKE COUNTY – Nelson Hopper still remembers the war.

Some days, the 91-year-old World War II veteran says tears begin to run down his face, coming seemingly from nowhere. He said his war experience affects him a lot.

“I've seen some terrible things happen,” he said, which made him think differently about his life and the world.

Yet his recollections of the war aren't clouded by fear or sadness.

“I remember a lot of those things really clear. I can remember it still. It's never left my mind,” he said.

Born in February 1917, Hopper was raised on the Big Valley Rancheria.

On March 3, 1943, at age 26, Hopper was drafted into the US Army at the rank of private. He was shipped to Monterey and then to Camp Bowie, Texas, where he took his basic training, before being sent on to Fort Hood, Texas, to receive training as part of the 651st Tank Destroyer Battalion.

From there he was sent to Maryland and then put aboard the USS Marine Raven and sent to the European Theater.

He didn't make the Normandy Invasion; instead, he and fellow soldiers were sent to Scotland and then put on trains into England in May of 1944. A month later, they were sent by ship to Utah Beach in Franch. There, Hopper was placed in the Third Army, Fifth Division's infantry, under Gen. George Patton.

“I respected all those officers,” Hopper said of Patton and the other US war leaders. “They don't have them like that anymore.”

Hopper said he was afraid of dying in Europe, so far away from his home. He prayed every day and night, in his foxhole and as he went about his duties, asking to survive the war and get home safe. He said he promised to be a good person if he survived. “I live by that code, still.”

His grandmother called for a Big Head Dance to protect Hopper when he was first drafted, and another dance would be held after he was sent abroad.

While Hopper would survive the war to return to his family, they weren't left unscathed by the war. Hopper's uncle, Willie Holmes, died in Italy during the Battle of Anzio in January of 1944..

American Indians weren't segregated from other races in the Army during World War II, said Hopper, which is what happened to black soldiers.

Hopper became a squad leader, and said the men referred to him as “chief.” “I didn't mind that,” he said, adding that it was done in a friendly manner.

In fact, he said when many of his fellow soldiers discovered he was Indian, they treated him “like a king.”

During the terribly cold winter that began in late 1944, Hopper was in Germany, where he would shortly take part in the Battle of the Bulge.

He remembers an encounter with an elderly German man, who approached Hopper as he was burning wax paper from his K-rations to heat his coffee.

The German, who had gone to school in the United States, asked Hopper about his race, and Hopper replied he was an American Indian.

“This is not the Indian's war,” Hopper recalled the man saying. The man added that the US “took everything” from Indians.

Hopper said he told the man he was doing his duty and, when it was over, he looked forward to going home.

A short time later, in December of 1944, Hopper was wounded in the foot during the Battle of the Bulge.

Hopper said he didn't see many fellow American Indians while serving. However, it was a young American Indian medic who picked him up to take him to a field hospital after he was shot.

Not only was the medic Indian, he also was from the Lake County area. The medic's name was Bennett Elliott, who died at age 97 this past April. Hopper said Elliott would later remind him of their chance meeting, which Hopper said he hadn't initially recalled because he had been heavily medicated for pain.

Elliott took Hopper to a field hospital; from there, Hopper was sent to a hospital in Paris. During that time, he developed gangrene in his wounded foot and nearly lost his leg.

From Paris, Hopper was sent to a hospital in Birmingham, England, where he underwent spinal taps to deal with his swelling leg.

It would take him three months of hospitalization to recover, but even today he deals with the pain from that injury, which occasionally flares up in the form of pain and swelling.

In the spring of 1945, freshly released from the hospital, Hopper found himself once again headed back to France and then to Worms, Germany.

“By golly, the war ended while I was at Worms,” he said with a grin.

He found himself once again on the move, with the Army shipping him back to Marseilles, France. There, he was placed in the publications office. Hopper said he couldn't type and had no other publication-type skills initially, but they sent him to a 10-day school, where he learned to run a mimeograph machine.

But his service came to an end shortly afterward, as the war in Europe drew to a close.

“I feel, even to this day, that I had God on my side,” he said.

Placed aboard the hospital ship USS General Richardson, Hopper made his way home to the United States, landing in Boston after a 14-day sea crossing in a convoy of 74 ships, all of them zigzagging to avoid submarines.

“I was so happy to get back,” he said.

From Camp Miles Standish in Boston he was sent to Camp Beale in Marysville, where he was discharged. From there, he hitchhiked home to Lake County.

Initially, when he got home, Hopper said he didn't apply for disability due to his wounds. However, the Red Cross made application for him and he received a 10-percent disability determination. The Veterans Administration also did followup exams on his wounds in San Francisco.

He eventually went to work in Ukiah on the courthouse, and his foreman got him interested in becoming an ironworker, a job which took him to the Bay Area.

It was while climbing on a building project one day that he realized he was frightened of climbing, which hadn't happened to him before. That's when the Veterans Administration diagnosed him with what is known today as post traumatic stress disorder.

“'You have a problem and it's terrible,'” he recalled a VA doctor telling him.

“I still have it,” he added. “I'm scared even to this day.”

The same courage that took him through the war years went with him through the rest of his life. Hopper continued as an ironworker, eventually becoming a foreman and taking jobs around the state, including building underground missile silos at an Air Force base near Monterey.

He said he never let tough times get him down.

An opportunity came to go to South America for a dam project, but Hopper couldn't take his first wife with him, so he turned it down.

When he left the war behind, Hopper also left behind tokens of his service, in the form of his medals and awards, which he refused based on his Indian beliefs.

“We never do things to be praised for it,” he said. “We do it because it needs to be done.”

When he came home to Lake County, he joined the Joy Madeiros Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015. In 1986, the VFW post went to the US government – without Hopper's knowledge – to ask for the medals on Hopper's behalf.

During the Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11, 1986, decades after he had left the medals behind, Hopper got a surprise. He was called to the podium and presented with his awards and medals.

“I almost fell over,” he said.

He received that day the Bronze Star for Valor; a Purple Heart for the wound he suffered at the Battle of the Bulge; an Army Good Conduct Medal; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four stars; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Combat Infantry Medal, which Hopper said he's proudest of, since it proves he was in combat.

Along with his medals, he received a letter from Superior Court Judge John J. Golden, congratulating him on his service.

This past May, an event was held to honor American Indian veterans, and Hopper was presented a flag and offered the event prayer. It was the first such occasion to specifically honor the contributions of American Indians to protect a country that is still very much theirs.

Today, Hopper has come full circle. He lives once again at Big Valley Rancheria with his wife, Earlene. The couple, married since 2000, live in a little house that looks out onto Clear Lake – or Xa-bahten, as it's known in the tribe's native language of Bahtssal, of which he's believed to be one of the last native speakers.

He has four children, two sons and two daughters, and numerous grandchildren, among them attorneys with Boalt School of Law degrees. His son, Joseph Myers, is executive director of the National Indian Justice Center, based in Santa Rosa.

Over the years, Hopper has taught young tribal members how to build tule boats and how to dance in and conduct ceremonies.

“I live here like I do because I'm an Indian,” he said. “I'm comfortable.”

While he jokes that he's been around “too damn long,” at 91 Hopper is still tall, active and optimistic.

“I'm shooting for 100, anyway,” he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKE COUNTY – As county residents have struggled with rising gas prices over the past year, they've found one attractive option to help pay less at the pump.

It's called public transit.

“We've had steady growth through the year,” said Mark Wall, transit manager for the Lake Transit Authority.

In the 2007-08 fiscal year, ridership grew by 8 percent in the first, quarter, 15 percent in the second, 20 percent in the third and in the fourth, 27 percent, said Wall.

Those increases were helped by a few factors, said Wall, including improved service on the transit authority's route one, which runs along Highway 20.

But the big jump came when gas prices began climbing steeply. “All of a sudden ridership really went through the roof,” he said.

As a comparison, he points to July 2008's ridership numbers, which hit 30,126, putting it at 45-percent above July 2007.

“Ridership is up particularly on any route that goes a long distance,” Wall said.

Big ridership changes were noted on route one along Highway 20 and the Northshore, which increased in passengers by 55 percent; route three from Calistoga to Middletown; route four, running between Clearlake and Lakeport on Highway 29; and route seven to Ukiah.

“The bad news was we were overbudget,” said Wall.

Rising fuel prices, which increased the numbers of people using the bus, also proved a primary cause of the budget overrun. Wall said the authority had planned to spent $289,000 on fuel for the year, but ran over by 16 percent, ending up at $333,800.

In the past year, the authority also changed contractors, with Laidlaw's contract ceasing in July of 2007, to be succeeded by Paratransit Services, said Wall. “It's been a much better situation this year with our new contractor.”

Wall, who also manages Del Norte County's transit authority, notes that bus ridership is up all over the state.

Lake County is on the high end, noted Wall, higher even than some urban areas when it comes to the increases in use it's seeing. That's because people move to transit services more when they live in areas where there are greater distance to travel.

Wall noted that Del Norte County is seeing even more new ridership than Lake, thanks to revisions in its transit system.

That's one big concern here in Lake County – how to make the service more available and useful to a wider range of customers.

“Over the years we've seen a wide variety of people who use the service, but most of them are low income,” he said.

However, Lake Transit recently conducted a ridership survey, said Wall. “We're getting people we've never heard from before.”

Employees in some county offices are using the transit to go to work, and Wall said Social Services now wants to sell monthly passes at their site.

Wall said they're working on a transit development plan, which includes adding more commuter-oriented runs on routes one along the Northshore and four, between Clearlake and Lakeport.

One way to expand the service is to add to its range of hours. Most routes run from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, said Wall, with only one going until 8 p.m.

He said the authority has just applied for a grant to add morning and evening runs between Clearlake and Calistoga with connections to Lakeport, and an evening run between the Lakeport and Clearlake.

But the hope of expanding the service may be hampered by the state's raiding of transit assistance fund monies, which comes from sales tax. Those funds have been gobbled up by the state budget process the past two years, which Wall said will likely happen again this year.

“We're supposed to be receiving more money from state than likely to see,” said Wall.

Transit agencies all over the state want to expand their services but are being hampered because those funds are drying up, said Wall.

While Lake Transit would like to revise its services to meet greater demands, Wall said the process will have to move more slowly than they would like and will be predicated on the availability of money.

If gas prices remain high, Wall said he expects over the long term for transit to become more like it used to be, with more private ownership and less public subsidies.

In the mean time, Lake Transit is focusing on some small changes that can have big returns, such as having its service and routes added to Google's transit tracking service. They're also installing a new bus tracking system to see if buses are running on time, since late buses have proved a problem for the system.

They are planning for several new route changes next January and February, with a third bus route set for Clearlake, and modifications being considered for a few of the other routes as well, said Wall. If they get their grant, they may be able to run some routes more often, especially during commute times.

The eventual goal for route one along the Northshore, said Wall, is to have hourly bus runs. Those runs used to take four hours, and now are down to two.

In the fall of 2009, Lake Transit is aiming to add another Lakeport route, which will move from the city's northern area down to Konocti Vista Casino, looping through town and onto the freeway.

Wall added that Lake Transit is partnering with the Area Agency on Aging to do a senior transportation project between Clearlake Oaks and Spring Valley.

Another challenge for the future is enough buses, and the right kind of buses, to enable Lake Transit to meet its growing demands.

Lake Transit currently has 20 buses but it needs more, with two on order, said Wall, and three more, smaller buses also soon to be ordered. Depending on the state budget, more also could be purchased soon to both enlarge the fleet and replace aging buses.

Wall said the authority's buses are diesel. They're discussing other possible fuel alternatives as they look at the future, with hybrid vehicles offering promise. Hybrids using compressed natural gas tend to run between $400,000 and $500,000 for a new bus, compared to $200,000 for a new diesel bus, said Wall.

Biodiesel also might work if a consistent local or regional source were available. However, Wall added, “It's got a lot of problems for us to use.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Preparation is being made by three North Lake Garden Club Members, Henry Bethel, Don Smith and Bill Casey for the Blue Star Memorial by-way marker that will be dedicated in Nice on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – Special commemorative events are scheduled to take place around Lake County and the nation on Veterans Day, this coming Tuesday, Nov. 11.

During Veterans Day, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake calls on Americans to recognize the nation's 23.4 million living veterans and the generations before them who fought to protect freedom and democracy.

"While our foremost thoughts are with those in distant war zones today, Veterans Day is an opportunity for Americans to pay their respects to all who answered the nation's call to military service,” said Peake. “Participation in Veterans Day can be as simple as putting out the porch flag or reminding youngsters of the story of a relative who served in the military.”

As part of the national Veterans Day observance, Peake will join White House and military officials and leaders of the major veterans organizations at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m.

Here in Lake County, the day's events will begin at 7 a.m., as the Avenue of the Flags is posted by volunteers at the Upper Lake, Hartley and Lower Lake cemeteries.

At 8 a.m., a flag-raising ceremony will take place at Veterans Circle at Hartley Cemetery, 2552 Hill Road East, Lakeport.

The main event of the day will begin at 11 a.m. at the Little Theater at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The county's Veterans Day Ceremony and Celebration features speakers and awards to a veteran of the year and an individual who works on behalf of veterans and their issues.

The day will be marked by a very special dedication ceremony from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Nice, where a Blue Star Memorial by-way marker will be unveiled at Triangle Park, located at Manzanita and Howard streets.

The North Lake Garden Club cordially invites the public to the dedication to honor the men and women who served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Dignitaries and participants will include Supervisor Denise Rushing; Public Services Director Kim Clymire; United Veterans Council Chaplain Capt. Woody Hughes; United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team; Elijah Christopher, Navy Construction Builder, Second Class Petty Officer, BU2; California Garden Clubs Inc. President Robin Pokorski; Mendo-Lake District Director GinaBelle Smith; Karen Seydel, Ukiah Bagpipes; Betty Lindvig, Potter Valley Garden Club; Henry Bethel, president, North Lake Garden Club; Sharon Thorne, Blue Star Chairman, North Lake Garden Club; and

Kris Ruben, vice president, North Lake Garden Club.

At 4 p.m., a retreat ceremony with the lowering of the flag will take place at Veterans Circle at Hartley Cemetery.

Later that evening, Chapter 951 of Vietnam Veterans of America will hold its monthly potluck dinner and general meeting. The potluck begins at 6 p.m., with the meeting at 7 p.m.

The group meets at Saint Mary Immaculate Parish Hall, 801 N. Main St., Lakeport. All Vietnam-era veterans, veterans of all eras, their families and friends, and members of the general public are all cordially welcome.




KELSEYVILLE – If you have ever travelled down Sylar Lane in Kelseyville it’s pretty likely that you are familiar with William “Hukk” Hukkanen. He’s an iconic figure in the little town as he sits in his rocking chair on his front porch giving passers by a wave or nod.

William B. Hukkanen was born in Kelseyville in December 1923 at the Allison house, which stood where the telephone building is now. This proud veteran will celebrate his 85th birthday in December.

Every day he sits on the front porch of the home he has lived in since 1926, enjoying the outdoors and the friendly waves from folks. Don’t think for a minute that is the extent of his day though.

“Hukk,” as he likes to be called, works a large garden, chops wood and cooks his own meals. He remains very active, reads voraciously and is not shy about sharing his opinion. At nearly 85 years old and having served his country, he’s earned that right.

Hukk joined the United States Navy in August 1942. He was anxious to serve his country and defend her after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While in the Navy, Hukk served aboard several ships before he was discharged in December 1945 and returned to his home town of Kelseyville.






Some time ago he composed a synopsis of his time in the Navy, which follows.

“Well, they went and did it – bombed Pearl Harbor about 1300 or 1400 hours Pacific Time. I was not too shocked because I had figured out that we would go to war with Japan. As soon as I could get a ride, I went to the Santa Rosa Navy Recruiting Station, about 50 miles away from my home. I enlisted in the Navy, but they sent me home to finish high school and told me they would call me when needed. At present, they had more people than they knew what to do with.

“They called me in August 1942 to the Naval Recruiting Station in San Francisco and sent me to boot camp at NTS San Diego. In October 1942, I reported to the USS South Dakota (BB-57) and served in her through the battle of Santa Cruz in October and Savo Island in November in the Solomon Islands.

“In December1942 I transferred to the USS McCawley (APA-4) and served in her while hauling troops and cargo and making landings in the Solomon Islands. She was sunk in the Blanche Strait near Rendova Island in June 1943 and I was transferred to the USS President Hayes (APA-20). I served in her hauling troops and cargo and was coxswain on a Higgins boat in the first wave when we made landings in Bougainville. We also made the landing on Emary Island before I was transferred back to the US in April 1944 for 30 days leave and to work on the construction of a new ship.

“I reported aboard the USS Bering Strait (AVP-34) in July 1944 at Kirkland Shipyard in Seattle and our shakedown cruise was to Pearl Harbor. We then took part in the invasion of the Marshalls, Gilberts and Saipan, as well as working air sea rescue for the B-29s bombing Japan. Working as a coxswain or bow hook on a rescue vessel, we picked up five crews from the ocean.

“I returned to the US and was transferred to the USS Tamalpais (AO-96) in May 1945. After a shakedown cruise, we spent time in the Marshalls, Gilberts, Admiralty Islands and then on to the occupation of Japan.



William Hukkanen as a young man, during his service in the Navy in World War II. Courtesy photo.



“In summation of my time in the Navy, I would probably have reenlisted if it hadn’t gotten so chicken after the war was over. We got a bunch of 90-day wonders who were constantly trying to tell me how to do my seamanship after I had served in five ships. I loved my ships with the mother image they portrayed and the great crews. I served with some of the best skippers in the fleet and a couple not so good. I did some time on bread and water and stood before the mast and had a blast in the Navy.

“I came out of the Navy with 10 Battle Stars on my Pacific Ribbons and two Ship Citations from the Secretary of the Navy. When I go “deep six” I will say, “Boy, am I glad I did that!” If this sounds a little salty, well I was, and I still am!

“My son is helping me write a book on my time in the Navy. It’s good reading for sailors because they understand what I am about. They say, “Once a jarhead, always a jarhead.” Once a blue water sailor, always a sailor.”

Hukkanen earned several awards during his naval service. He does not brag but is tremendously proud of his service, the men he served with and especially of those who never made it home.

His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the Navy Unit Citation with two stars, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 10 stars, the World War II Victory Medal and the Navy Occupation Service Medal (Japan).

When he shows you his awards he talks with sincerity and his voice cracks and eyes water when he remembers the men who gave their all, never to return to their families.

Hukkanen was married twice and currently lives with his two dogs, Sally and Scooter. On relationships with women he says, “I learned a long time ago not to argue with women. That’s a fight you can’t win.”

His son, Sam, is employed at the Kelseyville Fire Department and his daughter, Kristine, lives in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

As for life today he said, “'Generation gap’ is an older person’s excuse ‘cause they can’t communicate.” He mentioned that he chats with the kids walking past his porch and shows an interest in them, something he believes matters in their lives.

Hukk also believes people have lost focus on what really matters. He said, “People want more than they can get. That’s why we’re in such trouble.”

As for him, Hukk says, “My life has been a helluva good ride. I never hurt nobody, that I know of.”

He added, “I could go outta here tomorrow and I’d be OK. If you live with a fear of death you’ll be scared your whole life.”

Ginny Craven is the founder of Operation Tango Mike. On Veterans Day 2007 she received the annual “Friend of the Veteran Award.” Craven lives in Kelseyville.


LAKEPORT – The Lake County Planning Commission will consider projects including a telecommunications tower and two requests regarding subdivisions at its next meeting this week.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13, in the board chambers at the Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes, Lakeport.

At 9:05 a.m., the commission will hold a public hearing to consider a mitigated negative declaration based on initial study for a major use permit.

Peacock Associates Inc./Metro PCS has applied for the project, and proposes replacing a 120-foot guy wired lattice tower with a new 120-foot self-supporting lattice tower. The project is located at 9280 Konocti Road, Kelseyville.

South Lake County Fire Protection District has applied to purchase an approximately 13,720 square foot parcel to use as a parking lot at 15476 Graham St. A public hearing will be held on the proposal at 9:40 a.m.

At 9:45 a.m., a public hearing will take place to consider a mitigated negative declaration based on initial study for a parcel map. Glen Rolfe has applied to renew an expired tentative parcel map to subdivide approximately 15.76 acres located at 1000 Robin Hill Road in Lakeport in order to create three parcels.

The Vintage Faire subdivision also will be on the Thursday agenda and the subject of a 10:10 a.m. public hearing for considering of a subsequent negative declaration based on initial study for general plan of development.

De Nova Homes is proposing a one-year time extension of the subdivision's general development plan; the proposed project is located at 20740 and 20830 State Highway 29, Middletown.

The final public hearing of the day is set for 10:40 a.m. The hearing will be for an administrative appeal (AA 08-03) of the Community Development Department's determination to deny issuance of a Certificate of Compliance.

The appellant is Edwin Rohner, proposing a Certificate of Compliance on their parcel after a lot line adjustment was recorded that appears to have erased any underlying parcels of record. The project is located at 5087 State St., Kelseyville.

Planning Commissioners include Monica Rosenthal, District 1; Gary Briggs, District 2; Clelia Baur, District 3; Cliff Swetnam, District 4; and Gil Schoux, District 5.


LAKE COUNTY – After three decades of bringing beautiful music to Lake County, Clear Lake Performing Arts is preparing to celebrate its 30th


The county's primary music support group, will mark its special day on Sunday, Nov. 16, with a special concert at Clear Lake High School followed by a no-host dinner at the Little Theater building at the Lake County fairgrounds.

Clear Lake Performing Arts was founded in 1978 under the tutelage of Jean and Lucien Mitchell. They had both been members of the San Francisco Symphony and Opera orchestras, and who wanted to help provide the same sort of cultural opportunities in Lake County – the place they had chosen for retirement.

Their first task was to recruit enough musicians to form a small orchestra and in this they were successful.

The first performance of what came to be the Lake County Symphony took place at the Konocti Harbor resort. Two years later John Parkinson joined as director and conductor and has since built it into one of the largest and best small-market orchestras in California.

Since its founding CLPA also has offered substantial support for the conversion of Lakeport's Soper-Reese theater into a music venue.

For the anniversary program Parkinson has chosen music from the best works of half a dozen 19th century composers starting with the overture from Austrian Franz Schubert's "Rosamunde." Although relatively unknown during his lifetime, Schubert achieved international fame after his untimely early death at the age of 31 in 1828.

The composer of Parkinson's next selection, the overture from "The Barber of Seville," had no such problem. Gioachino Rossini was the writer of 39 operas, many of them in the buffo or comic opera style, of which Barber is perhaps the best known. He was one of the most popular composers of his day.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was another well-known composer whose opera, "Marriage of Figaro," was nearly banned when it was introduced. The symphony will play the overture from this classic tale of social inequality as its next piece. French composer Jacques Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" will conclude the pre-intermission portion of the concert.

During intermission the ladies of the CLPA Auxiliary will serve complimentary cookies and juice, after which the 20 young people making up the CLPA Youth Orchestra will present their much-rehearsed version of "The Anniversary Waltz."

Andi Skelton, who also doubles as Symphony Concert Mistress, will then lead her Konocti Fiddle Club into a medley of favorites.

The second half of the symphony program will open with Mozart's popular "Serenade in D, K. 239 while the concluding number will highlight another Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn with his "London Symphony No. 104" – the last of his 12 so-called London Symphonies.

At the conclusion of the concert many of the musicians will join CLPA members in a no-host catered buffet dinner at the Lake County Fairgrounds Little Theater building. Members of the general public are also encouraged to participate, since it's a perfect opportunity to get personally acquainted with both CLPA members and members of the orchestra.

The menu consists of sliced barbecue tri-tips, chicken thighs, potato and green salad, beans, rolls and soft drinks. Wines will be offered for sampling by CLPA Wine Committee enthusiasts. Cost of the dinner is $25, and advance reservations are a must. They can be made by calling 263-5876.

The concert will start at 3 p.m. and end in time for all those planning to attend dinner at the fairgrounds to arrive their by the scheduled meal time of 6 p.m.

Concert tickets are $15 for CLPA members and $20 general admission. Young people under 18 are admitted free of charge.

For more information about CLPA, visit the group's Web site at


WASHINGTON, D.C. On Monday, two groups representing thousands of American veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW), announced that they have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks to end the unconscionable delays experienced by veterans when applying for disability benefits. VVA and VMW seek immediate action to prevent further irreparable harm to our nation's veterans.

VVA has a local chapter, 951, that serves the county's large Vietnam veteran population.

The lawsuit demands that the VA provide an initial decision on every veteran's claim for disability benefits within 90 days and resolve appeals within 180 days.

Additionally, the veterans groups ask that the Court grant further relief in the form of interim benefits awards in the event that the VA exceeds these minimum standards of constitutionally-guaranteed due process. These interim benefits will provide veterans with a lifeline of support when it is most needed to facilitate reintegration into their lives back home.

"The failure to expedite veterans' compensation claims creates, at best, the impression that the nation does not respect its veterans," said John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America. "America's veterans deserve more, and the VA's failure to fulfill its responsibilities brings dishonor to our nation and can only make the call of military service more challenging."

The VA acknowledges that it takes an average of at least six months to reach an initial decision on an average benefits claim; the actual delay is closer to a year.

Appeals of these initial decisions, which are reversed more than 50 percent of the time, take, on average, more than four years, with some stretching 10 years or more. In contrast, private health care plans – which process more than 30 billion claims a year – process claims and related appeals in less than three months.

"As a matter of both policy and practice, the VA subjects veterans to long delays before receiving any of the benefits to which they are entitled," said Donald Overton, executive director, Veterans of Modern Warfare. "Our hope is that this lawsuit will compel the VA to process veterans' benefits claims more quickly and honor our nation's commitment to those that have defended and served."

"All veterans will benefit significantly from the legal action of VVA and VMW," said Robert Cattanach, partner, Dorsey and Whitney. "The intervention of VVA and VMW is necessary because under federal law individual veterans are not allowed to access the judicial system. Dorsey and Whitney is committed to helping America's veterans quickly secure the benefits they have earned from the VA."

There are approximately 25 million veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces alive today. More than 7 million of those veterans are enrolled in the VA's health care system, and approximately 3.4 million veterans receive benefits.

More than 600,000 VA benefits claims are backlogged – this number will only increase as the 1.7 million troops that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to return home.

"A soldier's transition to civilian life is challenging. The VA's failure to diagnose PTSD promptly and accurately, and the corresponding delay in the award of benefits, plainly results in veterans being denied this critical lifeline," said Dr. Charles R. Figley, PTSD expert and author, of Tulane University. "VVA and VMW's lawsuit will help to reduce this additional and, in many cases, unmanageable stress for veterans."

According to the VA, the suicide rate among individuals in the VA's care may be as high as 7.5 times the national average. Delays in awarding benefits to America's veterans increases the suffering of individuals already struggling with an inability to cope, as the seemingly endless wait for the VA to make a final decision on a claim magnifies the alienation and anxiety that they experience.

For example, the inability to provide basic subsistence support significantly impacts a veteran's ability to maintain economic stability, seek and gain employment, provide and sustain a home, or care for a family. As a consequence, there is a substantial increase in the number of broken families, cases of homelessness and depression caused by the failure to provide disability benefits on a timely basis.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans families, as well as to the needs of other veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another." Visit the VVA online at

Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW) is a veterans service organization dedicated to serving our nation's most recent war veterans. Its purpose is to support veterans and their families by providing education and information about the benefits America's veterans have earned, assistance in obtaining benefits, advocacy in issues important to our generation, and camaraderie through locally based, national chapters. Visit the VMW online at


LAKE COUNTY – A vehicle fire on Highway 175 Sunday night resulted in a temporary shutdown of the highway.

The California Highway Patrol reported an Audi was on fire on Highway 175 at mile marker 83 just before 9 p.m.

The driver was reported to be clear of the car and was not said to be injured, the CHP reported. The CHP did not identify the driver.

The roadway was shut down shortly before 9:30 p.m. as officials responded to the situation.

The CHP did not report in its incident log when the highway was reopened.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Pictured left to right, Ryan Erickson of Lakeport, Marc Peachey and Kiuya Brown of Kelseyville, and Ty Lewis of Clearlake graduated from the California Highway Patrol Academy on Friday, October 31, 2008. Photo by Kevin Domby.

LAKE COUNTY – Four young Lake County men are starting out their new careers in the California Highway Patrol after graduating from the CHP Academy last week.

The CHP swore in new officers during graduation ceremonies at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento on Oct. 31.

Among the graduates were four Lake County residents, Ryan Erickson of Lakeport, Marc Peachey and Kiuya Brown of Kelseyville, and Ty Lewis of Clearlake.

This academy training class started on April 28 with 213 cadets, and culminated with the graduation of 145 officers following 27 weeks of intense training, according to Officer Adam Garcia of the CHP's Clear Lake area office.

The class, which is the largest since 2001, includes twin brothers who overcame extreme physical challenges due to their weight to achieve their longtime goal of earning a badge and a mother of three who, after breaking her leg twice during training, will be sworn in nearly two years and three attempts later.

Erickson will report to the Contra Costa Area Office, Peachey goes to the Redwood City Area Office, Kiuya Brown reports to the Hollister-Gilroy Area Office and Ty Lewis joins the Arrowhead Area Office, Garcia said.

When questioned about life at the academy, Garcia said the officers explained how challenging the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course was and how demanding the physical training was.

Garcia said the young men are excited about their new career with the CHP and serving the citizens of California. They were unsure if their new careers would lead them back to Lake County but they did not rule out the thought of eventually transferring to the Clear Lake Office.

The CHP has undertaken a major recruitment push due to a large number of retirements and additional positions that have been authorized by the legislature to meet the growing needs of California, said Garcia.

If anyone is interested in a career in law enforcement should go online to the CHP’s new Web site,, or they may contact the Clear Lake Area office at 279-0103.


CLEARLAKE – On Monday a Clearlake man received jail time, probation, fines and prohibitions on hunting for his conviction in a deer poaching case.

Pursuant to a plea agreement proposed by the District Attorney's Office, Judge Stephen Hedstrom sentenced Jose Manuel Hernandez-Medina, 53, to three years probation, 45 days jail, a fine of $2,295, and no hunting or possession of firearms in any area inhabited by game animals for three years.

Hernandez-Medina's .22 and .308 rifles, digital camera and machete were ordered forfeited to law enforcement authorities as part of the deal, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who oversees all fish and wildlife prosecutions in Lake County.

On July 5, Game Warden Loren Freeman received a call from an informant reporting several males standing around three dead doe deer along Round Mountain Road in the Clearlake Oaks area, according to Hinchcliff.

The informant reported a vehicle license plate number to the warden, who ran the plate to determine the address of the registered owner of the vehicle, Hinchcliff said.

Freeman responded to that address in the city of Clearlake, where he found Hernandez-Medina cleaning blood out of an ice chest. Hinchcliff said that, after further investigation, Freeman found and confiscated three doe deer that had been illegally killed, along with a .22 caliber rifle and ammunition, a .308 rifle, a digital camera and a machete.

Hinchcliff charged Hernandez-Medina with felony conspiracy and six misdemeanor violations of the Fish and Game Code.

On Monday, Hinchcliff said Hernandez-Medina pleaded guilty in Superior Court's Department Four in Clearlake to misdemeanor violations of taking deer when the season was not open, taking deer without possessing a deer tag, and possessing deer without being in possession of a valid hunting license.

Hinchcliff said other charges were dismissed in exchange for those admissions.


The kitchen at the campus is an exciting and busy place as students learn the culinary trade. Photo courtesy of Robert Cabreros.



CLEARLAKE – Jackson Pollock didn’t take a class on how to throw paint at a canvas. He first attended art school and then developed his signature style.

The same can be said of the food at Aromas Restaurant at Yuba Community College Clearlake Campus. The food is good gourmet food without gilding it with pretentious truffles and caviar.

Chef Robert Cabreros, who teaches at the college, is currently training the next wave of culinary artists who will affect the food trends of Lake County and beyond. He recently hosted this writer over two full days, offering the chance to watch the students prepare and serve the lunch service at the college’s restaurant.

There are currently 18 students in the class with a full waiting list to enter the program.

Why is there so much interest in the culinary program nowadays? Cabreros said he believed it was because obtaining a position in the culinary industry is being viewed as an actual career now.

He said that opinions have changed in large part because of the way that food networks and learning channels have made cooking mainstream, and how the industry as a whole is now viewed with more professionalism as opposed to how it was seen 20 years ago.

Cabreros himself is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, which is the same cooking school that trained the legendary Julia Child. For you youngsters out there, it’s the same school from which Giada De Laurentis graduated.

He said he never intended to become a teacher, but he was hand-picked by his predecessor and now says he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

The formality of some culinary schools is not required in this class. Demanding that every order be responded with the entire room yelling out “Yes Chef!” is set aside here; it’s very casual and Cabreros' students just call him “Robert.”

To watch Cabreros talk about his students is like watching a parent speak of their his child. You can see the pride in his face and hear it in his voice as he talks.

He doesn’t consider his class a springboard program so you need to go on to another school to add onto your education. His course is a complete package that gives culinary students everything they need to be successful in the industry.

Cabreros talks of his students with confidence saying, “He’ll be an executive chef within five years,” and “She’ll be a sous chef within two years.”

To look at the students of this particular class is to see the word “diversity” in its purist form: young, old, every race, sex, skill level, interest, financial background and personal style. The youngest student is 15 years old and the oldest is 60.

The restaurant itself is as “green” as it can be. Waste has been reduced 75 percent, everything that can be recycled is, and the edible waste is sent to a pig farm as feed.

Local produce is used when available, and the daily menus are even printed on half a sheet of paper. The to-go orders and “doggie boxes” are made of biodegradable bamboo.

Lake County has yet to have any rating system for how green a business is or even recognize businesses as green, but Aromas restaurant has pushed the envelope all on their own. The county could use this program as a template for rating other Lake County businesses that would like to brag about being “green.”

The sanitation and cleanliness of the restaurant is impeccable. A dirty spot or bad sanitation habit couldn’t be found. This is one of the cleanest kitchens this writer has ever seen, which is a fantastic foundation for the students coming from this program; they are learning good habits that will follow them to their next kitchen.

Even safety is top notch. “Knife!” and “Hot Pan!” are always shouted out when someone walks through the kitchen with one. On occasion a student would use poor knife practices, and Cabreros would be right there to show them the correct way to do it and remind them that scars aren’t cool.

The group of students move about the kitchen with the synchronized movement of a school of fish, but walk through the kitchen and all of a sudden the words “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” and “Look out behind you!” were suddenly being said over and over.

Although all of the students have different skills and talentsm there are three that deserved mention.

Matt Morgan is so talented and skilled that this writer actually assumed he was part of the staff until Cabreros said otherwise. Morgan currently works with Julie Hoskins of Chic le Chef and cooks prolifically throughout the county. If you attend many public functions around the lake you’ve most likely already eaten his food. He’s also on the cover of the college’s most current class schedule.

Julie Wonderwheel also currently works in the food industry and it is evident in her incredibly precise knife skills. When she's doing cutting up onions it looks like they went through a mandolin. She works quietly in all of her tasks but her performance made her stand out.

Kacie Carson, a Tinkerbell-sized girl, has amazing creativity and an eye for detail that you rarely get to see so early in a career. When she decorated a plate with caramel and chocolate Cabreros said with excitement, “I have never seen anything like that before!” Remember her name; she’s going to be famous.

The prep work continues all morning with each individual doing a specific job on their own, with only as much supervision as they need. The individual students hustles through their particular tasks, but when the restaurant opened they seemed to transform without a word into a seamless machine working in unison to get the lunches out in quick order. It was impressive to see such teamwork, everyone knowing what needed to be done and doing it together.

The restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m. and people are seated right away. Since the restaurant has no particular theme or ethnic style they are able to make all sorts of dishes. Prices are almost freakishly inexpensive; if you have $10 you can easily eat lunch and if you have $20 you can bring a date.




The class has a wide range of individuals of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds, all of them hoping to work in the food industry. Photo courtesy of Robert Cabreros.




Thursdays are the busiest day of the week since it is prime rib for $8 a day. Prices are perfect for a restaurant on a college campus, giving starving students a much-needed break from ramen noodles.

The timing of the meal orders is impressive. The first table’s orders were placed and the kitchen put it together, completed it and had it on the table in three minutes. The next table took two minutes. The longest wait was five minutes from order to table.

Every table gets a comment card and they get filled in; service, cleanliness, food and speed are rated from one to 10 and a remarkable amount are turned in with 10s filled in across the board.

At 12:45 p.m. the entire crew was still going at full speed but the fatigue was starting to show on their faces after four hours of non-stop work. At 1 p.m. service is completed and the crew starts to prepare their own group lunch, after which is cleanup.

A recent bond measure will be providing the culinary program the funds to enlarge its facilities and hire a larger staff, so if you have ever been interested in a career in the culinary arts now is the time to sign up.

Remember, there can be a waiting list to get into this program. The next semester starts in January and sign up to join it starts Dec. 1 or if you just want a gourmet inexpensive lunch, drop by between 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Aromas Restaurant at Yuba Community College Clearlake Campus is located at 15880 Dam Road Extension, Clearlake. The restaurant can be reached at 995-4804; for general college information call 995-7900.

Ross Christensen writes the Foodie Freak column for Lake County News.



Presentation and great taste work together to make Aromas restaurant a great place to eat. Photo courtesy of Robert Cabreros.




Visitors to the Main Street Gallery on Friday, November 7, 2008, view an exhibition of masks and drawings done by Melanie Liotta's fifth and sixth graders from Cobb Mountain Elementary School. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT – Art and local artists were celebrated in Lakeport during this month's First Friday Fling.

The monthly event, hosted by the Lake County Arts Council at its Main Street Gallery in Lakeport, is a chance to put the spotlight on local artists.

This month, Rod Newsick, Ruthie Martin, Terry Rogers and Sophie Lauterborn were the featured artists in the main gallery. In the student gallery, Dan Weiss' third and fourth graders from Cobb Mountain Elementary displayed Hawaiian quilt designs, while Melanie Liotta's fifth and sixth graders, also from Cobb Mountain Elementary, show ceramics and drawings.



Hawaiian quilt designs done by Dan Weiss' third and fourth graders from Cobb Mountain Elementary. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



"We have the only student gallery in Lake County," said Shelby Posada, the arts council's executive director.


Posada said that, beginning in January, the gallery will start to rotate in juried shows for adults in with the student art shows.

The event also included an update on the Barbara LaForge Memorial, founded by LaForge's friend, Gail Salituri of Inspirations Gallery.

Earlier this year the arts council became a supporter of the effort, which they hosted in a previous First Friday Fling.

On Friday, Salituri introduced some of the latest art available in a silent auction and raffle to benefit the fund. She was joined by local businesswoman and artistic patron Kathy Fowler, a member of the board for the Lake Family Resource Center. The center's domestic violence shelter will be the recipient of the proceeds from the fund.

“I never know what I'm gonna say, so I bring Kathy Fowler with me,” Salituri joked. “She loves to talk.

Salituri introduced a special guest for the evening, LaForge's niece, Stasha Prueitt, who came to honor her aunt's memory.

“This is Barbara LaForge's favorite person in the world,” Salituri said of the young woman.

Fowler called Salituri “the lady with the big heart” for her efforts to benefit the shelter effort.

Salituri said she plans to continue the fundraising efforts into next year.


Donations can be made to the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund at 165 Main St., Lakeport, or to any Westamerica Bank.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Rod Neswick's sculptures are among the featured art pieces this month at the Main Street Gallery in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Sophie Lauterborn's colorful mixed media artwork is in the spotlight this month at the gallery.




Melanie Liotta's fifth and sixth graders created fanciful drawings and masks on display at the student gallery this month. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



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