Friday, 19 July 2024


The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team retires the colors during the closing ceremony for The Moving Wall on Monday, June 15, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – After months of work and planning, and several breathless days filled with ceremonies, visitors and memories, the community paused on Monday to bid farewell to The Moving Wall.

The traveling Vietnam memorial opened June 11, and on Monday it was time for it to prepare to move on to its next stop in Marinette, Wis.

Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 951, who brought the wall to the county, held the closing ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

Chapter President Dean Gotham said that more than 3,000 visitors – an estimate he called conservative – came to pay tribute at the wall over its four-day visit, making the wall's appearance “a true community event.”

The event's guest speaker was Art Grothe, a prosecutor in the county District Attorney's Office who, in March, returned from his second tour of duty in the Middle East.

Beyond his own service, Grothe had another connection to the memorial.

“My brother's name is on that wall,” he said, recalling his brother, Lewis Grothe – known to his friends as “Jeep.”

Lewis Grothe is one of 10 local men whose names are on the wall. He served in the Army's First Infantry Division. He died on Jan. 10, 1967, at age 20 in Binh Duong, South Vietnam.

Art Grothe recalled his family taking his brother to the San Francisco Airport in 1966, when he left to report for active duty. As the family was leaving the airport, Grothe said his father spotted a young Army enlisted man, and brought the young man along because he needed a ride. Grothe's father felt it was important to look after the young military man.

Grothe said combat zones are places of dirt, mud, lack of sleep and fear. Such places also, he added, are “a long, long ways from home.”

“Most in the military tend to develop a profound sense of caring for one another,” he said.

Much of that arises out of a sense of common experience and concern. Grothe said it's one of the greatest attributes not just of veterans but of the country.

In the case of Vietnam, the country didn't show such caring for its military. “Some confused the policy with the people in Vietnam,” Grothe said.

But that seems to have changed now, with the members of the military today appearing to benefit from a renewed sense of respect and honor from the country, he said.

The nation entrusts its liberties to young people who willingly go into dangerous places. Grothe said they're owed honor and support. “Your presence here shows you all understand that.”

Gotham thanked the community for its support for the wall.

Explaining VVA's reason for bringing the wall to Lake County, Gotham explained, “It was an act of love and support for those who paid the ultimate price.”

He quoted President John Kennedy, who said “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

Gotham said bringing The Moving Wall to Lake County offered the community to reveal itself and its priorities.

“Lake County stands very tall,” he said, adding that he's “so proud” of the county and its response to the memorial.

Gotham said the wall is “about the community that we all are.”

“Never forget,” he reminded the gathering of about 100 people.

He also offered thanks to his group and volunteers, the Royal Rangers – who during the ceremony stood at attention along the wall – and the Sea Scouts, the county Veterans Service Office, the Ukiah veterans clinic and Janet Taylor, a crisis counselor who spent many hours at the wall during its visit to offer support to grieving visitors.

Chaplain Herman “Woody” Hughes offered the closing blessing, with the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team giving the rifle salvo and a bugler playing “Taps.”

As the ceremony ended, bagpiper Peter Kapp appeared from beyond the far end of the wall, and slowly walked its length playing “Amazing Grace.” Some veterans wept during the final tribute, which Gotham said later was meant to be a “symbol of completion.”

Following the ceremony, as many people took a last look at the names on the wall, work to dismantle the wall began almost immediately, with the memorial supposed to be packed up by 4 p.m. It will leave Lakeport Tuesday morning.

Standing by to take the wall to its next stop was John Devitt, who – along with wife, Joy – is one of the wall's caretakers. Devitt, the founder and chairman of Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd., the organization that created The Moving Wall, called Lake County's presentation of the memorial “excellent.”

Gotham noted during the ceremony, Monday was the 25th anniversary of The Moving Wall.

It was a quarter-century ago that Devitt, after having seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington,wanted to share it with others.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Devitt said seeing the memorial – with more than 53,000 names of those killed in the war or who went missing in action – had a “profound impact” on him. Devitt also realized that not everyone would be able to go to Washington, DC to see it. So the half-size replica was created.

Devitt said he only expected to tour with the wall for a year or so. But it's gone “way beyond” his original hopes, with the wall going strong after 25 years.

“I'm sure it will go way beyond me,” Devitt added.

In that time it's visited close to 1,200 communities in every state in the union, as well as Guam, Saipan and Puerto Rico. Groups in Europe also have expressed interest in the past in hosting it.

There currently are two moving walls traveling the country between April and November. During the winter, Devitt and his volunteers make repairs and replace panels when necessary.

Devitt said they currently have 400 applications on file from communities wanting to host the walls. The waiting list can be as long as three years. In Lake County's case, VVA Chapter 951 applied in the fall of 2006 and received the OK two years later. This was its first stop in Lake County, as Lake County News has reported.

Devitt said the reaction in the communities he visits is positive. “You see the whole emotional gamut play out,” he said.

Like Grothe, VVA member Ed Moore, who volunteered to work on the wall project, has a brother on the wall. William Moore was a lance corporal in the Marine Corps when he became Lake County's first casualty in the war on Dec. 16, 1965. He was just 20 when he died in Quang Tin, South Vietnam

William Moore and Lewis Grothe were friends, said Ed Moore.

Ed Moore said he hasn't seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, but has an etching of his brother's name brought to him by friends who did visit the memorial.

That made the chance to see The Moving Wall just that more important. Moore said he believed the moving memorial had just as powerful an emotional impact.

He called The Moving Wall's visit to Lake County “wonderful.”

“Lake County can be proud of itself,” he said.

It's been 44 years since his brother died, and it's still difficult to deal with the loss, said Moore.

“I'm so very proud of him,” he said of his brother, adding that he's proud of everyone whose name is on the wall.

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




Art Grothe spoke about service and the importance of supporting members of the military at the losing ceremony for The Moving Wall on Monday, June 15, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Bagpiper Peter Kapp of Boonville walked the length of The Moving Wall and played

Anderson Marsh is among 220 state parks the governor proposes to close, but a new study gives an idea of how much money the parks bring into their communities. Courtesy photo.


LAKE COUNTY – What's the value of local state parks to the county's economy? Based on a recently released study, the answer is millions of dollars.

As state officials consider a proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to close 220 of the state's 279 state parks – including Lake County's Anderson Marsh – a newly released study gives a look at just how important parks are to the state and local communities.

The California Parks and Recreation Department commissioned the study, which was conducted by California State University, Sacramento's Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration.

Schwarzenegger is suggesting the park closures – along with thousands of park employee layoffs – in an effort to save an estimated $143 million in state general fund monies.

But the losses incurred by the parks could be much greater than the money the governor is proposing to save.

The study found that 74.9 million people visit California state parks annually, spending an average of $4.32 billion per year in park-related expenditures.

It also reported that park visitors spend an average of $57.63 per person per visit, including $24.63 inside state parks and nearby communities, and $33 in communities more than 25 miles from the park being visited.

Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration faculty and students surveyed 9,700 visitors at 27 state parks representing the diversity of the parks system’s 279 parks. The survey was taken from fall 2007 to February 2009, according to the report.

Professor David Rolloff of Sacramento State's Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration told Lake County News that the closest parks to Lake that were in the sample were MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg and Mt. Tamalpais near San Francisco.

Of the visitors surveyed, 11.95 percent were non-residents of California, and their average spending per person was $184.91.

Based on the calculated $4.32 billion in park-related visitor expenditures per year, $1.66 billion is generated by non-residents of California, the survey found.

Rolloff said the study as been in the works for a number of years, with data collection beginning in 2007. It's part of a much larger study by the State Parks Department to look at visitors and park usage.

“One of the reasons why we decided to come forth with the data was that it's very relevant right now,” Rolloff said, referring to the proposal to close the parks.

A full report is due out later this summer, said Rolloff.

Rolloff called the spending figure of $57.63 per person per visit “pretty impressive,” especially in light of the tough economy in the last few years.

But that economic downturn has had another effect. “A lot of people are actually staying more local,” and choosing to enjoy nature at nearby state parks, he said. “It seems to be a pattern we're seeing.”

Debra Sommerfield, deputy county administrative officer for Economic Development, said the numbers the study suggests look right, and that she wouldn't be surprised that the numbers are accurate based on her study of tourism trends.

A report issued last year by the California State Parks Foundation found that Anderson Marsh is visited by 43,499 people each year, generating $2,060 in revenue, while Clear Lake State Park has 100,166 visitors annually, with revenue of $332,782.

If the Sacramento State study is accurate, that means that Anderson Marsh and Clear Lake State Park offer $2.5 million and $5.7 million, respectively, in benefit to the local economy.

Anderson Marsh was placed on the closure list this year, which has prompted local officials to write the state to seek alternatives. Last year Anderson Marsh and Clear Lake State Park were both included on a list of 48 state parks that Schwarzenegger had suggested to close to deal with the state budget crisis.

Clear Lake State Park was spared this year, because boating and gas tax revenue – not state general tax revenue – are primary funding sources. County officials have emphasized that keeping Clear Lake State Park open is a priority.

Sandra West, co-owner of Edgewater Resort in Kelseyville, said having Clear Lake State Park close by has benefited her business.

That park, she said, is full every summer with people who enjoy the lake, and it brings a lot of money into the county. West said she's also enjoyed a great relationship with the park and its staff.

She said the fiscal impact of the parks on the state and their surrounding communities is “huge.”

West said she knows that the state is having huge problems, but she would hate to see either of the parks close because of their value to the community.

The California State Parks Foundation is organizing a “Save Our State Parks Weekend” later this month.

They're encouraging people to visit their state parks and show support by wearing green or a green on the weekend of June 20, during which time they also can celebrate the Summer Solstice and Fathers Day. More information on the effort is available at .

Reaching out to the past: Children visit The Moving Wall at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – Hundreds of community members gathered on Friday morning for the solemn opening ceremonies for “The Moving Wall” Vietnam memorial visiting the county this week.

The 9 a.m. ceremony took place at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin St.

The event drew men and women of all ages, and veterans from many wars and generations – from Pearl Harbor survivors up to veterans of the wars in the Middle East.

This is the only Northern California stop for the wall for the rest of the year. Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, which is hosting the memorial, is expecting visitors from all over this state this weekend.

The Moving Wall will be open for visitation 24 hours a day until the closing ceremonies on June 15.

Speakers at Friday's event included Supervisor Jim Comstock, a Navy veteran who served during Vietnam veteran. Comstock noted that there was “no better place to be than right here, right now.”




Supervisor Jim Comstock, himself a Vietnam veteran, spoke at the opening ceremony on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Dean Gotham, president of VVA Chapter 951, the organization which is hosting the wall, thanked the community for its support and for making the wall's visit a success.

A table with a single place setting stood in front of the stage, representing prisoners of war and those missing in action. Each object represented a notion for POW and MIA soldiers: the white table-cloth represents the purity of intentions to respond to the call; the red rose represents blood and the family and friends who keep faith; the lemon represents fate; the salt the countless volunteers and families involved in the POW and MIA’s life; the Bible, strength of faith; the candle, the light of hope in loved ones' hearts and the illumination of the path home; and the overturned glass represents the fact that they can not toast with us today.

Three sculptures by local artist Rolf Kriken stand in the field before the wall. Each one has a strong tie to the meaning of The Moving Wall and all that it represents.

Chaplain Herman W. Hughes, LT, USN took the podium to share a few stories and a poem he wrote after Vietnam, entitled “The Street Without Joy.” He introduced the poem, explaining it was named for a stretch of Highway 1 from Dong Ha to Hue that came to be called “The Street Without Joy” during the French-Indochina War. Hughes was in Vietnam in 1968 and wrote the poem, which he dedicated to the people whose names appeared on the wall.

Street Without Joy

Verdant fields like manicured gardens,

Laced delicately with blue and

Starkly contrasted against barren

Dunes and rust hills, flash by

As cool monsoon rains pepper

The windows of the Huey

That carries me high above

The Street Without Joy.

Far below me unimposing.

Ancestral homes are carelessly

Sprinkled across a patchwork of

Rice paddies and stately hedgerows.

Majestic churches lift their

Spires in silent prayer as

Children tend water buffalo on

The Street Without Joy.

Peace and tranquility seem to

Pervade this pastoral scene,

The pain and ravages of war

Long past and almost forgotten.

But, alas, it’s only a sad

And transitory illusion, for

I know that Charlie still walks

The Street Without Joy.




Hughes then read the benediction.

The ceremony ended with a dedication and everyone rose to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, as a bugler with the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team played “Taps.”

Following the ceremony visitors began walking the length of the wall, with the Avenue of Flags – composed of 50 flags that had adorned the caskets of veterans – flying close by. Mementos – flowers, poems and pictures – had already begun to gather along the base of the wall.

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




Dean Gotham, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, thanked the community for its support. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Chaplain Herman "Woody" Hughes read a poem about his time in Vietnam. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team offered a salute and rifle salvo. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Jim Harris (center), a World War II veteran who saw action at Pearl Harbor and D-Day, attended The Moving Wall's opening ceremony on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




People walk along the wall, which is being displayed at the Lake County Fairgrounds from June 11 through June 15, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Visitors pause to view one of local sculptor Rolf Kriken's original works, on display at The Moving Wall. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

WALKER RIDGE – A Monday morning crash injured three people, with two of them being transported to area hospitals.

Orvil Jinzo, 21, and Heather Anderson, 24, both of Nice, were taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by REACH air ambulance for major injuries after the vehicle they were traveling in rolled over and went down an embankment on Highway 20, east of Walker Ridge Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The vehicle's driver, 21-year-old Elliot Potterlane of Sacramento, suffered minor injuries and wasn't transported to the hospital, according to CHP Officer Steve Tanguay.

Tanguay said the crash happened in the area of mile post marker 44.19, which has seen numerous crashes over the last few years, as Lake County News has reported. Officials have attributed previous collisions primarily to a combination of speed and wet weather conditions.

The Monday crash, which happened at 7 a.m., occurred when Potterlane was driving his 1993 Toyota Tercel eastbound on Highway 20, east of Walker Ridge Road, at an unknown speed, according to the CHP.

Tanguay said Potterlane was traveling downhill and through a righthand curve in the roadway when he allowed the vehicle to go to the right onto the right shoulder.

Potterlane turned the steering wheel to the left and the Toyota went to the left out of control, crossing all lanes of traffic, Tanguay said.

The Toyota went over the edge north of the roadway and traveled down a steep dirt embankment. Tanguay said that as the Toyota was traveling down the embankment it rolled over and ended up landing on its wheels approximately 80 feet down the embankment.

According to initial reports from the scene, there had been a fire in the area after the fire. One of the passengers also initially was thought to have died.

CHP, the Lake County Sheriff's Office, fire personnel, Cal Fire, road officials and tow companies responded to the scene.

Alcohol and drugs are not suspected to be contributing factors in this collision, said Tanguay.

Tanguay said Officer Dallas Richey is investigating the collision.

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

UPPER LAKE – The premiere of a new music and arts festival will take place later this month.

The Rainbow Bridge Festival is set for June 26, 27 and 28 at 10568 Bachelor Valley Road, Upper Lake.

The organizers say the festival is intended to bring people together through a common experience, involving a connection with nature and valuable interaction with community expressed through music, yoga and healthy lifestyle exploration.

There will be workshops and demonstrations on green building, gardening, alternative energy and yoga, with drumming circles and activities for children.

A main component of the festival will be performances by world-class performers, including Pato Banton, the Annie Sampson Band, Elijah Emanuel, Mitchell Holman, Karma, Levi Huffman, Rootstock and Side of Blues.

Speakers will include Jeane Manning, author of several books including “The Coming Energy Revolution” and “Breakthrough Power.” Manning will share information and compelling stories about brave inventors and breakthrough technologies from around the world that are green and sustainable. She makes the case for open sourcing, clean energy inventions such as magnetic motors, zero point energy, water-as-fuel and other new paradigm advances.

Harvey Wasserman, author of “Solartopia, Our Green Powered Earth,” will share his wisdom and vision of making the bridge to a solarized world. Wasserman's widespread appearances throughout the major media and at campuses and citizens gatherings since the 1960s have focused on energy, the environment, the truth about nuclear power, United States history and election protection.

Another speaker will be Anodea Judith, whose books include “Wheels of Life” and “Waking the Global Heart.” Judith holds a doctorate in health and human services, with a specialty in mind-body healing, and a master’s in clinical psychology. Her best-selling books on the chakra system, marrying Eastern and Western disciplines have been considered groundbreaking in the field of transpersonal psychology and used as definitive texts in the U.S. and abroad.


The festival also will pay tribute to the late Marla Ruzicka, a Lake County native and human rights activist who died in Iraq in April of 2005.

Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange, who knew and worked with Ruzicka, will speak about her, and also will present ideas from his book “Building the Green Economy, Success Stories from the Grass Roots.”

For tickets and more information, visit the festival Web site, .

LAKE COUNTY – Local health officials on Friday issued an environmental health advisory regarding the recent appearance of a type of blue-green algae.

During the past several days, Department of Health Services, Division of Environmental Health has received numerous inquiries regarding suspected raw sewage along the shores of Clear Lake near Austin Park, Clearlake Highlands and the inner harbor area of the City of Clearlake.

Upon initial investigation, the substance appears to be a blue-green algae species known as Aphanizomenon. The appearance of this form of algae easily can be mistaken as raw sewage.

According to the Lake County Water Resources Division of Public Works, recent weather and water conditions have been conducive to this type of algal growth.

Further analysis is in progress to confirm the exact species and to clarify any potential health impacts.

As a precaution, it is recommended that individuals of all ages and pets avoid swimming in or ingesting lake water in the affected areas.

Families should exercise caution in keeping children and pets away from the water.

For more information, contact Lake County Environmental Health at 707-263-1164 during regular business hours; after hours call 707-263-2690.

Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs) are legitimate tax shelters that are a win-win for taxpayers and their charities. They allow people with charitable objectives to diversify their assets inside a tax-free environment.

Diversification allows income streams to be created – by selling assets and investing the proceeds for income – in a tax-efficient manner. What remains (at least 10 percent of what was contributed) at the end goes to the charity of choice. Let us examine how this works.

You begin by selecting the type of CRT that works best for you, based on the type of asset you will contribute and your future income needs.

Broadly speaking, there are two types: the annuity trust (CRAT) or the uni-trust (CRUT). They differ in their payout schemes.

The CRAT pays the same amount each year based on a percentage of the CRAT’s “initial value.” CRATs guarantee you the same amount each year. The annuity percentage varies between 5 percent and 50 percent, depending on the CRAT’s term.

A CRUT, however, pays a percentage of the annually “recomputed value” (i.e., the uni-trust percentage times uni-trust new value).

The payout varies each year based on the investment performance of the trust and the cumulative effect of prior years’ withdrawals. The CRUT has two main variations that allow for non-income or low income producing assets to be held without requiring distributions until such year as income is generated.

The CRT is irrevocable – it cannot be amended or revoked (except sometimes under limited circumstances). The CRT document determines (amongst other things) who is the noncharitable beneficiary (usually yourself and your spouse), how long the trust will last (i.e., your lifetimes or for a fixed term up to 20 years), who is trustee (usually yourself) and the charitable remainder beneficiary.

At termination, the charity must receive at least 10 percent of the initial value. A taxpayer identification number is obtained and assets transferred to the trustee. A qualified appraisal may be needed to determine an asset’s value.

In the first year you enjoy an immediate income tax charitable deduction. The amount is the so-called present value of the “remainder interest” left to charity.

For example, if you contribute $500,000 in assets into a CRT that donates 20 percent to charity at the end of a 10-year term then the remainder is the present value today of $100,000 to be received in 10 years time discounted using the applicable federal interest rate. The tax savings today can be used to fund other present investments, including annuities and life insurance.

If you contribute appreciated assets and the CRT sells them then – because the CRT is a tax-exempt charitable trust – the CRT itself is not subject to capital gains taxes. Likewise, if you contribute retirement funds the CRT does not pay ordinary income taxes and can reinvest these funds. Instead, these taxes are postponed over the CRT’s term. That is, as distributions are made to the noncharitable beneficiary (e.g., you) the previously unrecognized income is included in earnings.

The advantages to the taxpayer here are that, first, the CRT gets to reinvest money that otherwise would have been paid out in taxes upon the sale of appreciated assets or the receipt of retirement plan funds; second, the taxpayer gets to include smaller additions to your annual income instead of a big addition that might push you into a higher tax bracket; and, third, some of the income to be included in later years may be offset by other tax losses or taxed in years with less income (e.g., retirement years).

Lastly, CRTs may either be established by you during your life or by your will to take effect after you die for the benefit of your loved ones (e.g., your children).

Editor’s Note: Dennis A. Fordham is an attorney licensed to practice law in California and New York. He earned his BA at Columbia University, his JD at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his LLM in Taxation at New York University. Dennis concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and aspects of elder law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport. He can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.




I love getting wine release invitations. It’s the closest thing a foodie freak like me gets to a red carpet movie premier.

Wine release parties are held in a variety of venues, whether it is a tasting room, vineyard, or sometimes even in the winemakers’ actual home. Six Sigma Winery held their spring release party last Saturday on their ranch just outside their cave. Instead of being a long red carpet you get to travel a long dirt road, which is much more fitting for the event.

The Six Sigma ranch can be a little bit intimidating upon entering since just after the “welcome” barrel is a sign saying that you only have two more miles to go. You will drive slowly down the one lane road looking at the vineyards, then the vineyards turn to cattle ranch, and just before you hit vineyard again you see the cave. To a guy who has never owned a plot of land that I couldn’t throw a rock across, it’s quite an impressive place.

Kaj Ahlmann, the owner of the Six Sigma ranch, was there talking to everyone as we tasted his wines accompanied with many different cheeses and crackers.

Christian Ahlmann surprises me every time I see him. Every time we meet, Christian remembers my name and where he saw me last, even if it’s been years. If my wife goes on a trip and comes back a week later I have a problem recognizing her so he’s definitely got an ability that I lack.

The first wine I tasted was the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from the Rooster Vineyard, which is aged in stainless steel vats. This is a very subtle wine that has a very light color and fruity flavor with what I thought was just a hint of lemon. If someone had never tasted wine before in their life this would be the perfect wine to get their proverbial toes wet with. I would want to pair this wine up with a halibut steak poached in a court bouillon.

The 2006 Tempranillo, arguably the most popular Spanish wine grape in Spain and gaining popularity everywhere, is aged in oak. I noticed a slight peppery start with black cherries and cinnamon. Being a tannic red wine it would pair well with meats but it is a little lighter than say a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel, so I feel it would be a good pairing with barbecued pork.

The 2008 Tempranillo was being tasted right out of the barrel using a wine thief (a special siphon used to sample the wine from the barrel, which I can only not too eloquently describe as a glass turkey baster minus the bulb.) This was a very young tasting wine that I know is going to age into something great.

If you ever get a chance to taste a finished wine right next to a young wine still in the barrel, jump at the chance. It is quite an educational experience. I’d compare it to looking at professional photographs of a 25 year old supermodel right next to her high school class picture.

On the whole winemakers are very generous people and I have personally experienced that generosity on many occasions. For instance, Six Sigma is one of the wineries that donated to the inaugural Catfish Cook-off. At this release party I was again the beneficiary of this generosity as Michael Ahlmann was kind enough to let me sample a couple of wines that weren’t widely available.

The 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from the Michael vineyard isn’t ready to be released but is oak aged. It is now my favorite wine with its peach nose (fancy wine guy speak for smell) and rich color without having an overbearing oakiness to it. This is a wine that I thought should be brought to a potluck dinner (I attend them frequently) because this wine would go well with all of the dishes that you associate with potlucks: ambrosia, asparagus in cream sauce, fruit salads, ham, cold cuts, even sweet potatoes with those little marshmallows. I hope the Ahlmanns take that comment as the compliment I intend it to be.

The 2006 Rose is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Sauvignon Blanc mix that is the perfect wine to encourage a white wine drinker to start dabbling into reds. It’s far from the cloy Rose that you can get at the kwik-e-mart in a jug. This is a wine that as I sipped I thought would be the perfect wine to sit on the porch and drink after a day of gardening, because it’s so refreshing and drinkable.

These are just the wines that are being released now. If you’d like to learn more about the wide variety of their entire line, take a look at their very informative Web site, .

Visit Six Sigma Ranch and Vineyards at 13372 Spruce Grove Road, Lower Lake, telephone 707-994-2086 or toll-free, 888-571-1721.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.

A small group of about 20 protesters gathered in front of the courthouse on Friday, June 12, 2009, to protest the prosecution of Bismarck Dinius. Photo by Gail Salituri.




LAKEPORT – On Friday, as protesters gathered on the courthouse steps, Lake County's district attorney informed a judge that he intended to move forward with prosecuting a Carmichael man in connection with a fatal 2006 sailboat crash.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins, appearing in a 13-minute trial readiness hearing in the prosecution of Bismarck Dinius, said his office intends to continue with the case.

Visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne also set a June 30 hearing on motions to recuse the District Attorney's Office from the case and to enforce a stipulation for independent forensic analysis, which will delay the trial.

On May 19 Deputy District Attorney John Langan told the court that the case might be dropped because investigators didn't have enough time to evaluate new information before the June 30 trial date.

Langan did not appear in court on Friday; he had notified the defense last week that Hopkins was taking over the case, as Lake County News has reported. Hopkins will be the third prosecutor to handle the case since it was filed in May of 2007.

Dinius, 41, is being charged with vehicular manslaughter involving a boat and boating under the influence.

He was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber on April 29, 2006, when the boat – which the District Attorney's Office alleges was under way without lights – was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy.

Dinius is alleged to have had a blood alcohol level of 0.12 at the time of the crash, with Weber alleged to have a blood alcohol level of 0.18. Weber has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Weber's fiancee, Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured in the crash and died a few days later. Perdock was not charged, although the investigation concluded that he was traveling too fast for conditions. Estimates of the speed of Perdock's powerboat have ranged from 45 miles per hour to more than 60 miles per hour.

Weber attended the hearing along with about 20 other people – friends, family members and supporters of Dinius.

Some of those watching the courtroom proceedings had held signs in front of the courthouse protesting the case's handling, demanding Perdock be charged and calling for Hopkins' ouster.

Victor Haltom, Dinius' attorney, had filed two motions that he wanted the court to consider – one to have the District Attorney's Office recused from the case, the other to enforce a stipulation that Perdock's original blood sample be provided for independent testing, as the District Attorney's Office had agreed to do.

Byrne, who has been handling the case for several months, noted that he hadn't received answers to Haltom's motions from the District Attorney's Office. Hopkins said the motions had arrived this week, and he didn't have the statutory time to prepare.

Hopkins said he received a phone call from the state Attorney General's Office, who Haltom had contacted in regard to his motion to have Hopkins' office removed from the case.

He related that Gerald Engler, the supervising deputy attorney general, said he also would not be able to be prepared to address the motion in the statutory time.

Engler appeared in Lake County Superior Court in August of 2007 when Haltom previously had attempted to have the District Attorney's Office removed from the case, citing close relationships with the sheriff's office. At that time, the Attorney General's Office opposed the motion, which Judge Robert Crone ruled against.

Hopkins suggested a convenient date be set for hearing all the motions. “I think that makes sense,” said Byrne.

Haltom relayed to the court that Engler had said he was available for a hearing either on June 29 or 30.

Last month, Haltom pulled a time waiver that means Dinius' trial must start by July 7 at the latest. But that deadline now comes into conflict with the need to hear the motions, a point Byrne made during the brief hearing.

He said the defendant will “have to bend” on the speedy trial provisions because of the motions. “We deal with conflicting rights on a regular basis,” said Byrne.

DA: No change in position on the case

Byrne said one of the reasons for the Friday hearing was to discuss if the District Attorney's Office planned to move forward on the case.

“That's correct,” replied Hopkins.

Byrne said it was his understanding that if a reason arose not to proceed with trial that it was good to know that in advance in order to prevent the jury commissioner from summoning a large number of jury candidates.

“We have not come to that conclusion,” Hopkins said, referring to the idea of not moving forward.

Haltom said he expected that, if he called all of his witnesses in the recusal motion hearing that it could take more than a day.


Byrne said it's necessary to hear the motion before the trial, which can start as soon as possible afterward. Due to media and local interest, Byrne noted that it would take a “substantial number” of people to get a jury.

Haltom also wanted his motion to enforce the stipulations for the blood tests to be considered.

Byrne asked Hopkins for his position. Hopkins said he would need to look into it to see if a hearing was needed. If it was, it could be scheduled the same day as the hearing on the recusal, he suggested.

Noting that Friday was the last day to begin summoning a jury panel for the June 30 trial date, Byrne said they had to move forward with hearing the recusal motion.

“It does appear to have a sufficient seriousness that it should be heard,” he said, noting the District Attorney's Office has a right to respond.

“I'll find good cause to delay the trial,” he said.

Byrne set June 30 as the date for hearing the motions, saying the trial would begin as soon as possible afterward, noting it would start as soon afterward as possible. He added that if the Attorney General's Office did take over the case, they would need additional time to prepare.

The judge asked Hopkins when he planned to file his responses to Haltom's motions. Hopkins said he hoped to have them filed by June 23.

Haltom said a number of the witnesses he plans to call in the recusal hearing are employees of the Lake County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office. He said that Langan had previously stated in court that the Haltom wouldn't have to subpoena their testimony, that they would be made available. Haltom said he wanted the same assurances from Hopkins.

Hopkins said he didn't have the witness list to which Haltom was referring – and which features Hopkins' own name – “so I can't give him any assurances at this point.”

Byrne said the court still didn't know if the District Attorney's Office was planning to move forward, having missed Hopkins' statement previously.

“We have not come across anything in the investigation so far that would be a reason not to proceed to trial,” Hopkins replied.

Last month Langan indicated that District Attorney's Office investigators likely couldn't complete their investigations into new information in the case in order to be prepared for the June 30 trial date.

That new information includes witness statements placing Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the fatal crash, and testimony by sheriff's Deputy Mike Morshed supporting statements by former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland that he was ordered not to give Perdock a breathalyzer test at the scene.

However, on Friday Hopkins indicated no issues with time constraints.

Rather, he said the purpose of the investigation was to find if there was any information that required his office to change its position, which it hadn't.

After the hearing, Dinius said he was frustrated. “It's been three years of my life and it continues on,” he said. He'd hoped officials would “come to their senses” and drop the case.

Everything that's happening in the case is overshadowing the fact that Thornton lost her life, said Dinius. “That's the biggest thing I take away from this.”

Weber criticized the prosecution for more delays, saying of the hearing's outcome, “It sucks.”

He accused Hopkins – who he called “Mr. Perdock's attorney” – of a coverup in the case.

Weber hasn't been to previous hearings, but he promised to come back to support Dinius. “It's time to make noise.”

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




Finley resident Phil Murphy was among protesters calling for changes in the District Attorney's Office on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Gail Salituri.




Bismarck Dinius, following the court appearance, noted he was frustrated that the case wasn't dropped. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Mark Weber, whose fiancee, Lynn Thornton, died in the April 2006 crash, attended the hearing in the Bismarck Dinius case on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Gail Salituri.

LAKE COUNTY – With summer arriving, it's vacation time for many residents and families, and it's a good idea to have someone checking on your home while you're away.

Lake County Sheriff's Office volunteers provide the Vacation Check Program.

Subject to accessibility, residents in unincorporated Lake County may request regular checks of their homes for defined and reasonable periods of time while they are away, according to Capt. James Bauman.

While checks may be performed by deputy sheriffs, they are typically conducted by trained sheriff’s volunteers, he said.

Bauman said vacation checks entail a visual check of structures and property, ensuring that vehicles, gates, lighting and the general security of the home is intact and in accordance with the request.

Whenever a vacation check reveals something suspicious or otherwise out of place, volunteers are trained to back out of the immediate area and request a patrol deputy be dispatched to investigate further, according to Bauman.

Bauman said there is no cost associated with requesting a vacation check and the requester need only complete a basic form describing the duration of the checks, description and access to the property, vehicles, alarms, pets, and anyone authorized to be on the property or acting as agent for the owner.

Anyone interested in requesting a vacation check for their home may contact the South County Substation at 707-994-6433, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to noon, or the sheriff’s main office in Lakeport, 707-262-4200, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The late, great Percy Mayfield. Courtesy photo.



I lay awake nights and ponder world troubles

And my answer is always the same

That unless men put an end to this damnable sin

Hate will put the world in a flame, what a shame…

Poet Laureate of the Blues, Percy Mayfield from his song “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” Circa 1950

In about 1979, I had backslid into the town of Hayward from where I’d graduated high school some 11 years prior to that. Wandering aimlessly downtown one day, I noticed that the marquee on the Brickhouse nightspot proclaimed, “Percy Mayfield, One Night Only.”

At the time my Blues well didn’t run very deep, but I did know that Percy Mayfield had written a couple of poignant tunes that I was familiar with, one of which was “Hit The Road Jack,” one of many large hits for Papa Ray Charles.

I didn’t even know what Percy looked like. One thing is for sure. My nose was wide open for this man of the Blues. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my life path had already taken a serious detour into Blues territory and this excursion to the Brickhouse was to be one of many.

That evening when I entered the club, the house band was already rockin’. (For the faint of heart and parents of minor children, please be advised that it gets a little kinky, probably in the next paragraph. You have been forewarned and disclaimed!)

Furthermore, CyberSoulChildren, this account is not meant to slander or besmirch the genius of Percy Mayfield. I was there and this is how it went down.

When Percy Mayfield was let out of the crooked booking agents white Cadillac in front of the club, he was very drunk. He also thought he was in Oakland, which, mind you, happens to entertainers who do a lot of one nighters, all the time.

Trouper that he was, Mr. Mayfield sauntered up to the stage, took the microphone and cued the band into a slow Blues. He then sang the following:

“You know I cried last night baby

and I cried the night befo’.

‘said I cried last night baby

and I cried the night befo …

Then to most folk’s astonishment, Percy Mayfield sat down not to far from me. He was done. The band played on and I struck up a conversation with him. Strangely enough, I don’t recall even addressing his abrupt performance. Neither he nor I, or for that matter even the club’s management said anything about it.

At some point a cocaine-addled person of the Brickhouse citizenry offered Percy a toot or three. To my surprise he accepted the offer. I followed them into the bathroom. To my further surprise, I took a couple of snorts myself. (Mind you, I’ve been clean 10 years. If I wasn’t would I be so blatant?)

When the little toot session was over, I noticed Percy about to go back into the club with a dirty nose.

“Percy, you can’t go out there like that,” I said. “Man you are a legend. Clean yourself up for your public.”

“You right, little brother,” he said. “You right.”

In that moment I became his guide for the evening.

We hung together until the club closed at 2 a.m. Blues legend or not, they bum rushed Percy Mayfield and I out of the club before the clock stuck 2:01 a.m.

I thought my guide shift was over. As I bade Mr. Mayfield farewell, he appealed to me solemnly, “Don’t leave me, little brother.”

“You right, man,” I said. “You’re a legend. I can’t leave you.”

I don’t remember much conversation in the two and a half hours I stood in the doorway of the Brickhouse with Percy Mayfield. I remember it getting pretty cold though.

Finally, after 5 a.m., the crooked booking agent in the white Cadillac pulled up and scooped up the Poet Laureate of the Blues, taking him, I imagine to the fify-leven hundred thousandth motel of his career. Percy thanked me as I shook his hand.

I watched the Cadillac carefully navigate down Mission Boulevard. I turned up B Street and headed home in the pre-dawn chill. A pickup truck cruised by at some point. The occupants slowed down to nonchalantly spew the N-word in my direction. The sting of it was deflected by my Karmic Muse.

About a year or so later, I read what was titled “The Last Percy Mayfield Interview” in the Pink Section of the Chronicle. It might’ve been written by Joel Selvin. I do remember that Percy Mayfield was terminally ill during the interview and it was published posthumously. To this day I feel righteously honored and blessed to have been in his presence that night.

One of the most detailed biographies on Percy Mayfield that I found on the web is at the following location: .

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool local events:

Blues Farm with Dave Broida, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 15, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, .

Open mike night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, .

Chicken & The Defenders play the Lakeport Summer Concerts at Library Park on Friday, June 19. Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Pablo Cruise Friday, June 19. The Charlie Daniels Band Saturday, June 26. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone, 888-77-CACHE, or online, .

Chris Botti in concert, 8:15 p.m. Saturday, June 20. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at .

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone, 888-77-CACHE, or online at .

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at .

A late night visitor pays his respects at the Moving Wall on Thursday, June 11, 2009, at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.






LAKEPORT – A short and solemn procession on Thursday morning led a memorial for the Vietnam War to the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin Street, where it will be on display until early next week.

“The Moving Wall,” a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., was escorted to the fairgrounds by the Patriot Guard Riders.

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 brought the wall to Lake County.

On Thursday morning volunteers set up the memorial in about two hours. Earlier in the week volunteers had put up supporting structures and installed other features including statuary and the Avenue of Flags.

The effort to bring the wall to Lake County began in September of 2006, when VVA submitted an application to host the memorial, said chapter President Dean Gotham.

“It wasn't until 2008 that we received notification that we were on the list,” he said. “We began the preliminary planning early on and really started to hit the decks in October 2008.”

Gotham said the chapter considers bringing the wall here “an act of love.”

He added, “We worked hard because we have an opportunity as veterans to show respect to our fallen brothers and sisters, and we can offer the public an opportunity to show their respect and honor them as well.”

The opening ceremonies for the wall's stay in Lake County will be held at 9 a.m. Friday. It will be open around the clock until it departs from Lakeport on June 15.

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



The first part of the escort for the wall

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