Monday, 22 July 2024


God created the oyster and then disguised it so that it could quietly perfect itself over millennia before man would discover it. How else could anything that looks so much like a rock be so wonderful inside? An ugly, rough, hard exterior containing a soft, smooth, delicious interior, good for so many uses ... it’s like a misanthropic Easter egg.

I love oysters and once worked on an oyster farm, so oysters are something of an avocation of mine. I will try to keep this brief although I could talk about oysters for hours and barely take time to breathe.

Oyster farms should be the model for all future aquaculture and could be the savior of our oceans’ resources.

On an oyster farm natural baby seed oysters are bred in pens and once they’ve grown a bit they are put out on farms in the sea using a variety of growing techniques that allow them to mature naturally.

Some growing methods are better than others, but they are all harmless to the ocean and even add to the wild stock naturally through escapees and breeding.

Like the egg, an oyster can be made into almost anything: appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, breads, pasta, sandwiches, stuffing, desserts and there are even oyster beers made with real oysters.

There are many different types of edible oysters, and I could go through and list the many types and flavors, but most of the oysters you will find in our area are Pacific “Miyagi” oysters.

I find that oysters are similar to wine in many ways, in that tastes are subjective: I may like this wine but you won’t, and I may like this type of oyster but you won’t.

Don’t take someone else’s opinion on a particular type of oyster; you have to try it for yourself to know if you will like it. Pacific oysters remind me of beef or red wine with their dark colors and full flavor, while Atlantic oysters are more like chicken or white wine with its lighter colored flesh and milder flavors. Don’t believe me? Then I guess you have to try them all yourself.

Oysters used to be terribly cheap and were considered poverty food for a long time. During the mid-1800’s “Mad William” Windham, “the prince of London’s pimps,” fed oysters to his “Butterflies of the Night.” Some Londoners observed this and thought that he did this because they were aphrodisiacs to help keep the girls going, not for the economic factor. Now oysters are eaten by everyone and are especially popular at holiday parties.

You have probably heard the axiom that states “Only eat oysters in months with an R.” This is not necessarily true, but it is not without foundation either. It was a common practice many years ago before the benefit of refrigeration, because not only did oysters go bad quickly in the heat of summer but oysters are naturally at their culinary worst during warm water months.

Oysters breed when the water is warm, and during this time all the oyster’s energy is focused on breeding and their body becomes unappetizingly creamy textured and astringently flavored. When the water cools off so do the oysters’ libidos and they firm up and become sweet tasting with subtle flavors.

I won’t eat oysters during the summer with the one exception being triploid oysters, which are oysters that have three chromosomes. Technology (not using genetic engineering) can now produce a triploid oyster by breeding tetraploid males (which have four chromosomes) with diploid females (two chromosomes) to produce 100 percent triploid oysters. It’s like breeding a horse and a donkey to produce a mule, and like a mule the triploid oyster is sterile. They have no way or will to breed so all of their energy goes to increased growth and they maintain year-round palatable taste and texture (the oysters, not the mules).

Triploid demand and production are both growing extremely fast in the U.S., and currently they are the most expensive due to this demand. Despite the expense, if you want oysters in the summertime the triploid is the way to go.

Working on an oyster farm changed my life in many ways. You can only imagine how wonderful it was for a water lover like me to be able to head to the ocean every morning, spend the day in the water caring for thousands of little babies, while wading through the bay and watching the wildlife all around.

I learned how to appreciate the subtleties of oysters and how like wine they even have specific “terroir” that can be distinguished from one area to another. The flavors of cucumber, minerals, brass, lemon, fresh biscuits, copper, musk, melon, clean, crisp, fruity, buttery, are just a few tastes and sensations that you can find in fresh oysters, and these flavors are reflected in the farms in which they grow.

Also like wines, oysters lose these flavors if they aren’t stored well or if they are opened too early and then just left to sit waiting for service. Shucking the oyster immediately prior to eating is mandatory.

Some restaurants (even world famous Northern California restaurants) will shuck their oysters in the morning then cover them in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge until ordered. It may be a time saver in prep, but it diminishes the unique subtleties of the oyster.

If you want to give the impression of being a real oyster connoisseur, ask for the top half of the oyster shell to be served with your plate of oysters. This will prove the oysters are freshly shucked, since if the top half of the shell of oysters shucked early in the day will have been discarded hours ago.

Once, a waitress asked why this was important to me. In return I asked the waitress if they uncorked all of the wine they would need for the day first thing in the morning and let it sit until ordered. She understood my point immediately.

Poets and songwriters have spoken of the pearl within the oyster since time immemorial. There seems to be something so artistic in imagining such a beautiful, smooth and luminous stone emerging from something so coarse and rough in appearance.

Unfortunately this is about as accurate as writing about the relationship of eggs to the Easter Bunny. They may both be symbols of fertility, but rabbits just don’t deliver eggs. The edible species of oysters don’t develop a pearl of any beauty. Pearls used in jewelry are actually produced by a bivalve more accurately related to a variety of mussel. It is however, still romantic to plant a pearl into an oyster just before service to impress someone you love.

In my opinion, people who swallow oysters whole without chewing don’t like to eat oysters, they just like to be seen eating oysters. And people who like oysters with heavy condiments like cocktail sauce and tartar sauce are more interested in the flavor of the sauce than the oyster.

To truly enjoy an oyster you need to avoid heavy thick sauces and stick with lighter accompaniments that accent and not overpower the oyster. Mignonette sauce (recipe to follow), fresh lemon juice or just a dash of hot sauce are the best accompaniments.

Oysters from extra-small to medium are best for eating raw, while large, extra large, jumbo and what some oyster farms call “cowboys” (oysters that have outwitted harvest somehow until they’ve reached a huge size, up to 12 inches long) are best for grilling.

The following recipe is an adaptation of a classic French recipe. It’s a simple red wine vinegar, shallot and pepper mixture that I have tweaked to make it my own.

Instead of the red wine vinegar I use raspberry vinegar, which was actually preferred at the oyster farm where I worked, and I switched the standard ground black pepper to a four-color peppercorn mix because the colors accent the look of the sauce on the oyster and give it a more complex flavor. No salt is recommended since the oysters themselves will provide that.

Mignonette sauce for oysters on the half shell

2/3 cup raspberry vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced shallots (don’t substitute onions, the flavor isn’t the same)

1 tablespoon four-color peppercorn mix, freshly and finely ground

Mix the ingredients, refrigerate, and let chill for at least an hour. Serve one teaspoonful on top of each raw oyster.

An upcoming chance to pair oysters, wine

The Moore Family Winery will be having an Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc pairing on at their winery Feb. 21, 2009, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The fee is $20.

They will be serving several types of oysters, raw and barbecued, paired with the Moore family's own Sauvignon Blanc. Visit or call 707-738-0507 for further information.

Me? I’ll definitely be there since I have a passion for oysters that will never end.

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.


LAKE COUNTY – An vehicle collision that occurred Thursday evening resulted in major injuries, while in other areas of the county roads were impacted by downed trees and power lines.

The crash took place on Highway 29 just south of Bradford Road near Middletown, according to the California Highway Patrol.

At about 5:46 p.m. a vehicle was reported to have gone off the roadway, the CHP reported.

A male subject was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he underwent a cat scan and was admitted. At about the same time a male subject was reported to have been undergoing an x-ray at St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake.

Based on the initial report, it was not clear how many people had been involved or the full extent of their injuries, and their identities were not reported.

The roadways on Christmas appeared mostly impacted by weather-related issues.

Just after 7 p.m., a tree was reported in the road on Bottle Rock Road just west of Pine Grove, according to the CHP. At about 9:30 p.m., a tree also was reported in the middle of Dry Creek Road at Highway 175 in Cobb.

Not long after 10 p.m., CHP also received a report of rocks in the roadway on southbound Highway 29 one mile south of Highway 20.

A power pole with power lines was reported down on southbound Highway 175 just south of Anderson Springs shortly before 9 p.m. The CHP reported that Pacific Gas and Electric was summoned to the scene and the roadway was opened again in both directions just before 10 p.m.

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


Wine Alliance Board members and Ginny Craven (front, center) at the check presentation on Tuesday in Kelseyville. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – The Lake County Wine Alliance on Tuesday spread some holiday cheer and handed out some large checks to several local groups who work to make Lake County a better place.

The proceeds from the alliance's ninth annual Lake County Wine Auction – held in September at Buckingham Golf and Country Club – were distributed at a festive pre-Christmas gathering at Marie Beery's Saw Shop Gallery Bistro Tuesday afternoon.

In all, 16 community nonprofits shared $91,500.

“We had an incredible year,” said Wine Alliance Treasurer Rob Roumiguiere.

Since it began in 2000, the Lake County Wine Auction has contributed approximately $713,002 to community organizations, alliance board members reported. The group's charter directs it to foster the arts, benefit health services and support the community while, at the same time, promoting Lake County as a wine-growing region.




Rob Roumiguiere speaks about the Wine Auction effort as fellow Wine Alliance Board members Marie Beery and Wilda Shock look on Tuesday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


Joining Roumiguiere in making the check presentations were fellow Wine Alliance Board of Directors members including President Margaret Walker-Stimmel, Vice President Marie Beery, Secretary Pamela Shine-Duncan; and directors Judy Luchsinger, Wilda Shock and Janet Thompson. Jim Fetzer, another director, didn't attend.

This year, the Wine Alliance took its signature event in a different direction, adding new facets to it – such as a cooking presentation with noted chef John Ash, Roumiguiere said.

“This event really has become the premier event for Lake County,” he said, adding that about 400 people attended this year.

Recipients were categorized into three major groups – arts, health and community – each of which divided up $30,000. An additional $1,500 went to the Buckingham Junior Golf Program to fund Lake County Junior Golf Council activities.




Brad Onorato, district representative for Congressman Mike Thoompson, with representatives of the Lake County Literacy Coalition. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



In the arts, $5,000 went to Kids 4 Broadway, which provides tuition scholarships for children ages 6 through 14 to participate in theater productions, plus $5,000 each to the fine arts programs at Clear Lake High School, Kelseyville High School, Lower Lake High School, Middletown High School and Upper Lake High School.

Health-related groups included Lake County Special Olympics, $2,500, for sports equipment, uniforms, training supplies and transportation costs; Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center, $2,500, for equine-assisted therapy programs for special needs youth; Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake, $12,500, providing a caring, accepting environment for dementia-impaired adults; and Hospice Services of Lake County, $12,500, offering high-quality, end-of-life services to county residents.

Susie Wiloth said her therapy and riding center, located between Lower Lake and Middletown, will use the $2,500 it received to sponsor children who are students of the school. She said the school will provide matching funds to provide more therapeutic riding opportunities for the students.

In the community category, the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team received $2,500, as did Church Women United. Operation Tango Mike was awarded $5,000, while the Lake Family Resource Center and the Lake County Literacy Coalition each received $10,000.




Rich Feiro and Frank Parker of the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team and Wine Alliance Board member Wilda Shock. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


The $2,500 that went to the Military Funeral Honors Team will go toward uniforms and team operations, said team member and United Veterans Council President Frank Parker. The funds also will help cover a recent engine overhaul for the group's bus, which carries team members to veterans' funerals and military-related events.

“We operate strictly on donations,” said Parker.

Ginny Craven, founder of Operation Tango Mike – which sends care packages to local troops overseas – said the $5,000 her group received will help ensure several more months of supplies to members of the military.

To send between 80 and 100 packages a month averages about $1,000 in shipping costs each time the packages go out, Craven said, adding that shipping costs will go up after the start of the new year.

Church Women United will use their funds to provide shoes and socks for school-age children in need and the Lake Family Resource Center will operate separate summer camps for young men and women ages 12 through 17. The Literacy Coalition plans to train more tutors to serve adults needing help reading and writing English.




Susie Wiloth (third from left) and Wine Alliance Board members. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Despite the tough economy, Roumiguiere said this year's distribution was the same as last year's. “It's pretty incredible,” he said.

The auction's administrative costs are covered by ticket sales and sponsors, which allows them to put more of the proceeds back into the local groups that they select as beneficiaries this year.

Roumiguiere hopes to see the event grow even larger next year.

“The bigger we can make this event the more we can give away,” he said.

The Wine Alliance is now taking applications from nonprofits that wish to be considered as recipients of the 2009 Wine Auction proceeds. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2009.

For more information, contact Judy Luchsinger, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 263-3280. The Lake County Wine Alliance may be contacted at 866-279-WINE or by mail at P.O. Box 530, Kelseyville, CA 95451.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The storms that brought snow and freezing temperatures to the county during the Christmas holiday have cleared and forecasters are predicting rain and even a little sunshine in the week ahead.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento is predicting a 30- to 60-percent chances of showers in parts of Lake County on Saturday, with temperatures in the 40s and slight winds at about 6 miles per hour.

On Sunday, the agency is forecasting a 40- to 50-percent chance of rain in the county.

Moving into next week, a 40-percent chance of rain is expected on Monday, decreasing to 20-percent overnight, the National Weather Service reported.

Tuesday has a promise of sunshine and a daytime high of 48 degrees, a temperature that also is predicted for Wednesday, when a slight chance of rain once again is predicted.

The National Weather Service also is predicting slight chances of rain next Thursday and Friday.

Conditions on area roads appeared much clearer on Friday, as compared to previous days, according to California Highway Patrol incident reports.

However, colder nighttime temperatures still led to icy conditions in parts of the county, which the reports noted.

Weather-related issues such as downed trees continue to be a concern on area roadways.

A large tree was reported down and blocking both lanes on Lakeshore Drive in Clearlake Park Friday at about 6:47 p.m. .County road crews responded to clear the road, which took just under three hours to complete.

CHP officers will remain out in force through Sunday as part of a seasonal maximum enforcement period in response to the holidays.

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From left, veterans Kirk Macdonald, Harry Graves, Dan Davi and Woody Hughes hand out Christmas goodies at Lakeport Skilled Nursing on Tuesday as part of the "Seniors Not Forgotten" holiday campaign. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



"To live is not to live for one's self; let us help one another." – Menander

LAKEPORT – Local veterans gathered together this week to share holiday good cheer with seniors around the county.

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the United Veterans Council took part in the fourth annual "Seniors Not Forgotten" Christmas campaign.

This year Dan Davi and Frank Parker once again coordinated the gathering of donations – both from local businesses and residents – in order to provide gifts to seniors and care facilities. Despite the tough economy, the vets reported that the community was generous once again.

This past Saturday, the groups kicked off the week of Christmas giving with a gift wrapping party at St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church Hall in Lakeport. They put together gifts including blankets and an abundance of handmade items, the latter crafted by Suzanne Schneider.

Over the next several days, they visited Lakeport facilities including Edelweiss Nursing Home, Evergreen Lakeport Healthcare and Lakeport Skilled Nursing. They're slated for a visit to Meadowood Nursing Center in Clearlake on Christmas morning.

When the Seniors Not Forgotten effort started several years ago, it initially focused on reaching out to veterans in convalescent facilities. However, the groups expanded their efforts to reach out to the hundreds of seniors who are in permanent care in the nursing centers, giving out fleece blankets and slipper socks.

This year, Davi and Dean Gotham, president of the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, said they decided to go to the nursing facilities to ask if there was anything in particular they wanted to help care for their senior patients.

Gotham said the facility administrators all made the same request – a Wii gaming system.

The system, the center administrators told the vets, could help with therapy for seniors who needed the mental and physical stimulation.

This week, that wish was granted, with the vets delivering the Wiis and Christmas greetings during visits to the care facilities.

On Tuesday afternoon, the vets gathered at Lakeport Skilled Nursing, where they joined with a roomful of seniors to sing Christmas carols and give out the handmade gifts.

During the visit, they presented the gaming system plus another gift – a barbecue that the seniors can enjoy once the warmer weather arrives.




Dan Davi prepares to present the Wii gaming system and barbecue to the seniors at Lakeport Skilled Nursing on Tuesday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


Joining the vets was Santa Claus – played by Supervisor Rob Brown – who made the rounds of the rooms to visit those residents who were unable to make it to the activity room.

Gotham and his fellow veterans walk patrol on behalf of those who need a helping hand year-round, but their efforts have taken on a special importance at the end of what has been a challenging year for many residents.

Earlier his week, Lake County News received a letter from Bill Conway and his son, Joshua, of Glenhaven, thanking Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars for their unexpected help this holiday season.

On Saturday, Davi, Gotham and VFW Adjutant Kirk Macdonald showed up at the Conways' home with gifts and groceries after finding out about their need. Bill Conway compared the men to the three wise men bearing gifts.

The goal was simply to reach out to someone who needed a helping hand. Gotham said they didn't realize until later that Conway happened to be a Vietnam-era veteran.

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




Santa (portrayed by Supervisor Rob Brown), a Lakeport Skilled Nursing staffer and United Veterans Council President Frank Parker visit patients at Lakeport Skilled Nursing on Tuesday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




The California Highway Patrol will have extra patrols on the highways during Christmas and New Year's. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY – If you chose to drink and drive this holiday season, those flashing red lights in your rear-view mirror won’t belong to a red-nosed reindeer, but to a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer’s vehicle.

In an effort to keep California’s roads safe, every available CHP officer will be out on the road during the upcoming Christmas Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) which begins Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Dec. 28.

“Consider this a warning,” said Clear Lake Area CHP Lieutenant Mark Loveless. “We will be out there taking a zero tolerance approach and will arrest you if you are drinking and driving.”

CHP officers arrested 1,661 motorists statewide for driving under the influence (DUI) during last year’s Christmas MEP.

During that same time period, 43 people died in the 4,613 collisions that occurred in California. Among those killed, 18 lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes.

“Remember to designate a non-drinking driver before the celebrating begins, watch your speed and always wear your seatbelt,” Loveless added.

Along with the increased enforcement effort, the CHP is asking motorists to help keep the state’s roadways safe by calling 911 to report a suspected drunk driver. Callers should be prepared to provide dispatchers a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.

“The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and celebrations; unfortunately it is also a time when we see too many alcohol-related highway fatalities,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Even if we save just one life by getting the message out, that is one life that has been spared.”

The CHP will conduct a similar maximum enforcement effort over the New Year’s holiday weekend which begins Wednesday, Dec. 31, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.


LAKE COUNTY – Local law enforcement are planning to conduct operations over the upcoming New Year's holiday to discourage driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Lakeport Police and the Lake County Sheriff's Office will take part on the DUI enforcement saturation patrols beginning on New Year's Eve, according to a statement from sheriff's Lt. Cecil Brown.

The operations are sponsored by a grant from California AVOID, an anti-DUI program founded in 1973. The grants are administered by the California Office of Traffic Safety for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

AVOID funds are used to fund duty time and equipment for DUI enforcement.

Officials warn that drivers who choose to drink and drive this holiday season should expect to spend the night behind bars.

AVOID activities that took place over Memorial Day weekend this year, from May 23 through May 26, netted nine DUI arrests, according to California AVOID statistics.


LAKE COUNTY – With parts of Lake County already covered in snow in time for a white Christmas, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning, and officials are urging caution on the roads.

The National Weather Service warned that a hazardous winter storm could be coming into Lake County, with an urgent winter storm warning in effect through noon on Christmas day.

The National Weather Service said that rain will mix with snow, and snow is expected to fall as low as 1,500 feet on Christmas morning, with 3 to 6 inches of snow possible to 3,000 feet by Christmas afternoon, and 1 to 2 inches as low as 2,000 feet.

The agency also warned of wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour that will decrease by late morning on Christmas.

Cobb residents reported about 3 inches of snow fell early Wednesday, with some of it melting off.

Throughout the day, the Cobb area was the scene of hazardous road conditions, with the California Highway Patrol reporting icy and snow-covered roads, causing vehicles to get stuck in the snow.

The snow was so bad in some spots that tow trucks reported the roads weren't passable. The Lake County Roads Department was called in to plow the areas.

Other parts of the county also reported the impact of the winter conditions on roads, with trees and boulders reported on portions of Highway 29.

CHP Officer Josh Dye said most of the weather-related road issues on Wednesday were to be found in Cobb due to the snow, with some snowy slush in the Clear Lake Rivieras also reported. He advised that after dark the roads become icy all over the county.

Late Wednesday, the CHP reported snow in parts of the Mendocino National Forest above Upper Lake.

On Wednesday evening, the CHP began its maximum enforcement period, which Dye said will be in effect until Dec. 28.

During that four-day period, Dye said the CHP will have 80 percent of its available staff on duty, which will mean from three to five officers at a time will be patrolling the county's roadways during the busy holiday.

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


LAKE COUNTY – A head-on traffic collision on Highway 20 Tuesday evening resulted in minor injuries.

The collision occurred on westbound Highway 20 about 15 miles west of Highway 16, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The vehicles involved were said to be a silver Honda Civic and a pickup truck. One of the vehicles was off the roadway, according to the CHP.

The CHP and the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported to the scene, where the roadway was reported to be partially blocked.

At least one person was transported to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake, but CHP did not release information about the names of the crash victims.

The roadway was reported to be open shortly before 8:30 p.m.

Information also was not available Tuesday on a crash that occurred Monday evening on Highway 53 near Clearlake.

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Operation Tango Mike founder Ginny Craven and Pearl Harbor survivor, Henry Anderson, who recently donated $5,000 to th effort. Courtesy photo.






LAKE COUNTY – On a recent cold, blustery December evening, several dozen volunteers gathered at Umpqua Bank in Lakeport for the monthly packing party to assemble care packages for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No one seemed to mind the fact that they had to drive in blowing rain and sleet to make the event, held Dec. 18.

Conversations turned to the harsh and bitter winter weather endured by our troops, including a recent e-mail from Afghanistan where the temperature had been a steady 21 degrees, which prompted everyone to include black beanies and gloves in the boxes they were packing.

Eighty-four boxes were packed with food, snacks, treats and hygiene items. Of course, loads of holiday goodies, greeting cards and love were packed into every one.

Every month, after the boxes are packed and tightly sealed with packing tape, they are shuttled into a hallway for special finishing touches. There, children ranging from toddlers to teens add stickers, decorations and notes of love and support to the outside of the care packages. No doubt, these messages truly finalize the “care” part of each care package.

It is a costly proposition to pack and ship 80 to 100 monthly care packages, with shipping fees alone reaching nearly $1,000. Somehow, it always gets done with the love, support and donations of caring Lake County citizens.

An example is a generous donation made by a local Pearl Harbor survivor, Henry Anderson.

Many months ago Anderson donated $5,000 to a cause he believes in because of his experience in life. Anderson served in the US Navy from 1937 to 1945, being aboard the battleship USS Tennessee on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack.

He was recently able to attend an Operation Tango Mike packing party, where he was thanked for his generous gift by parents and grandparents of deployed troops, veterans and troop supporters.

His simple reply was, “I’m just repaying some of the kindness that was shown to me while I was in the service.”

The gratitude expressed for the support often comes directly from the troops receiving the care packages.

A recent message was, “Merry Christmas, My name is Senior Airman Davielle Rodgers and I just wanted to take a few minutes and thank you for the packages that you sent over here. I was so pleased to have something for the holiday season and I was able to send some of the things to soldiers who haven’t received anything from home. I just want to tell you that it is organizations such as yours that keep us going. You have no ideas what an amazing feeling it is when you know people from back home are behind us. Keep up the wonderful work and I wanted to say again thank you for the support.”

Another recent message came from a military mom who wrote, “Dear Tango Mike, You don’t know me but my sister and her husband live in Lakeport and he just retired from the school district there and was privy to your tango mike operations for the troops. Our son has been stationed in Iraq for 15 months and has received your boxes both last year and already this year. Communications are limited, so on his behalf, I am telling you thanks for remembering our guys. This time of year is tough on them, especially my son and their unit as this is the second year in a row that they won’t be home for the holidays. Once again, thanks.” Elizabeth Conner, Lodi.


These messages serve to reinforce the resolve to continue sending care packages and support to our troops.

In that regard, 2009 Operation Tango Mike events are already being planned. Tips for Troops will take place on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009 beginning at 5 p.m. at Saw Shop Gallery Bistro in Kelseyville. Thanks to Marie and Jeremy, diners will enjoy pork chop, Chicken Toscana or four cheese tortellini entrees, with tips benefitting Operation Tango Mike. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 278-0129.

The wrestlers of Middletown High School are taking to the mat on Jan. 9 and 10 at the Middletown Mustang Invitational. The Mustang wrestlers have pledged to support our troops by raising money in a “take-down-a-thon” at their tournament. During the Christmas vacation, wrestlers are working to fill their pledge sheets with donations for every take down they score on the mat. Coach Troy Brierly is facilitating and organizing the fundraising to benefit Operation Tango Mike.

Anyone wishing to support Operation Tango Mike is welcome. Packing parties are usually held the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at Umpqua Bank, 805 11th St., Lakeport. Donations may be sent to 5216 Piner Court, Kelseyville, CA 95451.

For more information, contact Ginny Craven at (707) 349-2838 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Mother and daughter Suzie Defrancisci and Terra Seifert. Defrancisci's son, Chuck Cossette, will soon deploy for his third tour of duty. Courtesy photo.





UKIAH – An Upper Lake man survived a Tuesday evening vehicle collision that saw his vehicle plummet hundreds of feet down a steep ravine off of Highway 101, claiming the life of a teenage passenger.

Hugo L. Macias Jr., 20, and the 16-year-old male from Laytonville, whose name was not released because of his age, were traveling southbound on Highway 101 in a 1994 Geo Tracker when the crash occurred at around 6:14 p.m. Tuesday, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol.

The crash occurred in the Ukiah area north of mile post marker 36.01, the CHP reported. Conditions at the time of the collision were reported to be cloudy, cold and dry.

The CHP report said that Macias, who was driving about 55 to 60 miles per hour, suddenly veered off the roadway and continued over the side of the road, plummeting 350 feet down a steep ravine.

Both Macias and his passenger were wearing their seat belts, but the violent nature of the crash – in which the vehicle overturned several times – resulted in the teenage passenger being ejected and sustaining fatal injuries, according to the CHP report.

Macias was flown via REACH Air Ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with major injuries.

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SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Jerry Brown on Tuesday made public a report outlining the revenues generated by the 730 commercial fundraisers registered with the California Department of Justice in 2007 and describing what percentage of the donations ended up in charitable coffers.

“The report reveals that some fundraising campaigns are wildly successful and others are profound disappointments,” Attorney General Brown said. “In some cases, commercial fundraisers have stunning successes, generating millions for good causes. In others, the overhead costs outpace the dollars raised, and the charities have to foot the bill.”

The Attorney General’s Charitable Solicitation Report found that in 2007, commercial fundraisers collected $370.33 million from Californians in donations.

In total, just $161.6 million – or 43.6 percent of the donations raised actually made it to the charities. The remainder went to commercial fundraisers who receive a percentage from each donation or a flat fee as payment.

These figures, however, are averages and do not provide the full picture.

There are some cases where the vast majority of funds make it to the charity. For instance:

  • A commercial company raised $15.9 million for the March of Dimes Foundation, which received $11 million, or more than 70 percent.

  • A commercial company raised $1.2 million for the Alzheimer’s Association, which received $873,606, or 72 percent.

But other cases are not so successful, where the charity can find itself tens of thousands of dollars in the red.

The California Legislature passed a law in 1989 requiring commercial fundraisers to file these financial reports with the Attorney General. This is the 16th year that the Attorney General has published this annual report.

The report also describes and provides statistics for automobile donations and thrift store operations.

The Attorney General also publishes the Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors that provides advice, guidelines and information to help donors in making giving decisions. The guide suggests that donors:

  • Ask the solicitor how a donation will be distributed.

  • Ask what percentage of donations pays for fundraising expenses.

  • Learn about the charitable organization, its activities and its fundraising practices. Research charities by going to the Attorney General’s Web site. Check with the Wise Giving Alliance (, Council of Better Business Bureaus ( and the American Institute of Philanthropy (

  • Ask if the solicitor works for a commercial fundraiser and is being paid to solicit.

  • Avoid cash donations.

  • Avoid giving credit card information to a telephone solicitor or in response to a telephone solicitation.

The guide is available on the Attorney General’s Web site at or a copy can be requested by writing to the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts, P.O. Box 903447, Sacramento, CA 94203-4470.


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