From the emails, voice mails and other sources:
HELPING HANDS My column Sunday on Modesto's Smith family and the loss of its 13-month-old son, Mace, to an extremely rare diabetic condition generated a most interesting email.
The story touched Steve Cooper of Oakdale, whose son, Kyle, is in the process of creating a nonprofit that could benefit others who endure difficult circumstances emotionally and, as a result, also financially.
After a friend learned he had only three weeks to spend with his terminally ill daughter, Kyle Cooper offered to help by volunteering to take the friend's place at work, with the friend continuing to receive his pay.
He wanted to do something to give the friend the time off to spend those last precious days with his daughter.
Cooper, who now lives in Boise, Idaho, said the employer declined the offer.
A few years later, another friend needed time after losing a child in an auto accident. Again, Cooper offered to fill in to give a friend paid leave, but the friend's job also involved specific technical skills.
But the idea remained in the back of Cooper's mind. Now, he's in the process of creating Hands For Time, a nonprofit organization he hopes can aid those who need personal time off but can't afford the loss of income. He wants to create a pool of volunteers and help "by placing highly qualified volunteers in the provider's workplace," according to Hands For Time's mission statement.
It will involve creating a database of volunteers nationwide, linking skilled volunteers with people in need in a respective community.
If you're interested in becoming such a volunteer, email Cooper at email@example.com.
MOMENTS IN TIME In December 2011, I wrote about Bill Wallace, a fourth-generation Modesto firefighter preparing to end his 32-year career with the department. When he retired, it marked the first time since the Modesto Fire Department turned pro in 1909 that no Wallace family member served.
His grandfather George Wallace became Modesto's first paid firefighter in 1909 and the city's first chief a year later. George E. Wallace, Bill's father, joined the department in 1947 and became assistant chief, hiring Bill in 1979.
That stated, Bill Wallace not only is part of Modesto's firefighting history, but also one of its chroniclers. Wallace, Jim Gunn and Robert Walton recently co-wrote "The Modesto Fire Department History Book-137 Years of Fire Fighting Tradition."
The book covers the department's history from 1875 until the merger of the department with Salida and the Fire Warden's office that created the Modesto Regional Fire Authority in July 2011.
It includes a timeline and scores of photographs.
Priced at $93, the book is available at the McHenry Museum and at the Modesto Regional Fire Authority office, 3705 Oakdale Road in Modesto.
'AMAZING' CAREER Public TV viewers will miss Huell Howser, the homespun host of "California's Gold" and "Road Trip With Huell Howser," shows that featured historical and other points of interest throughout the state. He died Monday at 67, two months after announcing his retirement.
Howser's California shows, the first of which made its debut in 1991, included Gold Country segments on the 49er RV ranch and the poison oak festival in Columbia, Sonora's Red Church, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, Groveland's Iron Door saloon, various points in Yosemite, and Amador County's Volcano, Indian Grinding Rock and Daffodil Hill.
He treated a simple fact, implement or relic as if he'd just discovered plutonium, his voice steeped in awe as he'd say something akin to, "You mean that's a shovel?"
Anyone who watched his shows found themselves imitating him the highest form of flattery, as the old saying suggests.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.