MODESTO -- From the emails, phones and memory banks:
APOLOGY NOTED Marty Jakosa has formally apologized to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce for the assassination joke he told while emceeing the Best of Turlock banquet Friday night.
The joke had President Barack Obama seeking advice from the ghosts of Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. Obama asked each what he could do to help the country. Lincoln tells Obama to "go see a play."
As I wrote in my column Tuesday, Jakosa's attempt at humor bothered some of those in attendance, including chamber officials who felt his comments were out of line on a night when some of the city's best and brightest were being honored. It certainly wasn't part of the script the chamber provided.
Hence the apology.
"In hindsight, my comments were incredibly insensitive and not appropriate for this venue or any venue, for that matter," he wrote. "Simply stated, I exercised extremely poor judgment in my comments. I would never want to purposely disrespect the office of the Presidency of the United States. For that, I am truly sorry."
Jakosa added, "This incident has caused me to take pause, reflect deeply about my actions and take the appropriate self-management steps necessary to eradicate my lapse in judgment."
Since the column appeared, some readers called or emailed claiming that similar sick jokes were told about George W. Bush when he was in office and that we, meaning The Bee, ignored them.
Whatever people choose to post or share in the social media or circulate through emails is their business.
My column topics are local. If someone at an event here in the valley stood in front of 300-plus people and told an assassination joke about Bush, I definitely would have written about it because someone else would have been offended enough to tell us about it.
And consider this: Bush is a Republican. Most Chamber of Commerce members in any city are conservative, pro-business types. Same goes for those in some of the service clubs. Here in the socially conservative valley, any emcee or speaker who told the same joke about Bush would have been booed off the stage.
The bottom line is that assassination jokes are tasteless, period.
ALMOST DONE Last summer, I wrote about the restoration of the fields at the 102-year-old Sonora Elementary School "dome." The elementary school moved to a new campus decades ago, and Sonora High bought the property, using the columned white building for a district office and the rest of the campus for alternative education.
The dome building is now vacant because of prohibitive restoration costs and the lack of disabled access. But its field, with concrete and stone bleachers, got a face-lift thanks to a $159,715 grant from Major League Baseball and its players' association. The Youth Sports Foundation also received donations locally of money and services, and Chapter 391 of the Vietnam Veterans of American replaced the old electric scoreboard.
New irrigation systems are working, and the grass is growing. Local contractor Steve Njirich is in the process of spreading the crushed red cinder for the infield. Weather caused some delays, but it should be ready in time for Sonora High's home softball opener Feb. 28.
BOOK REPORTS In November, Ken Burns' documentary about the Dust Bowl made its debut on PBS, bringing back the recollections of valley residents who lived through the 1930s and migrated west during that time.
The iconic photo of that era involved the "Migrant Mother," Florence Owens Thompson, who eventually came to Modesto and died here in 1983. Her grandson, Modesto resident Roger Sprague, and his wife, Kay Sprague Ham, co-authored "Migrant Mother: The Second Trail of Tears."
Roger died in 2004, and Ham also a descendant of Dust Bowl migrants remarried. But she continued to work on the book and last week received a contract from Tate Publishing of Oklahoma, which will edit and publish the book. If all goes well, it should be available in print this summer, Ham said.
Another Modestan, Kathy Hardy, recently joined the list of first-time authors with her book "Comfort: Inspirations for Parents of Chronically Ill Children." Hardy is the mother of eight children. The book is available on Amazon.com.
MR. FIX-IT Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will speak at the University of the Pacific in Stockton on March 21. An incorrect date appeared in this column last week. Tickets ($25 each) are on sale at http://go.pacific.edu/tickets or by calling (209) 946-2867.
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.