MODESTO — From the emails and voice mails:
FAMILY AFFAIR During the summer, Modesto's Roy Stevens starred onstage in Albania as the country's national hero, Skanderbeg, during the eastern European nation's 100th birthday celebration.
He no doubt made friends and influenced Albanians with his performance. This fall, the 1975 Modesto High grad will head back to Albania along with wife Annalisa and daughter Carolyn to star in the country's first-ever Wagner opera. Stevens is now the artistic consultant for the National Opera of Albania and will have much control over the show, scheduled for the last week of November.
"I got to choose the opera ('Tannhäuser'), the stage director, conductor and a couple singers, among which are one Annalisa Winberg someone named Carolina Stevens (stage name!)," Stevens wrote in an email.
His wife will play two roles Venus, the goddess of love, and Elizabeth, the pure opposite of Venus. And their daughter will get important stage time as well.
"Carolyn will make her international opera debut, singing a small (but tough) role, the Shepherd," he wrote. "(The part is) actually written for boy soprano, but usually done by young soprano. This is probably the only time that the three of us will ever be in an opera together in which we are all soloists, and certainly on the international level. It will be a very special and amazing experience."
Stevens and Annalisa will travel to Albania in April to conduct planning sessions and work with some of the Albanian singers.
When he performed there this past summer, it marked the 14th language in which he has sung on stage.
In the meantime, he and his wife will perform in free concerts Feb. 27 in Mendocino and Feb. 28 in Oakland, soliciting donations to benefit the nonprofit Wagner Society of Northern California, the opera company that will accompany them to Albania in the fall.
For more, contact him at Roy@WinbergAndStevens.com.
FAMILY STILL IN NEED Over the past couple of months, I've written about two young girls from Ripon dealing with brain tumors.
The younger of the two, 4-year-old Julissia Guzman, died Jan. 30. Valley businessman Jim Jasper, of Stewart and Jasper Orchards in Newman, had met her parents, Pascal and Lilianna Guzman, and tried to help them by establishing a fund-raising page, www.gofundme.com/Please-help-Julissia. It has generated $2,120 to date, but that won't begin to cover the costs the family has incurred, including the funeral.
"Although the family has receive some financial help," Jasper wrote in an email last week, "they could still use some more help. It appears that funeral expenses could approach $8,000."
The other Ripon girl, 9-year-old Riley Simmons, recently finished a round of radiation treatments and chemotherapy. She is back home in Ripon until returning to San Francisco for more treatment in March, family friend Breanna Freitas said. The campaign for Simmons has raised $14,070.
THREE-TRACTOR SALUTE Before his family laid Lavon "Pee-Wee" Kirk to rest Feb. 1, granddaughter Dayne Autry contacted Valley Tractor on Crows Landing Road to see if it would provide a tractor for symbolic display during his funeral service.
Kirk, who died Jan. 25 at 89, had always spoken fondly of the company, his employer for 59 years. Kirk delivered tractors to the farms and was well-known in the agriculture community, Autry said. When the mourners reached the entrance of Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson, they found a John Deere tractor on each side of the gate and a third alongside Kirk's gravesite.
"We just wanted to say how much the whole family appreciates the tribute," Autry wrote in an email.
SAVE THE DATE May 6 is when the Employment Development Department stages a job fair for military veterans from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Martin Petersen Events Center in downtown Modesto. It's free to job seekers and employers, and the public is invited as well. For more, call Jerry Timothy at (209) 576-6118.
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.