Jeff Jardine: Thieves hit disabled individuals and an agency in Stanislaus County

jjardine@modbee.comNovember 4, 2013 

    alternate textJeff Jardine
    Title: Local columnist
    Coverage areas: People, issues, the community
    Bio: Jeff Jardine joined The Bee's staff in 1988 after a decade at the Stockton Record. He covered sports before moving into news in 1996 and became the Local Columnist in 2003. He graduated from University of the Pacific in 1979, majoring in communications and history.
    Recent stories written by Jeff
    On Twitter: @jeffjardine57

From the emails and voicemails:

CREEPS AMONG US – Too often, the bad among us take advantage of the most vulnerable among us.

Sept. 27, for the second time in three years, Millie Fisher of Ceres became the victim of a burglary. She came home that night to find that her home had been ransacked, with the perps taking a brooch bequeathed to her by her grandmother, an antique World War II pistol, a personal recipe book and her Marine Corps dress blues.

Yes, the punks stole from Fisher, a disabled Marine who served as a sergeant under Adm. U.S. McCain, whose son, John, was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a United States senator and an unsuccessful candidate for president in 2008. Fisher went on to spend 25 years in law enforcement and is known for her great works in the community despite limited personal resources. Among her projects, she raised money to buy computers for poor kids in her neighborhood. Friends have created an account in her name at Valley First Credit Union. Authorities estimate thieves stole belongings valued at roughly $10,000 this time. In May 2008, while she prepared for a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to benefit kids in Ceres, some personal items valued at $2,000 were stolen from a town hall.

The recent ransacking of Fisher’s home was followed about a month later by the burglary of Eye Will, Inc., a charity in downtown Modesto that offers educational services to children with visual impairments. Apparently breaking in through the ceiling, thieves stole computer equipment valued at $5,000 from the 11-month-old nonprofit. No arrests have been made to date.

And finally, Halloween night turned into a nightmare on Bentley Street for Waterford resident Dennis Koplin. The 52-year-old suffered a massive stroke in 2008. He can walk no more than 15 feet or so using a cane. Otherwise, he relies on a custom-fitted wheelchair or a motorized scooter. On Halloween night, his wheelchair was out on the front porch. Then it wasn’t. Valued at $1,000, it disappeared between the clusters of trick-or-treaters who came to the home that night.

Koplin’s daughter, Kristi Vargas of Riverbank, created a page on the fundraising website To donate, Type “Get Dennis Mobile Again” in the search field.

And there you have it, folks. The bottom dwellers among us targeted those in need. They ransacked the home of a disabled Marine, stole computers from a nonprofit that helps the visually impaired and snagged a stroke victim’s wheelchair. Just sick.

BOGUS BENS – Last month, I wrote about Jennie Ford of Modesto, who accepted a $100 bill at her family’s garage sale only to find out it was counterfeit, and a lousy job at that. Heather Graves of the Modesto police said a second bad Benjamin Franklin recently surfaced. Note to Ford: Graves is still waiting for you to file a police report. Investigators would like to compare notes about the distributors of the misleading moolah.

HAY, NOW ... After my Halloween column about pranks of yesterday, Cheryl Fantazia called to tell me about what she considers the top Halloween prank of all time, as passed down by her mother and grandmother.

“There was a man who was not well-liked in early-days Modesto,” Fantazia said. “He baled his (hay) crop, took it in and stacked it in his barn because he knew the kids would do something to it on Halloween.”

They did.

“They took every bale in the stack out of the barn and scattered it in the field again,” Fantazia said. “That was the best prank ever.”

A caller named Dan, however, begged to differ. He remembers his father telling him that the big Halloween prank of the pre-indoor plumbing days was to move someone’s outhouse back a few inches – just far enough to enable the user, in the middle of the night of course, to step in the repository.

RURAL RENEWAL – The folks in Groveland and other communities along Highway 120 who were double-whammied by the Rim fire and the government shutdown, take note:

After rock slides closed Highway 140 several years ago, Mariposa’s economy took a devastating hit because tourists weren’t passing through on their way to Yosemite National Park. To bring people into town – to stay at the hotels and motels, eat in the restaurants and generate some income – community officials there pleaded with the Trans Valley Youth Football League to host the league’s annual Super Bowl Game, promising a memorable weekend.

It worked so well that Mariposa will this weekend host the event for a fifth consecutive year. It will begin with a bonfire that Friday night, followed by two more days of festivities at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds. The league has roughly 3,000 participants between football and cheer, and about 1,800 coaches.

Bob Kirchner of Mariposa spearheaded Mariposa’s effort, which is expected to book every hotel/motel room and campsite in town. It pumps about $500,000 each year into the local coffers. Consequently, the league created TVYFL Charities, which has donated a flat-screen television to Children’s Hospital Madera, provided meals for needy children and made other donations.

Granted, the Groveland-Big Oak Flat area doesn’t have as many hotel rooms or a fairgrounds, as does Mariposa. Still, some out-of-the-box thinking can’t hurt a local economy in need of a cash infusion.

Anyone with information on the burglary from Millie Fisher’s home can contact Ceres police Detective Tonya Smith: (209) 538-5730 or Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers can be reached by calling 1-866-60-CRIME, texting to “274637” TIP704 in the wording, or by visiting Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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