ATWATER -- Bobby Fleming, the city's longest-serving employee and a fixture atop his street sweeper behind every parade, has died. He was 79.
Fleming, who served the city for 37 years before retiring in 2008, brought up the end of every parade as far back as most residents can remember.
When times were lean and the city began to charge organizations for street-sweeping services, "he would go plop the money down himself and pay for his own services so he could ride in the back of the parade," said Tracey Whitaker, executive assistant for Atwater's Public Works Department.
Even after Fleming retired, he returned to work each time there was a parade.
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"To him, he was the end of the parade -- all the time," she said.
Whitaker described Fleming as a southern gentleman.
"He would kind of come off gruff, but he was just a big teddy bear," Whitaker said. "I don't think this should go unnoticed, he was just such a good guy."
Dave Church, Atwater's public works director, described Fleming as a no-nonsense guy who worked hard and expected everyone to do the same. He was also very giving.
Church recalls that whenever Fleming swept behind a parade, the city was required to pay him, but Fleming would just donate that money right back to the organization he was cleaning up after. He also routinely gave to the police department any bonuses he earned for reaching various hallmarks in his city service.
"He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was a the-world-was-a-better-place-because-he-was-in-it type of person," Church said.
Fleming was born in Athens, Ga., and enlisted in the Air Force in 1951. He served until his retirement in 1971. He was a weapons maintenance supervisor at Castle Air Force Base, his daughter Rhonda Severin said.
Fleming was found deceased in his home Sunday afternoon. Severin said her father had some health problems but knew of nothing severe.
Fleming is survived by his son, Randall Fleming of Atwater; two daughters, Rhonda Severin of Winton and Robin Dekker of Salinas; and his wife, Hattie Fleming of Salinas.
Severin said the family is still working on funeral arrangements and coordinating with out-of-town relatives on when to hold those services.
Reporter Amy Starnes can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.