From the emails and voice mails:
The film, based on a book by the same name and written by Robert Edsel, is due for release in theaters in February. Thanks to a tip from former Californian and current Texan Linda Loomis, we now know that, like just about everything else, there is a Modesto connection to the event and thus the book and now the movie.
Sgt. Antonio Valim, born in 1919 in Gustine and a Modesto resident until shortly before passing in 2009, was among those assigned to guard the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany after the stolen treasures were found at the war’s end. He’d served in the Army, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in The Ardennes Offensive. He rose to sergeant and led a tank unit, receiving combat medals, including the Bronze Star.
I chatted Monday with his daughter, Patti Loranger of Livermore, who confirmed that her dad did, indeed, guard the collection at the castle. In fact, a photo of him there looking at one of the pieces of art appeared in a magazine from the 1940s, she said.
“We used to call it ‘Daddy’s Castle’ when I was a kid,” she said. “He took us there one day.”
That day, she said, happened in the late 1980s when she was living in Switzerland and about to be married. “They (her parents, Antonio and Virginia) came over for the wedding and he took us to the castle.”
Antonio Valim returned to the valley after the war and enjoyed a career in the grocery business, managing a New Deal store. He moved to Idaho to be near another of his children, and died there in 2009, Loranger said.
The upcoming film has an all-star cast that includes Matt Damon as James Rorimer, who led the recovery operation; Clooney, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman and Bob Balaban. The irony of the casting is that Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American general who masterminded the defeat of the Nazis, is portrayed by German actor Werner Braunschädel.
Just one problem, a reader pointed out: In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government can seize property for development using eminent domain. The case involved residents of New London, Conn., who tried to stop that city from taking their property so that a pharmaceutical manufacturer could build a $270 million global research facility.
The decision bothered some New Hampshire folks so much that they tried to use eminent domain to commandeer a farmhouse owned by Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who voted among the majority in the 5-4 ruling. They wanted to make him pay by seizing his home and turning it into an inn. They failed.
But Modesto, several years before that high court ruling, threatened to use eminent domain as a bargaining chip against several property or business owners as it prepared to build Street Place downtown. The owners ultimately negotiated settlement amounts higher than the city’s original offers. One of those settlements involved the Ward family, which eventually sold property at 10th and K streets. A privately owned building now stands on that corner.
Bottom line is that when they say you don’t have to sell, beware.