Waterford teens credited with saving home from wildfire

Darrell Slocum, 58, of Angels Camp has been named the new executive director of the Sonora Area Foundation. He will begin duties Oct. 1, 2016. Taken Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.
Darrell Slocum, 58, of Angels Camp has been named the new executive director of the Sonora Area Foundation. He will begin duties Oct. 1, 2016. Taken Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.

Six teenage boys from the Waterford area were credited with saving a Waterford resident’s home when they saw flames from a brush fire racing toward it recently. The incident happened July 27 about 6 p.m., homeowner Jamey Olney said.

“They were swimming in the (Tuolumne) River and noticed a brush fire which quickly spread to our backyard,” Olney said. “ They sprinted up the burning bank at great risk to themselves, scaled our fence and put out the fire with a garden hose, saving our house and the pets inside. They then waited outside in the 109 degree heat until the fire department came 25 minutes later to make sure everything was OK. The only thing they asked in return for their efforts was some water.”

The group included Colton Skidgel, Ryan Terra, Brayden Cruse, Mark Jeremy, Diego Celia and Jeff McFarland.

New leader named for Sonora Area Foundation

Darrell Slocum, 58, of Angels Camp will become executive director of the Sonora Area Foundation when current head Ed Wyllie retires in December. Slocum grew up in Tuolumne County, graduated from Sonora High in 1975 and then received his undergraduate degree from California State University, Hayward.

He was the longtime marketing director for Golden State Cellular and has been active in the community serving on numerous boards and committees. Most recently, Slocum has been self-employed as a marketing consultant working with several area organizations, including the Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency’s Central Sierra Connect project.

Slocum will start Oct. 1 and will take over when Wyllie departs Dec. 15.

The Sonora Area Foundation, along with two supporting organizations, the Irving J. Symons Foundation for Tuolumne County and The Symons Family Fund, has assets of more than $45 million. The foundation holds and administers more than 170 charitable funds set up for a variety of charitable purposes and educational scholarships.

Merritt merits induction into floral institute

Reg Merritt of Twigs and Stems in Modesto earned his accreditation in floral design and has been inducted into the American Institute of Floral Designers in Orange County. He is the only person in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to have achieved the designation. The organization, with more than 1,500 members worldwide, recognizes those who have excelled in their floral design skills.

Modesto’s Varni featured in Forbes magazine piece

Singer and actress Amelia Varni, a 2010 Central Catholic High School graduate, was featured in a Forbes piece on “The Twentysomethings Changing Nashville’s Networking Tune,” alongside 11 others in the group Young Entertainment Professionals.

Varni, 24, graduated from Belmont University in 2014 and is an executive assistant at Universal Music Publishing Group in Nashville.

Modesto student receives national honor

Maria G. Robles, a 16-year-old incoming junior at Enochs High in Modesto, has been been honored by the National Society of High School Scholars for superior outstanding achievement. The society recognizes top scholars who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to leadership, academics and community.

Turlock, Escalon men serving in Navy

Senior Chief Petty Officer Wilber Baxley, a 1993 Turlock High School graduate and Turlock native, is a crewman on one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines, the USS Alabama. He is a logistics specialist serving aboard the Bangor-based boat, one of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines.

Escalon’s Louis Espinoza, an information systems technician third class, is serving aboard the San Diego-based USS America. He is part of a crew made up of more than 1,100 sailors whose mission is to provide support for U.S. Marine-based amphibious operations. America is optimized for aviation and capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter.

Local eatery managers tops in company nationwide

Irma Bernal and Ron Ghaffari, who manage the Olive Garden restaurants in Modesto and Turlock, respectively, earned Diamond Club status by parent company Darden for quality, customer service and community involvement.

Author! Author!

CD Wilkinson of Modesto is the author of “Last Man Home,” a fictional story set in Vietnam in 1975 as the war came to an end. He based it on his own experiences as a special forces sergeant. Published by Tate Publishing, it is available through Tate,, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.

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