Jeff Jardine

Buffalo Soldiers offer motorcade for Patterson’s Tuskegee Airman

Les Williams, who served in the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, pictured in his home in Patterson, Calif., Feb. 5, 2015. He died March 30.
Les Williams, who served in the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, pictured in his home in Patterson, Calif., Feb. 5, 2015. He died March 30. JLEE@MODBEE.COM

From the emails and voice mails:

BUFFALO SOLDIERS – The Buffalo Soldiers were the first blacks to serve in the U.S. military, formed post-Civil War and stationed throughout the West. So it is only fitting that members of the East Bay Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Club have volunteered to participate in the funeral procession of Les Williams, a member of the World War II-era Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first blacks to fly in the U.S. military.

Last week, after Williams died at 95 in his home in Patterson, the family received a call from National Guard Sgt. Gene Gilliam, who heads the Buffalo Soldiers group, to offer the club’s services for the April 18 memorial in San Mateo.

“This might be huge,” Williams’ daughter, Penny Williams, said. “I’m getting calls/messages from all over, including Hong Kong. My dad was truly loved.”

Following the war and unable to get a job as a commercial airlines pilot, Williams opened a dance studio in San Mateo and ran it for many years, until graduation from Stanford Law and becoming an attorney at age 50. I featured him in a February column.

PURPLE HEART PRESENTATION – Gene Benedix of Oakdale took a gunshot wound in the arm in Korea in 1952, but he never received his Purple Heart medal. That will be remedied at 11 a.m. today at Gladys Lemmons Senior Community Center, when Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, presents the long-overdue medal. The event is open to the public. The center is at 450 E. A St., just north of the A.L. Gilbert feed mill.

POSTED 22 YEARS AGO – The Washington Post on Saturday published a lengthy piece focusing on how children aren’t nearly as attracted to baseball as they once were, rarely playing the game without adult supervision.

Here’s an excerpt, but it isn’t from that piece:

“‘We used to go to the little league field at the school in Waterford,’ former major-leaguer and Modesto native Joe Rudi said. ‘It had a bus barn that actually stuck out onto the field. I used to dream of making the very catch I made against (Cincinnati’s) Dennis Menke (in the 1972 World Series). I’d just go up against the wall and catch ’em by the hour. That’s what we dreamed about doing. It’s part of that dream thing. That’s all I ever thought about.’

“Times have changed. So have children’s interests.

“The demise of sandlot baseball slipped by almost unnoticed. Once a daily summer occurrence in many neighborhoods, children today seldom flock to parks, schools or vacant lots to assemble for pickup games, Work-ups, Over-the-Line, Three Flies Up or Home Run Derby. Fields booked solid in the evenings for youth baseball, softball and adult leagues often sit empty during the daytime.”

That came from a sports column I wrote for The Bee – in 1993. The trend has been going on for decades, the product of the boom of the video game and computer industries, and because in many families with both parents employed, the couples want their kids inside at home instead of outside when they’re not there to monitor them, etc. It is nothing new – certainly not here in California – and probably had been developing for years before I wrote about it more than two decades ago. Yet it seems to get new legs each spring or summer.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball continues to set attendance records virtually every year.

FAMILY IN NEED – 13-year-old Gavin Knoell and his younger brother, Hezekiah, both were born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes their muscle strength to deteriorate. Gavin hasn’t been able to walk for two years. Hezekiah is only 3 but faces the same fate. Their mother, Rita Reyna, needs a wheelchair-accessible van for Gavin and, eventually, Hezekiah, as well. She asks the community’s help for a down payment through a account. With a goal of $3,000, the account has $340 through its first six days.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – Valley resident Randall Radic, who writes under the pen name John Lee Brook, is the author of “Blood and Death: The Secret History of Santa Muerte and the Mexican Drug Cartels.” The book is available for preorder in paperback through for $15.22. The book’s publishing date is May 11.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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