Jeff Jardine

Cop crashes dental office; tags would honor sacrifice

From the e-mails and voice mails:

OPEN WIDE — Oakdale dentist Tony Albertoni and his wife, Lisa, recently returned from a trip to China, where they adopted a baby girl they've named Annie.

Early in the morning of Feb. 13, long before his first scheduled appointment of the day, he got a call from the security company telling him the alarm at his office had sounded. The police were already there, he was told.

No kidding. Albertoni arrived at the building on West F Street to find an Oakdale police patrol car had smashed through the north wall. A major cavity, indeed.

"I knew the police were at the office," he joked. "I didn't expect them to be in it."

Turns out the officer, Josh Sandoval, lost control of his car while trying to catch a speeder. The patrol car struck the dental building almost dead center. He was not injured.

Albertoni lauded police and city public works officials for the way they handled the incident.

"The joke was that I had a drive-through dentistry," Albertoni said. "And someone put a sign up that said, 'We fill holes.'"

GOLD STAR PLATES — State Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, has introduced a bill that would create a special license plate to honor those killed while on active duty in the U.S. military. The Gold Star plates would be available to anyone with a biological or legal connection to the deceased. California would become the fourth state — joining Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Massachusetts — to offer the plates.

Michael Anderson Sr., of Modesto, whose son Marine Cpl. Michael Anderson Jr. was the first Stanislaus County resident killed in Iraq in 2004, has worked with Denham on the bill and designed a prototype plate Denham would like to see used.

THE DEAL IS DONE — Last week, I wrote about Chad Van Rys of Modesto, who won a Cadillac on "The Price Is Right" game show in January. Van Rys, who did three tours of duty in Iraq, formally mustered out of the Marines on Feb. 23.

Needing the money more than the car, he sold the Caddy to a dealership in Merced. Van Rys declined to say whether he got his asking price of $37,000, only that "I got a good price for it."

Monday, he and wife, Rachel, began their drive to Nashville, Tenn., where he'll spend the next 1½ years in a school studying to be a diesel mechanic.

Thanks to an e-mail from reader Patricia Ford, we can point out that Van Rys' talents extend well beyond guessing the manufacturer's suggested retail price.

He's also an accomplished guitarist, singer and composer who wrote a tribute song he titled "The Veterans." Van Rys played it to a standing ovation at Camp Ar Ramadi in Iraq July 4.

He's written 25 songs, most of them country. He'll be living in Nashville, the country music capital of the world, so will he looking for stardom?

"For the 2½ weeks before school starts," he said. "After that, I'll dive into school. My first priority is taking care of my family. Music will take a back seat."

BULLDOZERS MOVING — In my Feb. 18 column, I wrote about how the McWilliams Cabins in south Modesto have become a dumping ground and an eyesore. Beverly McWilliams, the parks' former owner, died in her home during the July heat wave at the court, which begins at 715 S. Seventh St. and stretches across a narrow strip of land to Crows Landing Road.

The park included an office that doubled as McWilliams' home, eight bungalows and seven trailers.

This morning, Modesto Sand & Gravel will begin bulldozing the park and hauling off the remains to the landfill. It will then be fenced in until it can be sold by McWilliams' heirs.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or 578-2383.

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