Jeff Jardine

Tribute to 2 who saved CHP officer

From the voice mails and e-mails:

SAYING THANK YOU — When a Mercedes went off Highway 49 north of Sonora, California Highway Patrolman Mike Remmel called for a tow truck.

Two trucks answered the call, which quite possibly saved his life that night in January 2006, because as he watched one of the drivers pull the car out of the mud, a pickup veered off the highway and hit Remmel.

The impact crushed Remmel's legs, and those tow truck drivers — Mike Winter and Leon Vires — suddenly became field medics. They used their belts as tourniquets, restricting the flow of blood until an ambulance arrived.

Remmel has become a real success story, rehabilitating with a winner's attitude and returning to office work on his two artificial legs. Recently, his physician cleared him to return to the field.

Remmel will meet with CHP officials next week to convince them he can perform the necessary physical duties, including getting out of a patrol car and covering a distance of 50 yards in 20 seconds or less.

"He's already done it in 18 seconds," CHP officer Tom Wills said. "He's been running daily."

Remmel will be at the Jamestown office Aug. 8 to help present Winter and Vires with certificates of commendation and community service awards.

The presentation will begin at 11 a.m. and will include CHP Fresno Division Chief Scott MacGregor.

STATUESQUE MODELS — Five days a week, reader Kristin Chiara-Platts drives to work in downtown Modesto. Over the past couple of months, she noticed someone was dressing the bronze teenage boy and girl in the George Lucas statue at Five Points.

"(It) has been adorned every other week or so with random items such as shirts, sweaters and jackets," Chiara-Platts wrote in an e-mail.

The most creative piece she's seen?

"A black witch's hat with feathers on it," Chiara-Platts wrote. "It's been a great way to start my mornings — with a good chuckle."

She wondered who the wardrobe artists might be, so I visited businesses near the statue.

"It's a late-night thing," said Jason Williams, a manager at the Denny's restaurant at Needham Street and McHenry Avenue. "One of the homeless people (who camp out in the wedgeshaped park) is probably leaving it out."

Another Denny's manager, Fred Shutes, said the statue characters usually are decorated late at night or early in the mornings on weekends.

"You'll see it early Sunday mornings," Shutes said. "The bar crowd gets out and they throw (things) on (the statue)."

RIGHT NEIGHBORLY — About a year ago, Cindy Ludwig moved into a home along Peppermint Drive, near Oakdale Road in east Modesto. She quickly made friends as she walked her dog, Harley, every day and chatted with folks along the way.

Ludwig, who suffered from asthma, died suddenly last week. Her mother provided a burial plot at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson, Peppermint Drive resident Eulonda Davis said. And people in the neighborhood banded together to wash cars and sell candy to help defray funeral expenses, she said.

"They raised over $500 in just a couple of days," Davis said. "It wasn't just a couple of people. Fifteen to 20 people all pitched in to help and gave up their time. It was so totally awesome to see us come together. We're an awesome neighborhood."

The neighbors plan to celebrate Ludwig's life with a potluck after the Thursday burial, Davis said.

"Modesto has changed so much over the past several years," Davis said. "It is wonderful to see that the old-time values still exist on Peppermint Drive."

FREEFALL — Last December, I wrote about Don Lacey, a 23-year-old Modestan who had fallen on hard times after enjoying success in Johansen High's speech program.

His former high school speech coach, Rod Landes, heard Lacey was homeless in Modesto and wanted to help him. Within a day, Landes got word that Lacey had been arrested and sentenced to a drug program.

He and Lacey reunited, and Landes offered to help, as did other friends who read the column. Landes believed that despite Lacey's problems, he still possessed great promise.

But no matter how much Landes and others tried, it would be up to Lacey to take advantage of the opportunities offered. Instead, he disappeared, eventually surfacing in Stockton.

Last week, again homeless in Modesto, Lacey was arrested on suspicion of stabbing another transient. He is being held on $70,500 bail.

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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