Jeff Jardine

Jeff Jardine: Trust fund says thanks to longtime arts leader Lieberman

Modesto Bee

From the emails and voicemails:

TRUST FUND – Grace Lieberman dedicated her life and far too much of her own money to support the arts in Modesto.

After borrowing against her own home to keep afloat the Stanislaus Arts Council she founded in 1981, Lieberman nearly lost the home to foreclosure and had to quit the council in 2012 when it no longer could afford to pay her salary. The council folded shortly thereafter, and she took on a part-time job to help make ends meet. She continues to sing and perform locally.

Now, a number of Modesto-area arts lovers want to show they also are Grace lovers. They’ve established a trust fund to help the 84-year-old financially.

“She’s given so much to this community,” Modesto attorney Louis Friedman said. “She’s put the community ahead of herself, and this is a chance for people to step up and help her.”

Friedman, Carl Boyett, Tony Mistlin, Gala Mistlin Lindvall, Fred Silva and John Bellizzi were the driving forces behind the trust. Friedman receives contributions at Gianelli & Associates and then forwards the checks to Bellizzi, a broker at Morgan Stanley.

“That gives it sort of a double accounting,” Friedman said.

In just six months, the trust has amassed over $60,000. Lieberman receives $1,000 each month and will see that amount increase with cost-of-living adjustments, Friedman said. Donors return pledge cards with their checks and can earmark where they want the contributions to go should there be funds remaining after she dies, Friedman said. Donations are considered personal and are not tax-deductible.

“It will help someone who has done so much to live with dignity,” Friedman said.

To contribute, contact Friedman at (209) 521-6260 or Bellizzi at (209) 527-3300.

LOOKING FOR FAMILY – Many years ago, Washington resident Nola Johnson received a journal that belonged to the sister of a man named Perry Ellis. Ellis died at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem in 1932. His ashes never were claimed. His daughter, Elma Mae (Ellis) Sousa, died in 1990 and is buried in Acacia Cemetery along Scenic Drive.

Johnson wants to find Ellis family kin in hopes one of them might claim Ellis’ remains and give them a proper burial. Contact Johnson at

MEMORY LANE – My July 10 column began with an example of the late Bud Castle of Sonora as a coach and teacher who affected the lives of thousands of students over the years. The column prompted a call from Kenny Leuenhagen of Ceres, who told a funny story about Castle.

A couple of decades ago, Leuenhagen sat chatting with some friends in the restaurant at a golf course in Reno after playing 18 holes.

“Leuenhagen?” a man sitting nearby said.

“Yes,” Leuenhagen replied.

“From Ceres?” the grilling continued.

“Yes,” Leuenhagen answered.

“He got up and walked around behind me, knocked my hat off, put his hands down on the table and said, ‘You SOB. You killed us pretty well.’ ”

It was Castle, referring to a track meet in 1953 between Sonora and Ceres, when Castle helped coach track.

“He knew exactly who I was,” Leuenhagen said. “Bud remembered me from a race that happened 30 years (earlier).”

And I certainly should have included Art McRae of Ceres in that group of teachers and coaches who, like Castle, greatly affected the lives of their students and players. McRae spent 37 years teaching and coaching baseball at Ceres. There are others, no doubt.

ZOO-OLOGY – In June 2013, I wrote about the last remnant of Modesto’s zoo vanishing from the Roseburg Square shopping center. Jack Ulrich started the zoo in 1962, when the square was called the Big U Shopping Center, and it lasted about a decade.

A few years years ago, the owners tore down the building that housed the California Ice Factory, which sold shaved ice, smoothies and milkshakes. That left only the restroom, which stood until a crew tore it down, too, prompting the column note. At the time, a representative of Property Services of Ripon, which manages the center, told me the restroom had been vandalized, that some homeless people had broken in and were living in it, and it had become a liability. The company planned to build a small monument commemorating the zoo.

A year later, the site of the old restroom looks like the rest of the parking lot. Susan Batty of Property Services said the company decided against a monument that would invite vandals and graffiti. She said a display including photos of the old zoo and shopping center will be built in the breezeway near tenants Valley Findings and Champs Elysees. It should be in place within two months, Batty said.

MISSION NEARLY ACCOMPLISHED – In October, I wrote about Steve Hutton’s quest to climb Yosemite’s Half Dome for the 100th time. He’s getting there, completing No. 98 on July 6, with plans for an August ascent before No. 100 on Sept 13. After I wrote about him last year, he was contacted by Mark Spencer of Fish Camp, who also is zeroing in on his 100th. Spencer’s will happen a week before Hutton’s.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – Ex-Modestan Rex “John” Thomas’ first novel, “Hot Bed,” is now available on Amazon as a Kindle Indie book. He wrote the book over the course of a decade, interspersed with work on another novel and running his real estate business in Oakland. Thomas describes “Hot Bed” as a comedic mystery set in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights. It is available as e-book on Amazon for $3.95.