From the e-mails and voice mails:
TOTALLY UNCOOL -- In October, I wrote about how some vagrants (a retro term, indeed) squatted on the roof of the United Way last summer. They hauled up a mattress, a DVD player, rope lighting and other creature comforts.
The quirky, humorous part of it ended there, though, because they damaged the air conditioning system, left all kinds of trash behind and even put their own lock on the telescopic ladder leading to the rooftop.
United Way officials cleaned up the mess and made the roof access secure, though apparently not secure enough. When the recent rains began, the roof leaked into Executive Director Francine DiCiano's office. United Way called Jon's Quality Roofing, and owner Jon Lybolt did the inspection.
"He discovered the United Way has again been hit with rooftop theft," said Debra Trulin, the agency's director of administration. "This time (they) destroyed three of our air conditioning units."
It will cost about $25,000 to replace the units, she said. The thief or thieves stole copper from the units.
"Jon felt so bad for us that he fixed the (leak) at no charge," Trulin said.
The agency will be stuck for deductibles and possibly higher insurance premiums based upon the two recent claims.
"I'm so frustrated by this situation," Trulin said. "With the economy in the state it is in, more people are unemployed and needing help to make ends meet. The money that it will take to replace those units means less money going to help those in our community (who) really need the help."
DECORATED AGAIN -- Dennis Bright of Turlock, an 88-year-old former Marine, has been honored by the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands for his contributions during World War II. He became a Marine reserve in 1938 and went into full-time active duty in 1940. He served on the Northern Marianas islands of Saipan and Tinian during the last two years of the war. Hence, the honor from the commonwealth, with the medal engraving reading; "Our Grateful Islands Remember."
The ceremony took place several weeks ago in Brigham City, Utah. Bright could not travel for health reasons, so relative Robert Clark of Utah accepted the medal and citation on his behalf.
The medal has joined a list including a Purple Heart, awards for serving in the American and Asiatic- Pacific campaigns, a Presidential Unit Citation and numerous others Bright earned during the war.
A FAMILIAR RING -- A few weeks ago, a Turlock Irrigation District crew cleaned out the Ceres main irrigation canal. Typically, they find all sorts of stuff, from machinery to old beer cans, and many remain in mint condition.
"Being that the sand covers it up, it's like a time capsule," said Tony Couto, one of the crew members. During this particular cleanup detail, about three miles upstream from Geer Road, Couto noticed something shiny: a ring glistening on the canal floor.
"I picked it up and put it in my pocket," he said. Later that day, he took a closer look. It was a class ring from Hughson High School, Class of 1982, with the name Tina Serpa etched inside.
Here's the back story:
Tina Serpa was a freshman at Hughson in 1979 when she and high school boyfriend Jeff Baker did the going steady thing by swapping class rings.
He lost the ring while swimming in the canal.
"He told me a week later," Tina said.
She was disappointed, but not one to hold a grudge, especially as he later lost his own ring as well. Besides, they later upgraded to more substantial and meaningful rings.
"We got married," said Serpa, aka Tina Serpa Baker. "We've been married ever since."
Anyway, one of the TID workers recognized the Serpa name and another knew how to reach them.
Couto took the ring to Yonan's Jewelers and told them he'd found it and planned to return it to its rightful owner, albeit 31 years later. The folks at Yonan's cleaned and polished it and provided a box at no charge.
Last week, the crew took it to Baker, a zone merchandizing supervisor at Wal-Mart in Ceres.
She, obviously, was thrilled to have it again.
"It looked brand-new to me," Baker said.
And, she said, proudly, "it still fits."
YEAR LATER, NEED GREATER -- In January 2009, officials found an emaciated horse abandoned at the Red Hills riding area in Tuolumne County. The photos offered a shocking and sickening reminder that animals, and horses in particular because of feeding and veterinary costs, often are victims of a struggling economy.
At that time, the fledgling Rehorse Rescue Ranch in Jamestown was feeding eight rescue horses. Owner Rachel Van Fleck is still in the tedious process of creating a nonprofit corporation that would make donations for feed and vet bills tax-deductible. Her need has more than tripled. She has 25 horses, including seven recently rescued from the Stanislaus County Animal Control. She can be reached at 337-5886.