Jardine: 'Half-baked' Oakdale woman celebrates 107

From the e-mails, voice mails and headlines:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — If Vera Piccetti isn't Stanislaus County's oldest resident, she's got to be way, way up there on the seniority list.

The Oakdale woman turned 107 Monday, celebrating her birthday at Gladys Lemmons Senior Center in Oakdale.

Piccetti was born Jan. 4, 1903, in Newell, S.D., a place so small that it makes Oakdale seem like New York City by comparison. Even today, Newell has only 627 residents.

"She weighed only 3 pounds at birth," said Linda Royalty, an Oakdale city employee. "She said, 'They warmed me in the oven.' That's why she says, 'I'm half-baked.' "

Piccetti came to California when she was 18, settling in Hayward and attending business college there. She married twice, neither union producing children. She has been a widow for 50 years.

She worked for an East Bay newspaper until retiring. When a friend moved to Oakdale in 1985, she moved to the Cowboy Capital as well and has been there ever since.

PORTABLE PLATFORM — Every election, it seems, at least one of the candidates spouts "change."

Jeff Denham is running on a "change his mind" platform.

The terming-out state senator began to campaign for lieutenant governor until ...

Assemblyman Tom Berryhill decided to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Dave Cogdill. So Denham announced his candidacy for Berryhill's 25th Assembly District seat until ...

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, decided not to run for re-election. Denham now will run for Congress instead.

All of this happened within 20 days. If I were Denham, I think I'd wait a week or two before ordering campaign stationery. You never know if a U.S. Senate seat might open up.

AND ON AND ON ... — In Sunday's column, I wrote about Carlene Kester, a Modesto woman who keeps receiving Veterans Affairs widow's benefit checks even though she said she no longer qualifies and tried to stop them back in May. Returning them to the government has proved to be equally difficult, she said.

Last week she received a letter through Rep. George Radanovich's office telling her the checks would cease as of Dec. 23. Then, she said, she received a separate letter telling her she soon would receive instructions on how to return the seven checks she's received since trying to stop them.

She's still awaiting those instructions.

And in the meantime?

"I got a January check," she said.

REST IN PEACE — Out in Knights Ferry, Walt Taylor was well known as a top-rated cattleman who carried on his father's IT brand, first registered in 1917. He specialized in the Charolais breed and received numerous honors within the livestock and civic communities.

Taylor also owned Cricket, the buckskin mare that stationed herself every day alongside Highway 120-108 and became a favorite of motorists and children until her death in January 1993. Glenn Scott, The Bee's columnist at the time, wrote several columns about the horse that lived to 36 years, and how people responded to her death. Taylor mounted a wooden plaque on the fence and a cross at her spot along the highway. For years, people brought flowers and wreaths to the site.

On New Years's Day 1993, "She just laid down and passed away," Taylor told Scott.

On New Year's Eve 2009, "Walt passed quietly," his family wrote in his obituary.

He was 81.

A FIX-IT — On Christmas Eve, I wrote about Turlock resident Dick Stafford's most memorable one — when a midair refueling went awry. Stafford was a boom operator on an Air Force KC-97. The B-45 he was refueling caught fire and crashed when equipment malfunctioned over Arkansas. All three crewmen in the B-45 bailed out and survived. The incident happened on Christmas Eve 1952, not 1958 as reported. My mistake.

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