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Jardine: 2 feet, 4 paws take steps to fight cancer

From the e-mails and voice mails:

ONE WOMAN, TWO CAUSES -- Anna Gomes watched her husband, Jerry, a niece and a number of friends battle cancer over the years.

She also loves Belle, the long-haired Chihuahua-mix she found at an animal shelter two years ago.

So this summer, the 54-year-old Modesto woman plans to raise money to fight cancer and to support animal care by walking from Modesto to Portland, Ore.

Benefiting from her efforts will be the University of California at San Francisco's Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Best Friends Animal Society of Kanab, Utah. Best Friends rescued 22 of the pit bulls from NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who ultimately did jail time for his illegal dogfighting activities.

Here's the plan: Gomes will stride out of her Modesto home June 11. For the first few days, she'll return home at night and drive back the next morning to the previous day's stopping point to resume her walk. After that, she'll spend her nights at friends' homes along the way.

She expects to walk about 17 miles each day, six days a week, before arriving in Portland in late July.

Gomes, who is an administrative assistant at a psychology practice in Modesto, plans to continue working throughout the walk, or in the evenings, via her laptop.

She has a driver lined up to follow along in her car carrying clothing, food, water and other supplies as she treks through the heat of the northern Sacramento Valley through Chico, Red Bluff and Redding on her way to Oregon.

She'll bring along Belle, her 4-pound, four-legged friend.

"I'll have to carry her, though," Gomes said. "She can go a mile, then she runs out of steam."

She's looking for sponsors.

Her goal?

"I don't really have one," Gomes said. "This is my first time doing something like this. I would love to raise lots of money."

To donate to either cause, visit her Web site at www.stepsfurcures.com.

HALF DOME, FULL CIRCLE -- In June 2009, I wrote about how Daniel Versola took his girlfriend up on Yosemite's Half Dome, which is a pretty big rock. But the real rock star -- or star rock -- that day was the engagement ring he gave her.

In their excitement, the ring went tumbling along the rock and stopped along a ledge as Versola gave chase. Another couple of feet and it would have been a goner. Instead, they have the engagement story of a lifetime, and the column became one of the most well-read items on www.modbee.com in all of 2009.

Tiffnie Akiona and Versola were married Saturday at the Whitmore Mansion in Ceres, and the wedding ring never even hit the floor.

PARK PLAQUES, PART II -- Last week, I wrote about the signs embedded in the trees in Stanislaus County Courthouse Park. Stanislaus County employee Harrison James said he asked about the signs when he hired on in 1977.

One of the signs reads "Reserved for Ladies and Their Escorts." The other sign, its message hidden because the tree grew around it, reads "Reserved for Ladies Without Escorts," he said.

"It was so that the Victorian ladies could be in the park unaccosted," James said.

The signs have been in there since the early 1900s.

FITTING TRIBUTE -- In marking the third anniversary of his death, Robert Winget's family ran a poignant full-page, full-color remembrance in The Bee of the Ripon police officer who died in the line of duty April 10, 2007.

Winget was killed when when an all-terrain vehicle rolled over on him near the Stanislaus River. He served in the Marines before joining the Los Angeles Police Department in 1971, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department in 1991 and the Ripon force in 2004.

NEW CENTENARIAN -- Hazel Loucks will celebrate her 100th birthday during a party Sunday at Elness Convalescent Home in Turlock. During the early years of World War II, she was the railroad's version of Rosie the Riveter, firing up the big Malley steam locomotives for Union Pacific in Green River, Wyo. She, husband Ted Kirkland and their two sons, Robert and Elmer, moved to the valley in 1944. Ted Kirkland died a year later. She eventually remarried, to Ray Loucks, and owned a restaurant in Modesto.

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

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