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Valley People (July 9, 2014)

THE SAD NEWS has reached us from Arizona that Sandy Liebig has died. Sandy and her husband Larry lived in central Boonville when their three children — two girls and two boys — were of school age. With their children grown, the Liebigs sold their Boonville home and moved to Chandler, Arizona. Rebecca Johnson-Brendlin, a secretary at Anderson Valley High School is Sandy's sister, and Jason Page, a teacher at the school, is Sandy's son.

AS ANNOUNCED elsewhere in this week's paper, a benefit is planned for the first weekend in August to raise money to help defray the medical expenses of two popular local volunteers, Charlie Paget-Seekins and Mark Pitner. Charlie's recovering at his Gschwend Road home from the serious injuries he suffered in a tree-trimming accident. Mark Pitner was felled by a nearly fatal stroke last week and remains in serious condition at the UC Davis hospital.

NOW & THEN — A fine turn out Sunday at the Anderson Valley Museum at the Little Red Schoolhouse for the authors, Wes Smoot and Stephen Sparks, on the publication of their new book, Now And Then, An Anderson Valley Journey. Many, if not most, of the Valley’s most distinguished residents attended — more, in fact, than were expected, as the 30 or more folding chairs installed for the occasion were rapidly filled up and the authors soon had to beg off their signing duties for a little break to rest their pen fingers.

A REGULAR DIN ensued as everyone got settled down with wine and snacks, and then Steve Sparks delivered a very thorough and informative synopsis of the book, from its inception to its completion and some of the difficulties they had to overcome. Wes Smoot commented, with some emotion, on his gratitude to co-author Sparks and both men were obliged to brush away a few tears — eliciting a round of heartfelt applause from the audience. Smoot remarked with a laugh that Steve had had to come over to his house a couple of times to keep Wes from "putting a bullet in my computer."

A BREAK for more refreshments followed this presentation, then a Q&A session, then the signing of more books. Sales were brisk, with many guests buying multiple copies of the book, all proceeds going to the AV Historical Society and Museum.

All-in-all, it was a fitting and decorous finish to a work that has been three years in the making, and a singularly worthy achievement for both authors as well as a very fine addition to the canon of local historical literature, especially regarding architecture. (— Bruce McEwen)

GENE HERR writes to Ric Bonner, chairman of the Anderson Valley Health Center's board of directors: "Thanks for posting the minutes and partial financials on the AVHC Web Page. To enable better understanding of the financial situation of the HC, can you please post the budget to actuals for the current year to date and 2013 FYs? And the chart of accounts? And a clear statement of the current debt with the USDA, for the HC building (initial amount, initial interest rate, current principal, current interest rate, payment schedule, amount paid off through donations by year)? And may we please have an end of year financial report from the Corporation? Will you accept advisory participation on the Financial Committee from qualified (accounting, bookkeeping, budgeting, fund raising) patients of the HC? After the last meeting, I got several emails from people who were extremely concerned with what they perceived as a feeling on the part of directors that we (patients) are the enemy, and somehow the Board had a separate interest than the public it is charged with serving. Several people have expressed an interest in volunteering to help the center in various ways. Can you suggest a procedure to recruit and employ volunteers (for specific tasks with position descriptions) to assist your efforts? Thanks, Gene Herr."

EXCUSE THE CYNICISM but the lead story in the current edition of the Willits Weekly got a laugh out of us. "Willits Merchants Form Main Street Group," read the headline, an assurance that torpor was sure to follow. It did. "Business owners have formed a group to make Main Street, Willits, a better place, from city limit to city limit."

WE'RE ALL FOR IT! But short of bulldozing at least three-quarters of the existing structures along Willits' seemingly endless skein of random eyesores, the how of it will be, to say the least, formidable. Trees would help. Trees always help. False fronts would also help, but they'd have to be total disguises. And flower beds. Wide sidewalks and pedestrian comforts like benches and water fountains might also alleviate the fast food assaults that attack the visitor from one end of town to the other, that and the pervasive smell of deep fry. But there really isn't much that can be done to make Willits attractive, and it's hard now to believe that up through World War Two it was a coherent, pretty little town whose principal citizens took great pride in what their town looked like. Ditto for Ukiah, which also now offers a Willits-like aesthetic experience, and will, in a few years, look even worse when the County's nine (count 'em) Superior Court judges get a brand new County Courthouse all their very own. This monstrosity will resemble the now-abandoned Willits Courthouse but, unlike the Willits Courthouse, which is partly hidden off a side street, the new County Courthouse and a McDonald's — a one-two visual punch — will be the first two structures visitors to the County seat will see when they exit 101 onto West Perkins.

ONE OBSTACLE to visual tune-ups for Ukiah and Willits is the sociological fact that most of the trendo-groove-o's of those communities live apart from the horrors of their main drags. Ukiah's aesthetes are holed up in their own westside ghetto where it's all stately homes and broad, tree-lined streets. Willits' aesthetes — and yes, there's a big element of self-cancelling phrase at work here — live outside town. Like most Americans, including this one, they put a lot of time and effort into beautifying their own property while assuming the public areas of their towns are hopeless.

BOONVILLE isn't exactly Parisian, but we have the aesthetic advantage of size — we're small. And most of the property owners strewn out along our main drag work to keep up appearances. We also have the advantage of a torrent of new money. The parvenus have bought in and built and fixed up a number of Boonville buildings, half-transforming our main drag to one that doesn't cause the traveler to cry out, "Are these people blind?" There is even excited talk about Boonville becoming "the next Healdsburg." If we Boonvillians had an infrastructure — central water and sewage disposal — and the outside economy wasn't poised to big time tank, and it could become Healdsburg without old guys in Greek seaman's caps, varicose-veined ice cream cones, Healdsburg might be a desirable ambition for Boonville. But for now, the varicose shuffle is pretty much confined to the village of Mendocino, a stuffy, crowded venue designed to accommodate shoals of shoppers.

FORT BRAGG is where it's at. (Covelo is easily the prettiest little town in Mendocino County, but so far off the beaten path that even people who've lived here all their lives have never visited the place.) FB, though, has it all, and it's pretty much intact, visually, as the blue collar town it once was even though the mill and the jobs that went with it are gone. It's heavy on retired people and, like much of coastal Mendo, also heavy on trust funders and mystery money young people. Willits and Ukiah don't get many money people buying in.

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