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Valley People (May 16, 2018)

ONE SHOCK after another in the Anderson Valley last week. First Christine Lopiccolo runs off the road and dies when her car hits a tree at Navarro. And then last night (Tuesday) Paula Kesenheimer dies in a house fire at her home on Signal Ridge, with her friend and caretaker, David Norfleet, nearly succumbing to the fast-moving blaze. David suffered severe smoke inhalation but has since been released from the hospital. Paula was perhaps best known for her many years as the curator of art at the annual County Fair in Boonville. David Norfleet was the co-founder of Anderson Valley Brewing, and one of these modest guys who's good at everything he does, although you've got to drag it out of him. You never hear about his pivotal role in local beer, but without him I doubt Boonville Beer would have extended the global reach it since has. The Kesenheimer house, by the way, went back quite far in Valley history, as far back as the turn of the twentieth century, I believe. And poor Christine L. She was a fighter. Her house at Rancho Navarro burned in mysterious circumstances some years ago, but she carried on, making her home in a barely habitable trailer for years, a single woman without resources doing the best she could. 

SUPPORT FOR DAVID NORFLEET. A gofundme relief fund has been set up to help David Norfleet recover from unimaginable losses he suffered from the Signal Ridge fire that killed his long-time companion, Paula Kesenheimer. 

VETERANS! ’TENNNN… SHUN! Memorial Day ceremonies commence at 10am at Evergreen Cemetery, Boonville, Sunday, May 27, at 10am. 


BOONVILLE'S JAMES ‘J.T.’ CARLIN has been honored as an All-Redwood Empire Scholar-Athlete of the Year, a prestigious recognition by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat enjoyed by very few NorCal students: “There wasn’t much James Carlin didn’t do in his years at Anderson Valley, in sports and elsewhere. He played football, basketball and baseball all four years, earning all-league recognition in each of those sports. Away from athletics, he was the Anderson Valley student body president and has been the class president each of his four years in high school. He has worked on the school newspaper and school yearbook, served as vice president of the Leadership Council as a junior and president as a senior, and created for his senior project a graduation video for all the seniors. The 10-minute video, for which he collected footage through the school year, will be shown at the graduation ceremony.”

AHILMAR PEREZ racks up another big win. Fresh off her big victory in the Boonville Classic, Ahilmar's hard work has once again made her victorious, this time winning first place in the under 10-year-old girls category in Point Arena's Waves and Whales 5k trail run, with a time of 34:30 minutes.

JUST IN FROM MSP, where the redoubtable Paul McCarthy keeps a close eye on the Navarro. He reports that the river is silted over at its mouth as of Sunday, and will stay closed at the mouth, and to whatever fish may want to either access or depart their ancestral homes, until November.

2018 ANDERSON VALLEY OPEN STUDIOS, a free self-guided tour

Artists open their studios to the public on Memorial Day Weekend, May 26th to May 28th, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. along Highway 128 in Anderson Valley featuring: ceramics, jewelry, architecture, painting, photography, printmaking, textiles, mixed media and assemblage. (707) 895-3053. EMAIL:

IF YOU'VE NEVER stopped in at Doug Johnson's Pepperwood Pottery you've missed one of the most intriguing and unique beauty spots in all of the Anderson Valley. We caught the potter in the act of potting last week, just after we'd turned in off the highway at what has become a Valley landmark, the blue tile wall that graces 128 near Navarro. An unfailingly jovial man, a truly jolly giant at well over six feet, Mr. J. was throwing a big one, a big pot that is, with both his arms plunged elbow-deep in a mound of clay. Back in the early 1970s, DJ bought an old chicken ranch from a branch of the Pinoli family and slowly converted its utilitarian structures to works of ceramic art surrounding flower gardens and a modest tile-lined swimming pool. He also built a second ceramic wall, this one a map of the Anderson Valley's landmark sites. Apart from the brisk sales of an impressive array of his custom pots, the potter makes his own pinot from the vines planted when he bought his 7 acres in the early 1970s, when it was still possible to be both impoverished and a property owner. The home brew is, of course, stored in an above ground ceramic wine cellar. We reminisced about those halcyon early 1970s days in the Valley, early for us anyway, recalling Harold Perry's sky hook in the men's league basketball games and the softball games at the Boonville Fairgrounds dominated by Waggoners and Summits. Fortunate in having found an early vocation — pottery — in high school, and having learned the basics from a professional outside of high school, Doug Johnson these days sells his art as fast as he can produce it. In an annually vain Mother's Day attempt to ingratiate myself with my wife, I bought her a Doug Johnson Original Vase, and darned if she wasn't quite pleased with it!

MADAME DeFARGE LIVES! Ugly school board meeting in Boonville a week ago Wednesday night. A portion of the school district's female staff are very unhappy with Superintendent Hutchins, also a female. A half-dozen of the unhappiest of the women read from prepared statements, which added up, it seemed to me, to a severe personality clash between them and Superintendent Hutchins. 

ONE PERSON, high school English teacher, Kim Campbell, talking facts not feelings, braved the wrath of the mob to speak in favor of Mrs. Hutchins. Ms. Campbell listed the many helpful program innovations Mrs. Hutchins has brought to the high school, deftly putting the lie to the noisy anti-Hutchins claque based at the Elementary School. That claque, incidentally, wore black to the school board meeting, not to lament their school’s lamentable test scores but, I guess, to present an anti-Hutchins visual.

THE SEETHING unhappiness with the superintendent had boiled over because that unhappiness at the Elementary School had not been headed off by either the site principals or the school board, and since the persons angry with her refuse to speak with the Superintendent, the festering biliousness was put on full display for the wider public. It was not an edifying spectacle. The district's reigning authority consists of three new people, who looked on rather aghast, as if they'd happened on the scene of a bloody accident. Which they had, but for which they bear no responsibility since they are new to school management. When the new trio of trustees is fully acclimated, I think the rest of us can expect a reinstatement of adult leadership for the Boonville schools.

ALL OF THIS Elementary School in-fighting could have, should have been amicably settled months ago when it first surfaced. But instead of sorting it out at the outset, which the old school board should have done last year, here we are. From what I saw at last week’s public stoning of the Superintendent, if I were the parent of a little kid I'd wonder about the maturity and emotional stability of some of the persons supposedly in charge of educating him.

CONSIDERING that she had to just sit there as a tsunami of personal hatred washed over her, Mrs. Hutchins was the very model of gracious aplomb.

TWO OF THE CANDIDATE’S for 5th District supervisor, Ted Williams and Dave Roderick, first came to our attention years ago. I remember Dave as the smartest guy in his graduating class at Boonville High School. I'm not surprised he's done well in the great world outside the Mendo hot house. Ditto for Ted Williams. Williams helped us out years ago during a dispute with MCN, then in its infancy as a wholly subsidized adjunct of Mendocino High School, but primarily benefitting the two private individuals who devised the public-private scheme. Ted, then a young, very young whippersnapper, and a kind of child techno-wizard, helped us mightily by confirming our suspicions about the murky MCN operation. We felt the school subsidy was very unfair to competing local internet services that were also then getting going while MCN had the enormous advantage of no real overhead, getting free rent, free electricity, phone lines, and free labor in the form of students. As Balzac said, "Behind every great fortune there's a crime." Little fortunes, too, in several public/private hustles we see in unaccountable Mendo.

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