2020 Wrap up of Valley Voices Top Stories
Our family created a time capsule on New Year’s Eve 1999 and we plan on opening it on New Year’s Eve 2049.
But, I bet the conversation that night will keep going back to 2020. The turn of the century can’t hold a candle to this year, despite the drastic Y2K predictions. (Remember how all the computers were supposed to crash?)
Presidential historians will be studying Trump’s impeachment and Mercedes’ future grandchildren will be asking her what it was like to live through a pandemic, just like Joseph’s grandmother told me about living through the Spanish Flu.
There were the Black Lives Matter protests and riots, wildfires that darkened the sky so much it looked like a nuclear winter in the middle of summer, and historic voter turnout for the presidential election that has been the impetus of an insurrection on the nation’s capitol.
We had some strange doings locally, too, during the Shelter in Place order. Remember the drag racing in the middle of Highway 99? Or, what about Soft Rock 98.9 playing Christmas Music and encouraging people to decorate their houses with Christmas lights in March?
A line of cars curled around the building and out the parking lot at Token Farms in Farmersville, filled with stressed out first time pot buyers waiting for hours for their online orders.
The real estate market exploded, and is still hot, and in a strange twist the market for used cars went bonkers and there was actually a shortage.
There were the “quaranteams” for housemates and “coronadivorces” for couples who realized they couldn’t stand each other.
Maybe local media didn’t want to grapple with the complexity or beat a dead horse, but neither the Visalia Times Delta nor Fresno Bee wrote their usual end of the year wrap up. But while the biggest stories for the year in the Valley Voice were affected by the pandemic, they were also unique to our area and will give insight to those dinner table conversations in 2049.
Our number one story of the year, or in fact ever for the Valley Voice, was “Visalia teacher takes advantage of state eviction moratorium.” This was an entertaining story with a happy ending that challenged the typical Facebook user accustomed to only reading 50 words or less. One commenter said, “it was so long but I couldn’t stop reading.”
The article documented how Ricardo Rasner rented a home in southwest Visalia then stopped paying rent by taking advantage of the moratorium on evictions. The landlord then discovered that Rasner was renting his home several weeks a month for $229 a night on Airbnb. The landlord regained possession of his house soon after and is in the process of suing for Rasner for damages. The case is still pending.
Number two was Martin Velasquez-Ramos’ story, “What happened at Lindsay Gardens” about how COVID spread in nursing homes through infected employees that were not allowed to go home sick.
The rest of the top ten are as follows:
- Tulare civil leader arrested in sex sting
- Farmersville couple suing Tulare County over drug raid based on false allegations
- Abundant Life Church Leader Succumbs to COVID – 19
- Visalia’s historic Odell-Mor building slated to be demolished
- Contentious Election Erupts at Sierra View Hospital
- Coronavirus Outbreak Hits Ruiz Foods in Dinuba
- Visalia installs dangerous stop sign
- UPDATED: Visalians join nationwide police protests
Another interesting story of 2020 was Tulare and Kings County supervisors declaring the shelter in place order canceled because COVID wasn’t that serious. And the VUSD firing Dr. Todd Oto because, well I can’t exactly remember.
But of all the top stories the one that hit me hardest was the passing of Pastor Ron Abbot, the head of Abundant Life Church. The story didn’t make it into the top ten because of his church, which is rather small, but because Mr. Abbott ran a huge puppy mill at his mansion in Tulare.
With taxidermied wildlife decorating the inside of his two million dollar mansion, and multiple litters of puppies born every month, Mr. Abbott declared he was living his childhood dream running Top Dog Kennel.
I’m sure the $300,000 a year the puppies brought didn’t dampen the “love” for his dogs.
“Shut it Down” tried to close Top Dog Kennel, Tulare County changed its codes to curb his activities, and I pleaded with the Visalia Times Delta and Fresno Bee to write an article about Top Dog Kennel and to please take his classified ads out of their papers.
Nothing worked – and it’s ridiculous that Mr. Abbot had to die to finally get the puppy mill closed.
An organizer of “Shut it Down” said after he died, “They sold what dogs they could and gave the rest to the secret ‘rescue’ that was working with him.”
There is no such thing as goodbyes
The biggest story for me in 2020 didn’t hinge on a major event or garner thousands of hits, but it was the passing of my husband. In the end, 2020 wasn’t about the real estate market, protests, or the elections – it was about death, deaths from the pandemic and deaths of despair.
Joseph didn’t die of COVID, but like his 2020 brethren he died alone, with a half glass of wine next to his keyboard and a couple of cigarette butts in the ashtray.
He died doing what he loved best, complaining about some local politician on Facebook with a Valley Voice reader. My youngest son found him slumped over his chair at his desk around 2:40 a.m., having passed by what appeared to be an aneurysm.
Mercedes and I had left home that afternoon to help a friend in the Bay Area. Because I kept forgetting this or that, I actually kissed him goodbye three times, the last time of which he called me to come back home because I had left my credit card. Joseph was waiting for me in the driveway and I got out of the car to give him one last hug and kiss, and I am so glad I did.
His passing clarified a couple of issues for me.
First, there are no goodbyes. So many people grieve about the fact that they didn’t have the chance to tell their loved ones goodbye, but how could they have? Unless the person is in hospice you don’t know when someone is going to die.
One day, they are just gone.
My greatest fear used to be dying alone and I couldn’t understand why single family member estranged themselves from their only living relatives. Who was going to be there to hold their hand when the time came?
After seeing all the COVID patients with big loving families die in nursing homes and hospitals, I realized that almost everyone I knew died alone. And I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was out of town the night Joseph died.
When my son Alex died in 2017, it was so painful that I couldn’t really recommend having children, but Joseph’s passing resolved that issue for me also. The evening of his death my adult kids had all made it home for dinner. As we sat around the table, I realized that this was his legacy. We chatted, reminisced and recounted his quirks, sayings, and funny anecdotes that were all vintage Joseph.
This reminiscing was so much more of a legacy than a plaque on a wall or a wing of a building named after someone no one knows
Just think of your ancestors. They live in you. And Joseph lives in the hearts and minds of his kids, and even his readers.
Joseph’s legacy includes not only his quest for justice, but sharing his sense of right and wrong, the truth, and maybe a few Beetles and Bob Dylan Songs.
It doesn’t mean you have to have your own children. Not everyone wants to or can. If you don’t have a family of your own, pay for a niece’s college or graduate school tuition. Take your nephew under your wing and be his mentor. Take over the care, financial and physical, of your parents. Don’t come to the end of your life having spent every dime and every minute just on yourself.
He taught me that having a family was not only worth it, but was my life’s journey. Every crumpled bumper, stained rug, and sleepless night were all worth it, and Joseph and I did it together. We were a team. And I now would recommend it to everyone.
Egyptians believe that every time you say a person’s name they live, and Joseph will live forever.