Thursday, December 25, 2014

No reindeer games for this student researcher

December is the time of year when children are told about Santa and his reindeer.

Joyce Pexton — a 2011 Davis High graduate who is preparing to graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in June — knows a lot more about reindeer than just what she’s heard about Rudolph.

Pexton has actual hands-on reindeer experience. In the summers of 2012 and 2013, she went to Alaska as a student intern on a 30-year reindeer research project, traveling to remote portions of the state to vaccinate reindeer, take blood samples and attach ear tags or radio collars.

She also helped with the research study by fencing an …

Beloved longtime schools leader Floyd Fenocchio dies

Floyd Fenocchio, who came to Davis in the late 1960s as a school principal and retired in 1998 as superintendent, died unexpectedly Sunday evening following surgery for congestive heart failure. He was 76.

Fenocchio grew up in what is now West Sacramento, and attended Clarksburg High in rural southern Yolo County. It was in Clarksburg that he met his future wife Sandy (whose father was a school principal/superintendent).

After graduating from high school, Floyd and Sandy enrolled at Sacramento State, earning degrees in 1960. They married a few weeks later, and began their teaching careers at elementary schools in Sacramento.

A daughter and a son (Dianna and Dan) were born, and the family moved to Davis in the late 1960s.

Sharing a meal, and so much more

Grow and give.

Sounds so simple. And for the most part, it is: Plant some vegetable seeds in a garden; harvest the produce a couple of months later; wash and chop, cook and serve.

But when the growers and chefs and servers are 30 fifth-graders from Birch Lane Elementary School and the recipients are senior residents of Eleanor Roosevelt Circle, there’s a bit more involved.

It starts with Robyn Waxman …

There’s a plate for you at the Davis Holiday Meal

One of the great sources of holiday blues is the prospect of being alone while other people celebrate together.

The Davis Food Co-op’s 29th annual Holiday Meal seeks to bring people of all stripes, who otherwise would be alone, together to share food on Christmas Eve.

“This is the broadest spectrum of people I have seen in Davis,” said Julie Cross, who is coordinating her 20th meal this year. “It’s really nice for the disadvantaged people who come to the meal because of all the different kinds of guests there.”

More than the homeless and the poor, UC Davis students far …

Rain Recycler saves water for another day

A round black tub sits in David Montijo’s front yard, on a bed of gravel where his lawn used to be. It looks a little like a space capsule, landed under a school of decorative metal fish swimming along the side of the house.

The plastic container, about 8 feet in diameter, is full up with rainwater that Montijo is collecting from his roof, the first of his Rain Recycler systems.

Montijo, 53, has been sitting on this idea for six years, he said. But last month, with the first of the rains coming after three years of the worst drought California has ever seen, he went to the farm supply store and picked up a 1,100-gallon water container, which is sealed against mosquitoes and contaminants.

Everest visit fulfills judge’s lifelong dream

A lifelong love of hiking and mountaineering last month lured Yolo Superior Court Judge Paul Richardson away from the bench and into the Himalayas, where he fulfilled a longtime dream of viewing Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, from the summit of nearby Mount Kala Patthar.

“I’ve never seen mountains like that. Each one was almost better than the other,” Richardson, 67, said in a recent interview regarding his 24-day excursion, which included a trek to the Everest base camp.

Richardson also found himself intrigued by the area’s history and culture, particularly the Sherpas who populate the Nepal region and often serve as guides to visiting climbers.

Musicians come ‘Home for the Holidays’

The 11th annual Home for the Holidays concert — a folksy variety show featuring an all-star lineup of professional musicians with local roots — will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22, at the Veterans’ Memorial Theater, 203 E. 14th St. in Davis.

This year’s lineup includes the Rita Hosking Trio, Little Charlie Caravan, Misner & Smith, The Cups (featuring Chris Webster), Biscuits and Honey, the Davis High School Madrigals and more, with Joe Craven returning as master of ceremonies.

“The thing that is so neat about it,” Craven said, “is that it happens so close to Christmas itself …”

Marsh gets 52 years to life for murders

WOODLAND — Eighteen years ago last month, the families of Oliver “Chip” Northup Jr. and Claudia Maupin joined together at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Davis, where they replaced the traditional declaration of “I do” with “we do” as the couple became husband and wife.

They reunited Friday in a Yolo County courtroom, this time not in celebration but to share their memories of their beloved parents, whose brutal stabbing murders on April 14, 2013, unleashed a crippling devastation that spanned several generations, they said.

The emotionally charged hearing ended two hours later with the victims’ killer, 17-year-old Daniel William Marsh, receiving the maximum possible sentence of 52 years to life in state prison for his role in one of Davis’ most disturbing crimes.

Putah Creek offers a model for native fish

Putah Creek’s transformation has been dramatic, but it would be little more than a footnote in California history, except for one tireless champion: Peter Moyle, an affable and energetic ichthyologist on a quest to rescue California’s native fish from almost certain catastrophe.

Moyle had testified in the Putah Creek Council’s trial, detailing the ways in which Monticello Dam had choked out native fish populations and allowed invasive species to thrive. The judge’s ruling in favor of the …

The Pied Piper guides creek restoration, restores peace

Rich Marovich’s boots crunch along the gravel and dirt path that runs next to Putah Creek. A warm sun shines low in the late fall afternoon, gleaming through the iron beams of the old Southern Pacific Railroad bridge.

Shielding his eyes with one hand, like a maritime captain who’s just spotted land, Marovich grins. His smile stretches around a trim gray mustache (from cheek to ruddy cheek).

“I don’t get to see my success very often,” he murmurs.

Marovich is Putah Creek’s streamkeeper, hired to guide the restoration of the creek, one of the agreements outlined in the accord signed by the water agencies and the Putah Creek Council.

Saving Putah Creek: A dramatic victory in court

Robin Kulakow hoisted her 1-year-old son David in a toddler backpack and joined the rest of the Putah Creek Council leadership on the parched creek bed behind Manfred Kusch’s house. It was Aug. 14, 1990.

The week before had been a seemingly endless stretch of sweltering 100-degree days, but the heat wave broke that Tuesday.

Kulakow watched as Susan Sanders took her place in front of a rolling News 10 camera: The Putah Creek Council had decided to officially file a lawsuit against the Solano County Water Agency and Solano Irrigation District to secure water for the creek.

Saving Putah Creek: A council without its creek

Even before the creek dried out, the Putah Creek Council had a mess to clean up.

The wide, calm waters, memorialized in the riffs of John Fogerty’s “Green River,” provided a reprieve from the relentless heat of Central Valley summers. But those same hidden banks and deep waters had turned the creek into a de facto town dump.

Mattresses, shopping carts and abandoned cars littered its banks. Beer bottles, spray-paint cans and cigarette butts regularly washed into beaver dams and up onto the banks.

Saving Putah Creek: ‘Nothing but drying mud’

The kids at Camp Putah found them first, the dead and dying fish flopping on the muddy creek floor. Most summers, eight campers and a counselor would pile into 17-foot aluminum Grumman canoes and paddle down a wide stretch of stream along the edge of the UC Davis campus.

But in 1989, California found itself in the middle of a lengthy drought, its third of the 20th century. As the summer days lengthened, the state grew thirstier. Reservoirs sank into themselves. Corn withered in the fields.

When news that the creek had dried out reached Steve Chainey, a 39-year-old restoration ecologist, he rushed over to its banks to see the destruction for himself.

Davis’ ho-ho-holidays are here!

Downtown Davis was packed Thursday night for the 33rd annual downtown Davis tree-lighting and open house.

The evening included the children’s candlelight parade, the lighting of the Christmas tree on the E Street Plaza, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, performances by local musical groups, horse-drawn carriage rides and free showings of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” at the historic Varsity Theatre.

Parade participants lined up at the Davis Food Co-op, and the parade set out behind a Unitrans double-decker bus and a fire truck from the UC Davis Aggie Pack.