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Montiel, Sayles lead Lathrop holiday parade on Saturday

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POSTED December 7, 2012 1:33 a.m.

LATHROP – Arnita Montiel loves Lathrop.

Her roots in the community go back generations and they continue to grow to this day.

So when the committee that organizes the annual Lathrop Holiday Parade asked Montiel and her husband Jim – one of the Kiwanis members that laid the groundwork for the event 18 years ago – to serve as co-grand marshals (former mayor Kristy Sayles is also being honored) she jumped at the chance.

But she’ll be riding without the physical presence of her longtime companion come Saturday.

After a lengthy battle with cancer Jim Montiel passed away in early October – just six weeks shy of being honored for the work he did to bring the community together during the Christmas season. Montiel knew that while her husband was sick – doctors pretty much wrote him off back in 2005 – he would be able to hang on.

“He fought hard. He fought hard until the end but it was his time to go,” Montiel said. “I know that his spirit will be with me and his picture will be riding right beside me as well. It’ll be emotional but I know that he’ll be there with me.”

The parade, with the theme of “Holidays around the World,” will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the corner of 5th and J Street and will continue down towards Louise Avenue before breaking up at Mingo Way.

While it will be an emotional day for Montiel, it will also give her the chance to be a part of one of the things that she looks forward to the most every year.

Smiling faces on the kids. Families staking out their spots along the parade route. The sense of the community coming together to celebrate the holidays in unison.

Its community pride, she says, that allows her to passionately care about the things going on in the place that has always been her home. And with a family that keeps growing – she’s expecting to welcome three more great-grandchildren to the family this month and two more early next year – she appreciates a place that caters to families like hers.

“This is home – it really, really is home to me,” she said. “My mother’s father was constable here when she was little so our roots go very, very deep here. It’s a wonderful place to live and raise your children and watch grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up.

“There are five generations of my family here in Lathrop today. I’m pretty proud of that. I think it shows that Lathrop is a wonderful place to live.”

Then there’s the love of Christmas.

“When you see the kids get excited – all of the people lining up along the street. I guess that I’m a kid at heart even though I’m an old lady and I get just as excited as all of those little faces that I see out there,” she said. “Last year I got to watch my grandson Leo walk with the group of Veterans. I was overwhelmed with pride and excitement.

“I guess things like this bring out the kid in me. And I’m happy for that.”

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