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Big Paddy’s Day bash on Sunday

Ripon mayor, VFW post hosting party

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Big Paddy’s Day bash on Sunday

The Ripon Veterans of Foreign Wars on West Ripon Road is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party on Sunday.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED March 11, 2013 1:38 a.m.

He never stepped foot on foreign soil during wartime, but his allegiance to those that did is unwavering.

Dean Uecker was stationed in San Diego and later Coronado Island during the Vietnam War, where he says he was injured during SEAL training.

“I never left,” he said.

Years later, Uecker is prohibited from joining the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1051 as a full-fledged member. That right is reserved for those that fought a war in-country.

Instead, the City of Ripon’s new mayor has found other ways to show his support.

He’s an active member of the post’s men’s auxiliary, and for all intents and purposes, the life force behind one of its top-grossing fundraisers.

The St. Patrick’s Day celebration is fast-approaching, and because of a sizable donation by Uecker, the party promises to turn quite a profit.

The post will host a corn beef and cabbage dinner on Sunday, March 17, at the post along West Ripon Road.

The celebration will feature an all-you-can-eat dinner, green beer, full-service bar and a large swath of revelers from across the south San Joaquin County.

Of course, Uecker will be there, too. This is one party he wouldn’t miss.

He’s got too much invested.

For the last half decade, Uecker has purchased all the corn beef and cabbage for the dinner. His receipts over the years are a sure sign of these economic times, he says.

“When I first did it it cost $300,” Uecker said. “Last year, it was $1,200.”

He’s also sold a majority of the tickets. Uecker estimates the St. Patrick’s Day celebration will net the post upwards of $5,000 – $3,000 from the dinner and another $2,000 from the bar and 50/50 raffle – and because he takes care of most of the overheard, it’s a pure-profit event.

Post Commander Tracy Crawford appreciates Uecker’s support.

“He’s the head chef, cooking it all up. He’s been a big supporter,” Crawford said. “He’ll buy tickets for the Almond Blossom Festival, crab feeds at the community center. Everyone respects Dean quite a bit because of his contributions.”

Uecker is quick to deflect the attention and praise.

“I’m not really the chef – I’m the coordinator,” Uecker said. “I walk around and kiss the babies and stuff like that. I will work, but I have a team of eight, nine and 10 people that help me every year.”

Service, teamwork and support – he enjoys those tenets of the VFW Post the most. He didn’t get to fight in Vietnam, but he and the others can show their appreciation for those that have with a few simple gestures:

•A quarterly care package for those overseas.

• A breakfast, lunch or dinner benefit for those that have returned home.

• And yes, a thousand dollars worth of corn beef and cabbage every March.

“We get pretty good support,” Uecker said. “It’s never for me. It’s always for the group.”

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