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Hall of Fame inductees run from visionaries to coaches
Tim and Gayl Wilson at the podium after being inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame following their induction for endeavors in the field of art. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Mike Morenzone – the marathon man of Manteca coaching – has amassed a career win-loss record of 538-172, 17 league championships and two Sac-Joaquin Section crowns.

Along the way he instilled a lot of skills – athletic as well as those useful in life in working with others toward a common goal – in thousands of young people.

Morenzone was part of the Class of 2009 that was inducted Saturday into the Manteca Hall of Fame. Also inducted were Tom & Gayl Wilson, arts; Mike Atherton, business; Roberto Sepulveda, at large; Nick DeGroot, agriculture; Steve DeBrum, community service; Jim Brown, education; and Joel Tokheim, health care. Morenzone was inducted in the field of athletics.

Morenzone was the East Union High junior varsity volleyball coach from 1985 to 1993 when his teams won six league championships and had a combined record of 156-33. He took over the varsity program from 1994 to 2000. His teams won three league championships and one section championship. His record was 105-44. He served as varsity softball coach from 1988 to 2002. His teams won eight league championships and one section championship. His record was 287-95.

Morenzone also served was the first athletic director for Weston Ranch High.

Robert Sepulveda
Sepulveda has been very active helping the less fortunate since 1977.

Anna Bourbeau of the St. Anthony’s Religious Education Department noted in the past eight years she has worked with Sepulveda that he has made it his personal responsibility to make sure every needy family has a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

“What a lot of people do not know is that if Roberto runs out of donated food to fill the baskets he will use his own money to buy food for them,” Bourbeau wrote. “Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Roberto will help anyone in need throughout the year regardless of their color or religion, or if they are young, old, foreigners, or locals. If they need food, clothing, furniture, or just somebody to listen to them, he’s there.”

Sepulveda also volunteers as an usher, is there if anyone needs a ride to church, to the grocery store or any place.

He works with Love Inc., St. Vincent de Paul Society, St. Anthony’s School, the parish office staff and Knights of Columbus in order to help people.

“He is like the Energizer Bunny – he keeps going and going and going,” Bourbeau added.

Joel Tokheim
With 33 years as a physical therapist under his belt, Tokheim has helped thousands of patients making a difference in all of their lives.

He has been a fixture on sidelines for local football games for years. He has volunteered as a sideline trainer for both Manteca and East Union High and helped with the physical therapy treatment of injured athletes at both schools.

He is a frequent speaker at Manteca Unified in-service days. His techniques and motivation have been shared with coaches and health teachers for years.

His nomination papers note that “patients are always treated with dignity and respect.”

He is the longest practicing physical therapist in Manteca and has been a Manteca resident since 1965.

An avid outdoor sports enthusiast, he chronicled his 1986 Half Dome climb in Yosemite and had the article published in the National Geographic magazine.

Tom & Gayl Wilson
Most people look at a wall and see just a wall. Tom and Gayl Wilson see walls as a potential way to showcase the culture, history, economy, people, and art of Manteca.

The couple is considered by many as the driving force behind the Manteca Mural Society’s efforts to bring large-scale murals to the central district.

The murals are credited with generating renewed interest not just in downtown and the arts but also in people wanting to find out more about the community they live in.

The Mural Society has been responsible so far for eight murals that grace downtown walls.

While the Wilsons credit the success of the mural project to a community effort, the husband-and-wife team has committed extensive time and resources to the effort playing pivotal roles in fundraising, securing artists, and community participation. Tim has been the driving force behind securing wall space and raising funds while Gayl serves as the key collaborator in working with muralists and local artists as well as developing the contents of the murals as well as events such as the Mural Fest and Murals in a Weekend projects.

Mike Atherton
Atherton is a partner in several development ventures including AKF Development and Atherton Homes. AKF was responsible for Spreckels Park as well as piecing together the original deals for the lifestyle mall. The three projects have been defining moments in Manteca’s shift away from being a typical bedroom community.

It was Atherton and his partners who stepped forward in what many believe was Manteca’s darkest hour – the closure of Spreckels Sugar. Not only were 255 permanent and seasonal jobs lost, but it was a major psychological blow. Manteca and Spreckels were synonymous and have grown up together. The 362-acre site threatened to turn into a cancerous blight at the highest profile interchange in the Northern San Joaquin Valley – the Highway 120 Bypass and Highway 99.

Developer after developer looked at the site and passed. They weren’t willing to take the risk nor were their potential lenders. The fear was that Spreckels Sugar would cost too much to demolish, would cost too much to clean-up if toxic waste was found, and it would be impossible to dispose of the concrete rubble of four 15-story sugar silos and lime piled up from 75 years of the refining process.

Atherton’s partners recalled they thought he was nuts after he was approached by Ron Cheek who served as a consulting engineer for Spreckels Sugar. Atherton not only believed Cheek was on to something but he had an even grander vision.

In the end, all the naysayers were proven wrong when they said a man who only built houses couldn’t make the project work. Even his supporters underestimated Atherton and his partners. They predicted a 20-year build out of the multi-use project at best. It ended up being almost 100 percent complete after just 10 years.

Nick DeGroot
You may never have met Nick DeGroot but he made it possible for clean, treated surface water to flow from Manteca and Lathrop taps.

DeGroot – one of 16 siblings in an immigrant family from Holland – was tenacious in pursuing his goal of harnessing South San Joaquin Irrigation District water to assure a secure urban water supply. Without him, the effort to build the $126 million surface water treatment plant bearing his name would never have gotten off the ground.

When the idea of providing the cities access to SSJID’s historic water rights on the Stanislaus River first surfaced, DeGroot’s colleagues on the SSJID board were adamant. It wouldn’t work. They argued there wasn’t enough water.

DeGroot, though, persevered. He would lay in bed at night after laboring in his almond orchards and think.

He’d think about the future of not just his family and fellow farmers but of people he’d never met. DeGroot would take a pencil to paper to do some calculations. He’d do it again and again.

‘When he was sure of himself, he pressed the issue. The SSJID needed to provide treated water for the cities in order to protect farming. It was a bit of out-of-the-box thinking but DeGroot knew he was right.

Two decades later, across from a dairy on Dodds Road 16 miles northeast of Manteca, DeGroot’s treatment plant vision is in place. Treated water is now flowing to homes and businesses in Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy through 40 miles of pipeline.

If the treatment plant hadn’t been built, the odds were great that the unused water rights on the Stanislaus River secured nearly a century ago by the foresight of Manteca area water pioneers such as Walter Woodward would have been lost. That would have had dire consequences for Lathrop and Tracy that already were experiencing serious salt water intrusion problems in underground aquifers that they were using exclusively up until 32 months ago when the treatment plant came on one.

For Manteca, it meant the city could slow down drafting from underground water sources to reduce the chance for salt water intrusion and to protect water sources for rural residents and farms that relied on pumping instead of irrigation canals. The plant has assured Manteca of a safe and secure water source. It has also allowed Manteca to reduce the cost of treating well water to meet tougher arsenic standards put in place in recent years by blending surface water with well water.

Steve DeBrum
The Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau, Manteca/Lathrop Boys & Girls Club, Manteca Chamber of Commerce, and Sunrise Kiwanis  are just four of the high-profile community non-profits that Steve DeBrum has not only been an active member doing “grunt work” but also has served as president.

DeBrum has helped a number of projects move forward as a Manteca councilman. The list runs the gamut from Woodward Park, Big League Dreams, snaring Bass Pro Shop and the lifestyle mall, the Stadium Retail Center, completing the Industrial Park Drive extension, and the new Yosemite Avenue/Highway 120 interchange all the way to the state-of-the-art surface water treatment plant to nearing completion of one of the most environmentally friendly wastewater treatment plants in California.

DeBrum is the Northern California coordinator for the Dairy Farmers of America

DeBrum is the past president of the Manteca Boys & Girls Club, president of the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau, past president of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce, former Manteca Pumpkin Fair chairman, Manteca Sunrise Kiwanis member, former Grand Knight of the St. Anthony’s Knights of Columbus, and is an active member of the St. Anthony’s parish.

He also has had multi-ple years serving as chairman of the Boys & Girls Club telethon, that organization’s major fundraiser that helps provide services for 1,500 youth in Manteca and Lathrop.

Jim Brown
Jim Brown dedicated 38 years of his life serving as a role model for students and athletes alike.

Brown signed a teaching contract with the Manteca Elementary School District in 1962 and taught for three years in the seventh and eighth grades at the Golden West Elementary School. While at Golden West School he helped start the Head Start summer program. The first summer the program was held at Lincoln School, the next summer at Sequoia School, and then at Lathrop School.

In 1968, Brown transferred to Manteca High to teach in the new continuation education program. He taught in the program through 1970. He then joined the main teaching staff at Manteca High teaching math, driver’s training and health classes. He also coached football and baseball from 1971 through 1981.

Brown transferred to East Union High in 1981 to teach math, physical education, and health/first aid along with the head football coaching position. He stayed at East Union High for 17 years before retiring in 1998.

He has eight Valley Oak League championships under his belt including three as head sophomore coach at Manteca High, two as varsity assistant coach at Manteca High, and three years as head football coach at East Union High. Brown’s teams made it to five section play-offs and made it to the finals twice.The weight room at East Union High is named “Jim C. Brown Fitness Center” in his honor.