Margo Young left Manteca 45 years ago.
Since then she became part of the Sisters of the Precious Blood earning teaching, counseling and medical degrees along the way enabling her to serve the poorest of the poor all over the world including 13 years in Guatemala.
Sister Young, who is currently a community outreach physician at St. Bernardine’s Medical Center in San Bernardino was back in Manteca Saturday night thanks to the common thread of service, community, and diversity she shares with eight others.
“I didn’t know what a gift I was given (being raised in Manteca) until I went to Dayton, Ohio,” Sister Young told a crowd of 200 at the 19th annual Manteca Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
That gift, Sister Young said, was diversity and a strong sense of community that in Manteca brings people from all ethnicities and economic backgrounds to work together for the common good. Young’s sentiments were shared by other inductees.
“We’ve been all given a gift to develop … and to use that gift to make a better world,” said Young who was inducted in the field of health care.
Joining Young in the 2011 Manteca Hall of Fame were Jessie Marinas, art; Don Widmer, athletics; Don Asher, government; Norm Knodt, business; Bill Jones, education; Leo Omlin, agriculture; Jack Kelley, at-large; and Kathryn Aartman-Weed, community service.
Art - and the willingness to listen - are the two gifts that Kathryn Aartman-Weed has used effectively in her 43 years of working and mentoring young people.
The artistic gift she developed as a youngster has led to numerous awards. The listening gift was realized out of tragedy. She lost one of her children at birth. The pain she suffered, though, opened a new door. Her priest asked her if she could talk with a mother who just lost a child as she would understand what she was going through. Aartman-Weed said she went and mostly listened. Then she was asked by the same priest a few months later to help another mother suffering the same tragedy.
“I mostly listened,” Aartman-Weed said. “I learned that I was a good listener.”
Lending an ear in addition to her artistic talents has made her a perennial favorite among young children attending her at classes at the Boys & Girls Club locations in both Manteca and Lathrop where she volunteers, serves on the board, and has been a past president.
Aartman-Weed is currently president of the Manteca Soroptimists. The service club is involved in a number of community endeavors including being a major community financial supporter of the Valley Counseling Services that provides services to troubled teens. Along with her husband Jerry, she ran the Manteca Idol singing contest for two years as a volunteer.
She has also been honored with the Pope Pius IX Award as well as the St. Anthony’s Parent Teachers group for contributing as a volunteer for more than 10 years of teaching religious classes to high school and junior high students and for being on the parochial school’s board.
She also has worked for more than 35 years with developmentally disabled residents at the Hanot Home in Lockeford and has volunteered in Manteca schools.
Jessie Marinas credits tragedy - and the community of Manteca - for inspiring him to return to his artistic roots.
He started painting at age 10 and showed outstanding talent.
The need to support his family took him away from art and into a career in mechanical engineering, But then degenerative spinal problems changed his life.
He was racked with pain and struggling to keep an even keel when he picked up a nail to create a religious painting.
Marinas credits an angel - in the form of Gayl Wilson of the Manteca Mural Society - to helping him reach the next level. She had seen his work and invited him to compete in a mural competition with professional muralists from throughout the Western United States that was being hosted by Manteca.
He ended up painting the eight-foot mural one foot at a time due to his limited movement. “The Harvest Continues” - which today graces the wall at the Manteca Senior Center where the Hall of Fame dinner was conducted - ended up winning the competition.
He has been named Asian Artist of the Year, was a featured artist in a gallery in Ferndale, and has received numerous awards in the Delicato Art Show.
Marinas said he’s inspired by Manteca and “the people who have made this town a symbol of unity.”
Don Widmer was one of 58 freshmen to step onto the football field as freshmen for the University of California at Los Angeles in 1966. By his senior year, only18 remained.
“It had to do with something more than athletic ability,” Widmer said.
That “something”, according to Widmer, was being raised in Manteca and Lathrop as well as the values his family instilled in him.
Widmer had no problem with the athletics side of the equation. The 1966 Manteca High graduate was an outstanding student-athlete in both wrestling and football. He was the most valuable Valley Oak League player for football his senior year. In wrestling, he won back-to-back Northern California wrestling titles. He had a 67-match winning streak his junior and senior year with only four points scored against him.
He started as linebacker for the Bruins his sophomore year. At UCLA he received the Most Improved Player honors in football and Most Valuable Wrestler award.
Widmer returned home and started a family and continued his involvement in athletics as a coach and a booster.
Widmer noted that 45 years ago “football, school spirit and fast cars were just so important” as a part of growing up. Going from small town to Los Angeles, though, was a bit of shock. He said that when he got to LA International “there were more people in the airport than all of Manteca.”
Judge Don Asher
The late Judge Don Asher believed in people.
“He believed everybody was equal and that they should be treated with respect,” recalled his daughter Donna Asher in accepting the award on his behalf.
Asher started working at age 15 to help his family financially. He ended up working 40 hours a week while attending Stockton Junior College. After that he went to Sacramento State College where he graduated in the top 10 percent of his class. He was in the top third of the graduating class at the UC Berkeley Law School and passed the State Bar in 1964.
He never forgot how big of an impact on his life that receiving a scholarship to law school played. That promoted him to repay the gift by helping other struggling students.
His first job was with the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office where he served until 1971 when he joined the Manteca-based law firm of McFall, Burnett, Martin and Asher.
During his time at the law firm he did pro-bono work for families adopting children and for non-profit organizations.
Asher was appointed in 1981 to the Manteca-Ripon-Escalon Municipal Court judgeship. He served as judge until his death in 1996.
While president of the Manteca Rotary, Asher started the annual Peace officers Award for Law Day.
Norm Knodt knows he couldn’t have succeeded in life if it hadn’t been for the work of others - his late father August Knodt and a host of others in the Manteca community.
He illustrated how pervasive that service is in the makeup of community residents by noting his father served with fellow inductee Don Widmer’s father Joe on the Manteca Unified School District board as well as with another inductee - Jack Kelley.
Knodt credits his wife Linda for encouraging him to launch a financial services career after working from 1981 to 1996 as the chief pilot of the Pan American helicopter shuttle in New York and piloting helicopters to assemble and supply oil rigs in remote jungle locations. That career was an outgrowth of his service in the Vietnam War.
“If it wasn’t for Linda, I’d still be flying helicopters,” he said.
That is meant as a compliment.
On returning to Manteca he embarked on a path of community service.
“I feel I’m just an extension of what my father started,” Knodt said of his dad who so impressed the community with his service that August Knodt School in Weston Ranch is named in his honor.
In addition to his career as an investment advisor, Knodt has served on the Manteca Chamber of Commerce board, is a current member and twice past president of the Manteca Rotary, from 2001 to present he has served as chairman of the Manteca Friends of the Stockton Symphony that is responsible for exposing 2,000 local students a year to classical music, and is current president of the Manteca Mural Society.
There was little doubt after a few days in Bill Jones’ mind why he landed his first school administrative job in the Rosemead School, District in East Los Angeles where he served as a junior high principal. It was not because of his stellar education background including a degree from UCLA but due to his experience as a decorated Marine in the Korean War.
Some 98 percent of the school were gang members. His top directive was to stop the fighting. Handcuffs were part of his equipment as a principal. Back then, corporal punishment was allowed prompting Jones to note that at one point just months into his job he had to be treated for tennis elbow.
He said being hired as a vice principal under Ed Brasmer at Manteca High was both a blessing for him and his family as well as a culture shock.
The first task Brasmer gave him was discipline. He sat down with the faculty in a meeting and asked them to identify their discipline concerns. They told him the main issues were students were making too much noise in the main hallway corridor, a lot of students cut classes, and that a number of students were not tucking in their shirts as they were supposed to do under school rules. Topping the list: too much displays of affection.
Jones was nominated by several people who are impressed with how he has always conducted himself by his personal philosophy that “all children have a right to have the opportunity to have the best possible education and that parents and community members have an obligation to support and encourage students to achieve.”
Jones served as Manteca High principal where he helped establish Partners in Prevention, the Boys & Girls Club, as well as create the county’s first drug-free school zone.
The late Antone Raymus tapped him to serve as the founding executive director for Give Every Child a Chance.
Leo Omlin was born into a hard-working Swiss dairy family and has lived on the same farm on South Union Road all of his 73 years.
Under his tutelage, the farm expanded from 40 acres for dairy cattle to a 70-acre Texas Longhorn Ranch.
He has earned numerous awards for his Texas Longhorns over the years including being a seven-time winner at the California State Fair as Premier Breeder and Top Herdsman.
A firm believer in educating youth about agriculture, he volunteers his time not just at school farm days but houses 4-H projects and transports animals to the fair for 4-H Club members.
He never hesitates to take the opportunity to accommodate passersby who stop at his fence line to take photos of his steers. He will spend time sharing with them tidbits about the breed and makes arrangements for them to get closer.
He also donates his time to assist neighbors and at shows designed to encourage improved Texas Longhorn breeding.
Jack Kelley spent his career helping troubled youngsters through the California Youth Authority and then spent part of his spare time helping make sure that kids were given every opportunity not to go down the wrong path by serving 22 years on the Manteca Unified School District board.
He was with the CYA for 35 years starting at Fricot Ranch and eventually being promoted to Treatment Team Supervisor at the Northern California Youth Authority in Stockton. He was credited with starting the effective Foster Grandparent Program where seniors volunteer to work with CYA wards as surrogate grandparents and advisors.
He has been involved in the community all his life and most recently served the Manteca Historical Society as a volunteer docent.