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Loved ones commemorate those lost to terminal illnesses in 25th annual event
People gather as the tree is lit at Doctors Hospital of Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The names on the sheets of paper posted outside of Doctor’s Hospital of Manteca Wednesday night told a story.
In the case of Aspen Adams, they told the story of a young girl who was taken too soon. For Frank Guinta Jr., they told of a community titan who got a chance to say goodbye to everybody he ever knew before he passed away. For Victor Gully it told of a man who gave his last years volunteering in any way he could to preserve the history of Manteca and the city that had given him so much.
They were all taken by cancer inside of the last few years, and on Wednesday night their memories shined on the Hospice of San Joaquin 25th annual Tree of Lights outside of Doctors Hospital as people crowded around to watch the annual lighting.
“You see their light up there shining and that lights your heart up because that’s a memory of somebody you love,” said Lajuana Aman, who was present on behalf of Eagle’s Nest Harley Davidson and their Harley Owner’s Group members. “When you see it, it keeps those memories of that person a little bit brighter as you carry them with you.”
Sponsored by PG&E, the event is one of six in San Joaquin County that serve as both an awareness tool for the work that Hospice of San Joaquin does for people throughout the area as well as a healing tool for family members and friends of those who have lost their battle with cancer or another incurable disease.
And like most volunteer efforts that originate within PG&E, it all started with a single employee who made it their personal mission to help.
According to Public Affairs Representative Dylan George, 28 years ago a PG&E employee decided that he wanted to invest his time in helping to decorate the Hospice Christmas Tree in Stockton. Within three years the number of volunteers working with him had risen and the effort had begun to expand into neighboring communities like Manteca. Earlier this week hundreds of people gathered in Ripon for the same thing, and other ceremonies in Stockton, Tracy, Escalon and Lodi all feature the volunteer work of PG&E employees to make it possible.
In the eyes of Sandy Stoddard, Hospice of San Joaquin’s Development Director, the event serves a dual purpose for being a tool for families that have lost a loved one to an incurable disease.
“It’s extremely important for both awareness and fundraising efforts so that we’re able to care for the terminally ill and their families,” Stoddard said. “But it also serves to memorialize all of those that we have lost, and cherish their memories.”
The program cover that was distributed to those who attended on Wednesday night was designed by 6th grade Shasta Elementary student Irlanda Hurtado, and the musical numbers were performed by the East Union High School Choir under direction of Gary Fritzen.
The tree was lit by the family of Warren White — his wife Shirley White, daughter Kathy White and friend Jack Seidner.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.