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Roasting Santa & Mrs. Claus at Legion event

His younger days were filled with giving Ripon Police officers such as Ernie Tyhurst and Red Nutt fits by zipping around city streets as an under-aged — an d unlicensed — go kart driver.

She would go out behind her Marin Street home in Manteca’s Powers Tract neighborhood and use a bat to send golf balls flying over the former Spreckels Sugar almond orchard in a futile bid to hit passing cars on Yosemite Avenue.

Thirty years ago they joined forces to become a pair of Liotards.

You may not know who they are, but if you took your kids to the downtown Manteca hut to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus this past season you’ve met them. They’re Tevani and Jeff Liotard.

They are the “unlucky” targets of the American Legion Post 249’s “Friday the 13th Unlucky Roast” set for March 13 at 7 p.m. at the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane.

The dinner-roast is a benefit for the Legion’s post foundation that is working to secure funds to upgrade and expand the Legion Hall in the 200 block of East Yosemite. The $30 tickets are available by calling either Art Smith at (209) 482-5571, Jack White at (209) 481-1008, or Wendy Benavides at (925) 784-4062.

There’s more to the Liotards than spreading holiday cheer. They are the quintessential Manteca community service couple.

The couple that owns several Mt. Mike’s Pizza locations has a long list of community service endeavors. Tevani, who is also a Manteca Unified School District educator, is the advisor to the Manteca Interact Service Club for teens. The two for the past decade have hosted the Manteca Community Thanksgiving dinner out of their restaurant.

Jeff is one of the driving forces behind the annual Manteca Rotary Super Bowl Sunday Omelet breakfast at the MRPS Hall that last year served more than 1,000 people. He also travels to Honduras every year as part of a Manteca Rotary project led by optometrist Fred Stellhorn to provide eye glasses to those that can’t afford them.

Their list of community endeavors is endless. They range from one-night efforts such as tending bar for the annual Manteca Soroptimist Holiday Affair at the Bank of Stockton that raises money for teen crisis counseling and more to organizing drives — and delivering what they collect — to those in need such as the 2017 Paradise fire victims.

Both have been inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame for community service.

The Ripon High “cowboy” — Tevani recalls the teen Jeff as a “cute cowboy“ in his cowboy boots wearing Wranglers with his belt bucket inscribed with a big “JL” — and the Manteca High tomboy’s paths crossed one day as he was going with a buddy to visit a friend who lived in Powers Tract one summer.

She was mowing the grass sans tennis shoes  as her assigned family household chore when he drove by.

 “Any girl that would have grass stained feet was the girl for me,” Jeff recalled thinking at the time.

Jeff didn’t simply fall in love at first sight but decided then and there she was the girl he wanted to marry.

The two didn’t talk until days later when he was ordering food — a Big Mac. large fries and Coke — at Manteca’s original McDonald’s on Yosemite Avenue that stood just east of where the bowling alley is today and she was working the drive-up window. At one point he passed her his phone number via another McDonald’s employee.

She ended up calling.

“Girls weren’t supposed to do that back then,” Tevani recalled.

The two say they complement each other well as a couple, as parents, as business owners, and as devotees of community service.

But the real reason to buy tickets to the roast besides helping a good cause is the fact there probably hasn’t been people roasted yet by the Legion that offer as rich material for laughs at their expense than the Liotards.

You’ve got to figure  someone who would pop the question — and accept it — the way they did would have a lifetime paved with unusual moments.

Jeff went all out — he rented a tux and picked up floral columns, flowers, and a glass blown swan to place the ring on. If that sounds romantic, hold off judgment. He woke Tevani’s parents up at 1 a.m. by knocking on their front door. Given that Tevani is a fairly deep sleeper he was able to move all of that stuff into her bedroom.

When he woke her up Tevani said she couldn’t tell at first whether she was dreaming — or as she jokingly offers now  — or having a nightmare.

After popping the question and her accepting, they then went out to breakfast.

Tevani said it probably wasn’t her finest moment in terms of presentation.

“We went into the Lyon’s restaurant,” she said “Jeff was dressed in a tux and I looked like I had just gotten out of bed.”

Jeff has a well-earned earned reputation as a hooligan and hell raiser as a kid. At one point Leo Zuber — who is now retried as Ripon Unified School District superintendent — told  Jeff point blank he was the student based on his behavior who was probably  the most likely not to succeed.

As for Jeff being a hooligan,  a young patrol officer by the name of Charlie Halford that collared him for siphoning gas as a teen wouldn’t disagree.

Today not only are Halford and Liotard both Manteca Rotary Club but they team up on a lot of community service endeavors.

Just so you don’t get the wrong impression of Tevani, she wasn’t exactly a goodie two shoes as a teen. She’d often sneak into the Manteca High swimming pool for a swim with friends.

Tevani procured the golf balls that she sent sailing over the almond orchards by sneaking into the golf course and diving into the water traps.

One of the roast organizers — Chuck Crutchfield — said the tickets are selling fast.

Steve DeBrum will serve as the master of ceremonies.

There will also be an auction and raffle. Two of the bigger items ate an autographed guitar from Toby Keith and the autographed lyrics to “Bad to the Bone” signed by recording artist George Thorogood who performed the song with “The Destroyers”.


 To contact Dennis Wyatt, Email