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McDonnell nailed Manteca politics on the draw
Ken McDonnell holds up a copy of one of his late father’s editorial cartoons that appeared in the Manteca Bulletin. Cartoonist Richard McDonnell’s work was the subject of Thursday’s Manteca Historical Society meeting. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Richard W. McDonnell – known to his friends as Dick – had no problem sharing his opinions about the status of things that were going on in Manteca.

The only thing is he did it with cartoons.

On Thursday night, family and friends of McDonnell packed into the Manteca Historical Museum for the Historical Society’s monthly program that showcased the work of the former Bulletin political cartoonist – cartoons that touched on a range of topics from more than a decade ago.

What shocked some of those in attendance was how even though time has passed since those cartoons ran in print, some of them are just as valid today as the day that they first ran.

“Dick was one of those people that looked at everything with a sense of humor,” said longtime friend Tom Dutart – who narrated through the majority of McConnell’s printed and personal work that was shared Thursday. “He shared that sense of humor best when he’d draw because he was an artistic person.”

The Berkeley High School and University of California graduate came to Manteca in 1963 and found work as a manager at a cement plant. He would eventually go on to sell insurance in town before securing a spot at the Bulletin as a political cartoonist.

One of the recurring themes in McDonnell’s work were the sound walls of Manteca, which he featured in one cartoon that had the electronic billboard that was at Spreckels Park declaring that the freeway off-ramp was the next opening in the block wall – a fortress wall that prevented any peek into the Spreckels Park development from the freeway.

McDonnell won a first-place award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association for his portrayal of Army Corps of Engineers staffers that were working hard to reinforce the levees of the South County by placing oversized band-aids along the side.

And he even caricatured Bulletin Managing Editor Dennis Wyatt in a stand-off with gophers in his front yard that were threatening his roses – drawing inspiration from Wyatt’s columns outlining his love and passion for keeping roses and his ongoing feud with gophers that threatened his extensive rose garden.

It was his laid-back style and approach to things, however, that made him special to friends and family.

“When we were much  younger and when we thought we were bulletproof, we’d be in a bar somewhere and he’d grab a napkin and just start drawing something that he saw going on in the bar,” Dutart said. “That’s the kind of talent that he had. He could just see something and then go for it.”