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Inductees credit community, others for their success
HOF4 5-13-12
Manteca Hall of Fame inductee Vern Gebhardt, left, sits with family and friends - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

They all made that clear.

Instead the 10 inducted into the 2012 Manteca Hall of Fame Saturday night have lived their lives building on the community foundations laid by others before them.

"In life you get these awards by being surrounded by people better than you," noted Vern Gebhardt who was inducted for athletics.

Among the people he had in mind were fellow educators and coaches who helped mentor him - Dick Durham, Rick Wentworth, and Rick Arucan to name a few.

Gebhardt's 37-year teaching career earned him accolades as being both an outstanding teacher and coach. He taught and coached for years at East Union High and ended up retiring after serving as Sierra High's first athletic director.

Gebhardt also served four years on the Manteca Unified School District board. He is currently active in the Knights of Columbus and the Manteca Friends of the Parks and Recreation board.

"It's great to have this community be such a great supporter of athletics," Gebhardt said.

Carol Davis has led the expansion of Give Every Child a Chance over the past decade taking it from providing free tutoring for 300 children a year to more than 4,500 annually in Manteca and the surrounding communities.

That is on top of her community work that currently includes the Sunrise Kiwanis and Manteca Unified Student Trust plus past service with a repertoire of non-profits ranging from the Boys & Girls Club to Su Salud.

"All of us together are better than anyone of us apart," Davis said in borrowing a quotation.

Davis was inducted at large.

Marty Harris said he was humbled and amazed that he was chosen to follow others before him for agriculture in the Hall of Fame.

"These giants of agriculture in our community ... have left their marks," Harris said of those that helped set the stage a century ago to turn the South County into one of the most productive farm regions in California by harnessing water and employing rock solid work ethics.

He lauded those who set the stage including his grandfather John Mendosa who came to Manteca in 1913 positive that the fact an irrigation system had been established and Spreckels Sugar was building a refinery here meant they’d be a strong market for shoes.

Harris is chief executive officer of Tuff Boy Sales where he has built on the strength and attributes of his parents Bill and Lucille Harris.

Harris is a tireless promoter of agriculture in Manteca Unified schools through the school farm. He also helped put new life into the Manteca Agricultural Boosters.

Dr. Mike Davis' active leadership roles with Doctors Hospital of Manteca, his dedication to keeping abreast of changes in health care, and ability to communicate effectively with staff and patients landed him in the Hall of Fame in the field of healthcare.

Davis told the sold-out crowd at the Manteca Senior Center that a grasp of medical knowledge alone doesn't make a physician successful.

"It takes a community to make a physician," said Davis, a third generation San Franciscan who has called Manteca home for 25 years.

Davis has volunteered to serve on the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Board for more than 10 years. He is also active in his church.

Davis stressed that each patient is different and brings a different set of life experiences and concerns to the table.

"I learn from my patients and I hope they learn from me," Davis said.

David Soeth was inducted for education.

"Education is seeing students get out of their comfort zone," Soeth said.

It is something he did for 30 years as a classroom teacher. He served an additional nine years as an East Union High guidance counselor.

Soeth has served as an assistant Scoutmaster, is a past president of Manteca Kiwanis, works with the San Joaquin County Academic Decathlon, and is active in his church. He is a United States Track and Field Master level official and works track meets from the high school and Junior Olympics levels to the United States Olympic Trials.

He also organizes subsection track meet for area high school leagues each year and trains other track officials.

Les Thomas, like other recipients, said the honor of being inducted for community service wasn't about him but about everyone who comes together to make things work.

Thomas has never missed a day helping organize the, distribution and collection of the 2,400 flags that the Manteca Chamber of Commerce places along city streets over the past 10 years.

"This is a group effort and not just me," Thomas said.

The Korean War army veteran is active in St. Anthony's Catholic Church outreach efforts as well as the Knights of Columbus.

"This is the most patriotic community," Thomas said. "I'm so proud to live here .... The flags represent real people who have served our nation."

Frank Guinta noted he arrived in Manteca as a 21-year-old in 1964 with $900 in his pocket and a set of automotive tools.

The inductee for business - once know as Manteca's Gas King when he owned five service stations at one time - is credited with instilling character and the value of hard work in hundreds of young people he coached in sports as well as hired in his various businesses over the years.

"I didn't give them (the young people he coached and hired) anything," Guinta said. "They earned what they got."

Guinta said the reason he succeeded in business was because of the community supporting him.

Joann Tilton - the inductee for government - is the longest tenured employee with the City of Manteca at 31 years including the last 28 as city clerk.

Tilton, who said she couldn't believe the call she got from Jack Snyder telling her she was being inducted into the Hall of Fame for government, told the gathering: "I'm sure my high school government teacher wouldn't believe it either."

Tilton is active in city clerk organizations and the Manteca-Lathrop Boys & Girls Club. She is past president of the Manteca Noon Kiwanis. She also teaches aerobics, is a personal trainer, and runs marathons.

The late John Cambra was inducted for art based on his building and reconstruction of hot rods and classic cars that were viewed as art not just locally but nationally as well.

Cambra had a manufacturing business, a steel construction business and two agricultural ranches.

He made it a point to help instill young people with the skills they needed to earn a living welding.

"My dad was a very humble man, a very honest man, and a very handsome man," his daughter Aimee Cambra said in accepting the honor on his behalf. "I hope I take after him."

Special recognition went to Pastor Mike Dillman for the role he has played in establishing the largest Memorial Day Weekend commemoration event of its kind on the West Coast.

"It isn't sensible for me to be here and to accept this honor," Dillman said. "It takes hundreds of people to make it happen."

Upwards of 15,000 people attend the annual event at Woodward Park from throughout Northern California that’s designed to honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives serving America and to embrace those who returned home.

He urged those in attendance to remember service personnel when they return.

"Tell them 'thank you for your service and welcome home'," Dillman said. "It's magic to the ears of service men and women."