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Park name change honors couple
Bobette & Charlie Giles generosity recalled
Scott Blevins, president and owner of Mountain Valley Express, introduces members of his family who attended the dedication of the Bobette and Charlie Giles Park Monday morning. The park, which is home to the Boys and Girls Club, was formerly known as Bay Meadows Park after the name of the residential subdivision built around it. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/ The Bulletin
The race-track name is gone. Now, the once incongruously named Bay Meadows Park that has been home for many years to the Boys and Girls Club on Alameda Street proudly proclaims a new name: Bobette and Charlie Giles Park.

One of the two park signs is located on the corner of Alameda Street and Elm Avenue, next to the Boys and Girls Club parking lot. The other is at the park’s northwest corner on Elm and Blossom Drive.

“They really epitomized what the Boys and Girls Club is really all about,” Charlie Halford, the nonprofit youth program’s executive director said during the official dedication of the new Giles Park, explaining the reason behind the nomenclature change.

“They put their money where their mouth was not only in life but in their passing,” Halford said as he announced to the group gathered for the short ceremony Monday that the late Bobette and Charlie Giles remembered the youth organization in their will.

“They were very generous with their time and money,” Manteca’s former chief of police said, recalling the “many Monday nights” he worked with Charlie Giles at the many bingo fund-raisers for the youth organization.

“They gave their heart and soul to the club. That’s where their heart was,” confirmed Scott Blevins who, after Charlie Giles’ untimely death several years ago, took over as president and owner of Mountain Valley Express.

Blevins is one of the five children of Bobette from her first marriage. Three other children were present at the dedication: only daughter Kelly Bergmann of Ripon, and Brent who is a California Highway Patrol officer. Brent’s twin, Bryan, who is a registered nurse in Lakewood, Colorado, and oldest sibling, Bill, of Ripon who works for American Chevrolet in Modesto, were unable to attend the dedication.

“He was a man that would give the shirt off his back,” Scott Blevins said, recalling the generosity of the man who became his “father figure” and “role model” in 1979 when his mother and Charlie got married after having known each other for three years. Blevins said he was just in high school at the time.

Both were successful business people in Manteca, he said – Charlie had his Mountain Valley Express, and Bobette owned and managed the Burger Tree on Moffat Boulevard just off South Main – now a Mexican restaurant - where Charlie often had his meals.

“That’s how they met,” Blevins said.

“It’s a great honor that this park is named in their memory, but they didn’t set out to (get the honor),” he said, explaining the Giles’ true motive for giving.

“As they received, they’d give back (to the community),” he said.

“Charlie really was a giver,” said Blevins’ wife, Deena, who found out the extent of that generosity after his death.

She said that one of the hardest things that the family had to do after Charlie’s sudden death from a heart attack was “going through his check register” and seeing that “every other check he wrote was for charity.”

She said Bobette and Charlie gave their heart and soul to the Boys and Girls Club because “they loved kids.”

Halford said that what the Giles gave to the Boys and Girls Club, and, for that matter, to the community at large, “is really the gift that keeps on giving. We need more people like Bobette and Charlie in Manteca.”

Without their generosity, “We would not be what we are today. We would not be like the community that we are today,” Halford said while pointing out that Charlie Giles was one of the founding members of the Boys and Girls Club when it was established in the late 1970s.

In a sense, he added, Charlie Giles was a “father figure to the community.”

It’s that image of the founder of Mountain Valley Express that Mayor Willie Weather expounded on when he talked about Charlie Giles to the youth who attended the dedication ceremony. By his example in life, he showed that “it’s better to give to others than to give to yourself,” he said.

He also shared a bit of trivia with those who attended the ceremony which included Police Chief Dave Bricker, former mayor and council member Jack Snyder, city officials and members of the Giles and Blevins family. The former Bay Meadows Park was named after the subdivision around the park, he said.

Bobette and Charlie Giles’ generosity went beyond the Boys and Girls Club, with the majority of their philanthropic gesture unknown to a lot of people, according to their family. Not many people know, for example, that Charlie Giles donated $50,000 to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church to help rebuild the chapel. He was just as generous to St. Vincent de Paul Society, the all-volunteer charity organization affiliated with St. Anthony’s.

Scott Blevins also recalled that when his mother owned and ran the Burger Tree, she would feed the homeless whatever food was left over after the end of the day. He particularly remembered one character named “Rattlesnake” who always ended up at the restaurant to enjoy one of these special meals.

Another of Charlie Giles’ many generous gestures is a major part of the Flags Over Manteca community project. When Joe Pellegrino, who was the executive director of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce when the Flags Over Manteca project was being launched, chatted with Charlie Giles about the need for a storage for the flags, Halford quoted Giles as saying to Pellegrino, “I’ll take care of it; I’ll donate a trailer. I’ll have one of my guys weld the racks in there.”

The Flags Over Manteca trailer is the one that the public sees at the parking lot on the corner of Yosemite Avenue and North Main Street during the holidays that the 2,400 flags are unfurled throughout the major thoroughfares in Manteca.

Jay Holmes, who, along with Halford campaigned to have the Bay Meadows Park named after Bobette and Charlie Giles, said this was an action that needed to be done.

“This was very, very important. We’ve got to keep telling Charlie’s story to the people, for the kids. The children need to hear it,” said Holmes who is one of the movers and shakers of Manteca and the Boys and Girls Club.