Debbie King is retiring after serving 32 years as the Ripon Elementary School office secretary.
King, along with her parents Bill and Betty Webb, moved to Ripon when she entered the fourth grade at Ripona School when Robert Prewitt was principal. Her mom, Betty, now 79 and dad Bill, 81, opened the second of two unrelated markets in the downtown business district – The Food Center.
When she turned 16, she became a box boy at the market and later at 17 she moved up to a checker position. She never hesitated to chat with the customers and hear the latest news about their families. When she learned someone couldn’t afford their groceries because they were down on their luck, her dad Bill would listen to her pitch and take care of their needs at no cost.
During her last year in high school in 1975, she was selected as a princess in the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival.
King is the oldest of the three siblings. Her sister Donna Bagley now lives in Irvine and is an administrative assistant at the Orange County Transportation Authority. Her brother Bob Webb works in Japan for Lockheed-Martin with a secret security clearance following a 30-year stint with the U.S. Navy.
She said she considered boys as “yucky” when she was in the fourth grade and paid more attention to her horse, chickens and her dog, Cindy, a Chihuahua terrier. Chuckling, she remembered her dog always jumping up into her bed and bringing her puppies into her room – usually five or six per litter.
King said she would also rescue young birds in the park when they fell out of their nests and take them home and bottle feed them.
“When I went to school, my mom would feed them and they would follow her around at her feet squawking for more to eat,” king said. “They were mostly sparrows and robins along with one owl that I couldn’t stand to feed the rodents. I gave the owl to Bob Van Slyke – the butcher at Food Center. He raised the owl with his many kinds of exotic birds he had in his back yard at his Ripon home.”
It was in 1986 that she was hired by then Ripon Unified School District Superintendent Joe O’Leary and Principal Will Burgess for the secretarial job at Ripon Elementary. She later served Weston Elementary School, as well, over a five-year period – working part time at both schools.
“I was asked to volunteer for the double duty at both schools, because I knew the procedures of the two office positions,” she said.
The Food Center operation location is now that of Dollar Tree just west of the Bank of Stockton on East Main Street.
King said her mother taught her everything she knew about handling money and about bookkeeping that she took with her into the school district positions.
King met her husband, Ted King, in the seventh grade at Ripon Elementary “but I didn’t really know him until our junior year,” she said. “He was later a student teacher at Ripon High School and also coached Ripon High freshmen and junior varsity football teams.”
King added that her husband was later hired by Ripon Christian Schools to build their football team beginning at the JV level and working up to varsity. She noted that he had only one loss at the JV level and countered a desire to move the team up to Trans Valley League saying they would be hurt in that competition level.
Ted later coached Modesto Christian’s junior varsity where he was the assistant coach for 10 years including seasons when the team went to state.
Before signing on as a school secretary, King worked for Brown Brothers Insurance Adjusters in Modesto as an administrative assistant.
“There are just too many fond memories of Ripon,” she said. “Most recently it was about having fun with the staff doing a talent show in lip sync and moving around on stage at the Ripon Christian Performing Arts Center.”
They have two adult children, Amanda and Doug. Amanda is a professional nanny in Philadelphia, PA. and son Doug is a sales executive with a Fortune 500 company in the Midwest. He’s a top salesman in electronic components designed for surveillance and security operations.
The couple also has four grandchildren – two boys and two girls – ranging between 8 and 19 years old.
A party is planned for King by her staff members at Esmeralda’s Mexican Restaurant in Ripon on March 22 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 and available at the Ripon Elementary office.
King and her husband are moving to Huntsville, Arkansas.
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