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Service is the price they paid for the space they occupied
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Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy.

As I call to mind this simple but meaningful statement, I think of several people we lost in 2012 who paid for the space they occupied in the community many, many times over.

There was Mabel Brocchini who slipped the surly bonds of earth quite unexpectedly on Nov. 29 just after Thanksgiving. The mere mention of her name brought to mind a cornucopia of community activities because she was constantly involved in so many things in every imaginable capacity. It’s incalculable how many lives she touched through the countless selfless acts she did for the community, many of them through her quarter-century involvement with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s special events committee. As someone who covered many of these happenings for the Manteca Bulletin, I have had many encounters with her through the years. And every time I think of Mabel, it’s her smiling face that immediately pops in my head. Try as I might, I can’t remember ever seeing her wearing a frown.

To me, she was a person who was always trying to help someone and giving something to her community. So much so that when I took tennis classes with the Manteca Parks and Rec one summer, I was surprised to see her doing something for herself for a change. She was my partner in the doubles. I didn’t do well at all. Quite poorly, in fact. Still, she had only smiles for me.

When my sons were going to Nile Garden School, I saw another side of Mabel that demonstrated her total dedication to family. Every now and then, we would stop at Cater Donut where the kids would pick up a chocolate-covered pastry and a carton of Vitamin D-enriched milk. Each time, I would see Mabel seated at one of the tables with one or two of her grandkids that she was also driving to school. And each time, we would chat and exchange pleasantries with a tacit understanding that those sweet indulgences we gave to the kids – and to ourselves, of course – were to remain forever just between us and never for public dissemination.

Lottie Bishop

In October, I heard of the passing of Lathrop and Manteca citizens who also embodied selfless giving spirit. On Oct. 18, Lathrop lost Lottie Bishop at the ripe old age of 94. A survivor of the Great Depression and a Rosie the Riveter (the nickname given to the women who helped the war effort by leaving the comfortable confines of their homes to help build war ships) during World War II, Lottie and her late husband Henry raised six children. But having a large family was no hindrance to their desire to help the then unincorporated-county community of Lathrop. She helped start the Brown Bag and Commodities food distribution program for seniors. She was part of the community effort that pushed for the construction of the original Community Center building that included a wing to be used for senior activities such as the potluck luncheons. She was also instrumental in setting up the Lathrop Agricultural booth at the San Joaquin County which earned her beloved small town big honors year after year. Those are just a handful of the countless community services that she “paid” for the space she occupied. She got involved almost to the end, even when she could only see with just one eye. Incredibly, up until she was 91 years old, she maintained her exercise routine by going to Curves.

Jimmy Montiel

On October 23, Lathrop again lost one its stalwart but quiet volunteers when Cipriano “Jimmy” Montiel lost his long battle with cancer. Unless you were privy to the serious nature of his illness, you didn’t realize that the sweetly smiling face you were seeing – his doctor said he was a walking miracle – was literally dying inside. He was a perennial part of the Lathrop Relay for Life effort to raise money for cancer research. With his faithful wife Arnita, he spent countless volunteer hours to many philanthropic causes including the ongoing effort to raise money for building a new church at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Lathrop. His volunteer work in the community included stints in the Lion’s Club, Knights of Columbus, Little League, the Parks and Recreation, Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations, among many others.

Bill Harris

Before the month was over, Manteca lost another great philanthropist. William R. Harris of Tuff Boy passed away on Oct. 27. He was known for many things – his business acumen and affiliations with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce, Manteca Historical Society, Manteca Lions Club and St. Anthony’s Church, among many others. But countless children and writing teachers in San Joaquin County will long remember his major role in the development of the talents that are destined to change and influence many generations to come, some of whom could one day become literary giants. It was Harris and wife Lucille who were the major sponsors of the annual program called Great Writing Project, a non-profit partner of California State University-Stanislaus. A sampling of the children’s writings that were turned into books can be found on the web site of the San Joaquin County Office of Education. But that’s not all. Harris was also a staunch supporter of citizens’ rights through his involvement with the Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse through which he advocated judicial integrity and accountability.

The passing of Mabel Brocchini, Lottie Bishop, Jim Montiel, and Bill Harris in 2012 all brought to mind one of the nuggets of wisdom that the late Robert Oliver loved to share during Lathrop City Council meetings. The retired preacher and high school government teacher, who also taught in the community-college level, enjoyed quoting this line the most: service is the price you pay for the space you occupy. He used it to encourage the citizens of Lathrop to become more active participants in their local government by attending city council meetings, and to become more involved in the service of their community.