I've never met anybody like him. Former Fruitvale principal John Hefner is a force of nature.What can we compare him to? A tornado, a hurricane or a Sierra storm that blows in, drops 3 feet of snow in one day and leaves clear skies the following?

Rather than leaving devastation in his wake, Hefner's legacy was possibility, opportunity and achievement.

A few weeks ago, we went to Fruitvale Junior High for the dedication of the new gym to Hefner. People said funny and inspiring things. Better to give tributes to the living -- there are few people more alive than John Hefner -- than wait for the funeral.

John might as well have invented History Day, the national academic competition. Fruitvale was recognized four times as a California Distinguished School, as well as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 1991.

Our children attended Fruitvale and from History Day, and John, they learned how to speak in front of a crowd, how to interview and how to stay up half the night researching. Each came away with a marketable John Hefner imitation: Talk fast, on several subjects at once, while moving in three different directions.

As some of his assistant principals noted, John embodied the biblical principle of being a principal. He was just as much an advocate for the struggling student as he was for the achiever.

I received this note from former Mayor and county Supervisor Mary K. Shell:

"Gene (Tackett) and his late wife, Wendy Wayne, raised funds for charities for years using the prolific crop from their persimmon tree. Gene has made it easy for his customers. You don't even have to climb the tree! On his porch (19th and Beech) he has a box full of ripe persimmons to pick from, along with bags to carry. I am one of his appreciative customers and a neighbor."

Gene operates his persimmon business on the honor system. Persimmons are 50 cents apiece and customers slide the money through Gene's mail slot.

He's donating the money from this year's harvest to the American Cancer Society.

More giving: Chad Hoggard called. I don't know why he uses a phone; you put your head out the window and you can hear him all the way from his store, Hoggz Surfshop at 8200 Stockdale Highway.

I give the address because Chad's offering 10 percent off to customers who bring in new and gently used blankets this weekend. He's donating the blankets to the Bakersfield Homeless Center.

He's also given permission to June Murray, who owns the Love Denim Exchange, to set up in front of his store. June sells premium jeans -- women's and juniors' -- and she will be donating the proceeds to Forgotten Initiative, Bakersfield, and the Angels Tree in the East Hills mall. Both benefit foster children in Bakersfield.