Sandy Hook

The shooting at the Connecticut elementary school is almost beyond belief, and the fact that the gunman targeted young girls and boys makes it particularly horrific. I will only add my voice to those who believe that focusing solely on gun control misses the point. I do hope the national conversation will also address the issue of providing sufficient, professional help to those who battle mental illness in our society.

RIP vigil

Many of you may remember Virgil Wilson, one of Kern County's legendary basketball coaches who died last month in Arkansas at the age of 67. He stood 6-foot, 9-inches tall and was a former employee of the Bakersfield Police Department and a member of the Harlem Stars. He spent years tutoring and guiding many of Kern County's great young basketball players. Randy Ariey wrote that Virgil was known as "best big man coach in town. He tutored Robert Swift, Winston Crite, Otis Jennings and others. Virgil had a heart of gold and never ever complained about anything in life. He was matter of fact about everything, through the good times and the bad. In the 1990s, Magic Johnson would personally call Virgil every year to work his summer camps. Virg also was the D-line coach for the Fresno Semi Pro team back in the 1990s. So long Big Virg. See you later friend!"


The Houchin Community Blood Bank's new location off Buena Vista Road is a beautiful facility that will certainly be welcomed by the thousands of folks who eagerly volunteer to donate their blood. It's a $10 million facility spread over 42,000 square feet on five acres of land. I attended a Friday reception there and left impressed with the design and open friendliness of the facility.


Bryan Kelley is the witty, garrulous employee of Trader Joe's who was surprised last month when he received a $5,000 check from a regular customer who passed away and remembered him in her trust. And his good luck just keeps on rolling. "First came the customer's check for $5,000 and then yesterday, Bank of America sent us a refund check for overpayment from our mortgage escrow account - for three cents! I am off to buy some lottery tickets whilst lady luck is still downstage center."

Dog rescue

Here is a story about a lost dog with a happy ending. A few days ago, local resident Marlene Freedman was driving to work when she spotted a dog being tossed out of a car at Beach Park. She picked up the dog and fellow law firm paralegals Marcy DeGeare and Pam Brito sent out emails to other paralegals to find the dog a home. In short order an employee from Chain Cohn Stiles adopted it. Said Marlene Morales of Chain Cohn Stiles: "Best of all, this dog went from being thrown out of a car to the mascot for Chain Cohn Stiles. Her name is Justice."


Congratulations are in order for Brad Underwood, a long-time city employee who has accepted a job as public works director in Foster City. Underwood has worked for the city for 26 years, most recently as assistant public works director. Said his wife Vickie: "We have been very blessed living here, raising our girls and will miss this awesome city very much!"

Richard Beene is president and CEO of The Bakersfield Californian. He blogs at These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at