People were inspired by Joe Seay, they admired him and some were afraid of him. Brothers Mike and Ron Valenti wrote about Seay’s life and recent passing.

“Seay brought people together, like soldiers in the war. If you overcame the 50 minutes a day with Joe, you were comrades forever. He didn’t know any other way," Ron Valenti wrote. "He walked the grounds of South High when kids respected teachers, were held accountable, and took pride in wearing gold, blue or satin blue gym shorts. He will be missed.”

“There was a mix outward of audible laughs mixed with tears as I read your piece,” Mike Valenti wrote. “I was a part of his wrestling mat hijinks more times than I want to admit in front of the wrestling team as I was undressing from football practice. Remember 'pink-bellies'? I sure do.”

 ***

Several people responded to the column about the recent 7.1 earthquake and Lucy Jones, the rock star geologist from CalTech.

“The recent 'I love Lucy' article after the earthquakes in Ridgecrest took me back to the 1994 Northridge quake. It was (6 a.m.) in the morning and there was a young Dr. Lucy Jones holding a toddler on the news explaining all of the fascinating geological aspects of the quake.

“There is something about the science behind an earthquake explained by an expert that takes one’s focus off the destruction and emphasizes the amazing geological wonder that an earthquake is.”

Erik Sodergren

Loretta Blankenship sent a corrective email:

“Call it a 'leftover' reaction from my involvement in the women's movement years ago, but I was disappointed in your article, as well as the picture above it because it failed to accord Dr. Lucy Jones her rightful status. With a Ph.D from MIT, she deserves that respect unless she has said she doesn't want to be called 'doctor.'

Yes, she does.

***

Kerry McGill emailed about the recent column about MOMs, the day care center at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church closing after 40 years:

“We met and sat next to each other at MOMs and their annual Christmas breakfast with Santa. MOMs was fantastic. I took my younger son to a different preschool and the lady who had taken care of him at MOMs was genuinely sad to see him go. Great place, great people.

“We met a second time at Master Han's when your son, Sam, was considering martial arts. You wrote a column about how Sam decided not to attend class there because of paddling a kid got for fidgeting. That was Matt, my son.”

***

Jose Gaspar responded to the column on getting older.

“People on the street tend to say, 'Hi, Jose,' most likely because they've seen me on TV for 31 years. However, a few years ago a coworker called me 'Mr. Gaspar' in the middle of the newsroom and I was caught off guard, not knowing how to respond.

"Had I somehow offended him?

"Later, someone else called me 'don Gaspar' (rhymes with drone), which in Spanish is similar to sir or mister or a title given to men of high social status. 'Don' is a title I would use when growing up to address friends of my father.

“I was bewildered. When did I start to age so that people noticed?

'Age is just a number,' my daughter says, and as James Brown said, 'I feel good.'

What else matters?”

***

Ann Williams, brilliant teacher and writer, died recently. She rode horses as a kid from her home near the fairgrounds to places as far away as Hart Park and floated down the Kern River. She “loved the valley and wrote about it beautifully in her collection of essays, 'Midgebuzzings.'"

"After days of surf or streams or desert silences, I long for valley sounds: wind in grass, a single cricket, a neighbor’s rooster crowing.

"I go to the wilderness to take a measure of my being, but I return to the Valley for comfort and for sustenance....

"I did not choose the valley. The years have given me possession of it in blood and memory. But more than that, I am its child, and it possesses me.”

***

Musical recommendations for the week: “Slow Surprise,” and “Keep the Light On” by Chris Smither. Smither will be performing at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Tickets are available at the door or online https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chris-smither-tickets-59987980665

Smither is an American treasure.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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