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December 5, 2023

One last commute for retiring Watsonville cop

Tarmo Hannula: Robert “Rolo” Leonardich hung up his keys at the Watsonville Police Department Friday for the last time after 41 years of service. About 50 people packed into the briefing room at WPD to share cake and words of respect and recognition of Rolo’s many talents. A motorcade of patrol cars, a three-wheeler and motorcycles, with lights flashing and sirens blaring, then escorted Leonardich up Main Street, along Freedom Boulevard and out Green Valley Road at the close of the ceremony, with Rolo driving his 1978 Firebird. 

Colder temperatures will hang around for the next few days, the National Weather Service said. Freezing temperatures spread over the higher regions while Watsonville dropped to 36 last night and Santa Cruz dipped to 32. Today’s high will hover in the mid 50s to as high as 60 degrees. The next round of rain will come Sunday night and Monday morning. 

If you are driving south be aware the Grapevine stretch of Hwy. 5 south of Bakersfield is closed due to ice and snow as a cold spell whips through southern California on its way to the Midwest. Some drivers on TV news said they had been stuck on the frozen highway in miles of standstill vehicles for nine hours.

People can get rid of their Christmas trees in Santa Cruz County on January 1 at the curbside. Monterey County offers the same service on Jan. 2 and San Benito County on Jan. 3.

Watsonville felt largely like a ghost town Thursday as I strolled the downtown corridor. I walked through the METRO station on Rodriguez Street and over to the Post Office where only a few patrons were visible at both spots. I was glad to find the main branch of the Public Library open where I briefly scanned the new arrivals. I almost always get a hello, a nod or smile from the front desk crew. I’m lucky my parents always encouraged us kids to get library cards as soon as we could, whether that was in Washington DC, on Guam or in San Diego. Once I moved away from home I continued that habit everywhere I’ve lived. To me, it’s more valuable than my ID card. Though I can’t cash a check with a library card or drive a car, it offers a far greater window to the world, a conduit of endless possibilities or at least words about those possibilities.

My most recent find at the library is an autobiography, a recent release, titled “Me,” by the popular singer/songwriter Elton John. I read about it in the New York Times and found a copy at the Watsonville Main Street Branch. About 150 pages into the book, I find it a fascinating read. I have a hunch that just about anyone has a song by him that they like. He hit the big times around 1970 when his huge hit, “Your Song” came out. By the time Elton John landed in America and hit the big stage in L.A. it was a huge avalanche into fame from there. I was lucky to hear him live once in San Diego and his show was incredible.

Johanna Miller: Happy (almost) New Year, everyone! It’s been an exciting, albeit stressful year for me. Usually I feel like years go by too fast—especially as I’ve gotten older—but this year seemed to go on forever. While my fellow Pajaronian staff and I were compiling this week’s “Year in Review” section, I couldn’t believe that certain events had happened within the past 12 months. 

While the start of a new year is, truthfully, a man-made construct, it still always feels like a fresh start for me. Here’s to 2020!

On Tuesday Ella’s at the Airport will be hosting their annual New Year’s Eve dinner and celebration. This time around, they will be offering a selection of special dishes. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. and live music by Steve Abrams will start at 6 p.m. Call the restaurant at 728-3282 to reserve your table and for information.

There is plenty to do on New Year’s Day too—including a History Tour at Seacliff State Beach from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Learn about big movers and shakers of the region such as Rafael Castro, Claus Spreckels and Paul Woodside (aka “Madman of Seacliff”), as well as history on the concrete ship, the development of Aptos and more.

Meanwhile, at the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park there  is the First Day Hike in the Forest, a “history hike” to the abandoned Loma Prieta town site. Discover marine fossils deep in the redwood forest and more. Pets are discouraged on this hike. For more information call 685-6444.

A 28-year-old man died On Christmas Eve after a tree fell on him while hiking in Muir Woods. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Subhradeep Dutta, 28, was hiking with two companions when the tree fell and pinned him to the ground. Park rangers were notified immediately, who in turn called in emergency responders. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A “Ring of Fire” eclipse could be seen over parts of Asia and the Middle East on Thursday. The annual event occurs when the moon covers the sun’s center, leaving a bright ring of light around it. People in Saudi Arabia, India, Singapore, Indonesia and Guam gathered to witness the phenomenon, which is the final solar eclipse of the decade.

sky photo

I read a story in the Mercury News this week about a beloved toy store in San Mateo, Talbot’s Toyland, that is going out of business after being open since the 1950s. These kinds of stories always sadden me. While I firmly embrace technology and the convenience of online shopping, there is something to be said about walking into a real, tangible shop where you can see the items in person before you make a purchase, and that has employees who are passionate—or at least knowledgeable—about the products they sell. Their prices might be a bit more expensive than Amazon or Target, but in my opinion their importance in a community is priceless.

Quote of the day: “Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, love and create.” ― Caitlin Doughty

Staff Report
Staff Report
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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