By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
2015 Year In Review
Looking Back
Escalon High School sophomore Haley Boyd clowns around for the crowd, getting ready to toss some Mardi Gras beads into the audience during the Friday night Homecoming festivities at Escalon High. She was part of the Sophomore Class theme float. Marg Jackson/The Times


The pages of The Escalon Times have been filled with news – good and bad – and plenty of local features over the course of the past year. 2015 saw some new staff members join the city, promotions for existing staffers, lots of accomplishments for students and athletes at Escalon High School and more. Here is a brief recap of the first six months, January through June.



A call in the 15000 block of Steinegul Road early morning Tuesday, Dec. 30 kept Escalon firefighters busy with a huge hay fire that day, and required additional monitoring as 2014 gave way to 2015.

The City of Escalon will host a public workshop in the City Council Chambers at 2060 McHenry Ave., Escalon, on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, at 6:30 p.m. to review the proposed water rates.

A violent early morning crash on Tuesday, Jan. 13 claimed five lives, with four people pronounced dead at the scene of the crash at Highway 4 and Van Allen Road in Farmington, and one more dying at a hospital. Officials on scene said visibility was limited due to fog, which was believed to be a contributing factor in the crash. Farmington Fire Department was dispatched to the call at 6:56 a.m., said Chief Conni Bailey, with the first units arriving on scene at 7:05 a.m. CHP spokesman James Smith out of the Stockton office reported five fatalities out of one vehicle, with day laborers traveling in a Chevy van listed as the victims.

Escalon Sunrise Rotary Club has been active in the Collegeville area recently, helping with the school garden and donating a greenhouse to the rural elementary site. “Throughout the year, the club has organized work days to prepare the garden beds for planting,” explained garden coordinator and Collegeville third grade teacher Cindy Moreno. “Recently, a greenhouse equipped with shelving and trays was purchased by the club and donated to the school.”

As it has done for many years, a portion of Escalon High School was turned in to a virtual landscape of wrestling mats, grapplers alternately battling it out on the floor or grabbing a few minutes of rest in the bleachers while they jammed on headphones to gear up for another bout. It was the annual two-day Lloyd Engel Wrestling Tournament, staged Friday and Saturday, Jan. 9 and 10.

An early morning disturbance on Thursday, Jan. 15 in Escalon left one man with stab wounds and one man being sought in connection with the case.

After successfully testing and making it through the interview process, longtime Escalon Police Officer Gustavo Flores has been promoted to the rank of sergeant. Police Chief Mike Borges said Flores was tops among the candidates from within the department to fill a vacant sergeant position and he now joins Sgt. Milt Medeiros at that rank.



The tide turned at the local H&M Market in Escalon recently – just a couple of weeks after having a car crash into the front of the store and take out a couple of large plate glass windows – the business was the scene of a huge lottery win. Local resident Juvenal Archundia purchased a California Lucky Life Scratchers ticket at the market and scored the game’s top prize – $1,000 a week for 25 years.

A fun, festive atmosphere, a trio of exciting basketball games, and new royalty added up to a Homecoming evening to remember at Escalon High School on Friday night, Jan. 30. With an overall theme of Cirque Du Escalon, the high school grade levels each adopted a different theme for the ‘float’ parade in between the JV and varsity basketball games in the gym and a new Homecoming King was crowned during halftime of the varsity contest. Senior Caleb Mullen received the crown as Homecoming King.

Escalon High School Golf Coach Rusty Fachner – who has led both the boys and girls teams to multiple winning seasons, league and section honors – has been honored himself, presented with the “Ambassador Award” by the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Northern California PGA. Fachner was named the 2014 recipient and recently was feted at the annual chapter meeting hosted at Brookside Country Club in Stockton.

Coming away with a second place overall showing in the ‘School with a Club’ category at the weekend’s annual San Joaquin County Academic Decathlon, coach George Megenney said he was proud of the team and its accomplishments this year.

Escalon Police are still investigating what led up to a local man reportedly fleeing a local business plaza at a high rate of speed and attempting to pass a vehicle along Escalon-Bellota Road on Thursday evening, Feb. 12. The man struck the divider near Escalon Avenue and Libby, which sent his older model Toyota airborne and he was ejected from the car, later succumbing to his injures at a Modesto hospital.

The driver killed was identified by police as Paul Foreman Jr., 25, of Escalon, with an address along Escalon-Bellota.

Collecting more than an average of $6,400 per day, members of the Farmington Fire Department will be sending off more than $25,700 to the Firefighters Burn Institute for their 2015 Fill the Boo campaign. Staged at the intersection of Highway 4 and Escalon-Bellota Road over the long Presidents’ Day holiday weekend, the collection began Friday, Feb. 13 at noon and ran through Monday, Feb. 16.

An early morning accident along Highway 120 near Von Glahn just west of Escalon resulted in the death of an Oakdale man, 57-year-old Robert Macfarlane, succumbing to his injuries.



Completed early and under budget, the first phase of modernization work for the Escalon Unified School District is ready for public inspection. Members of the Bond Oversight Committee have released their annual report, which shows the initial work – done at Escalon High School – came in under the original estimates. Voters approved a $19.5 million bond issue (Measure B) in November 2012 to finance needed modernization at all school sites, and the first phase included multiple projects at the high school. Construction costs were roughly $6.5 million for the first phase. Included in the project was modernization of 22 classrooms, eight restrooms, hallway improvements, storage room upgrades, fencing, and improving site accessibility.

A portion of the pavement outside the main gym on the Escalon High School campus was taken out while students were off school for a week in February and replaced with the decorative brick pavers sold through the Escalon High School Sports Boosters. Two sizes of bricks were available, with families, organizations, businesses and individuals noted on the pavers.

The 2015 Babe Ruth season started with a moment of silence for a couple of longtime coaches lost in the past couple of months, and some remarks from Michelle LaRossa, whose husband Jamie, passed away in January. He had coached many little league and soccer teams over the years at Hogan Fields and he was remembered, along with Dan Pangilinan, who passed away in December and also coached while his three sons were taking part in Escalon rec programs.

Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, of Modesto, has honored local agricultural education advocate and community volunteer Bonner Murphy of Farmington as the 2015 Woman of the Year for the 12th Assembly District.

It was a tough Friday on the wrestling mats for Escalon’s A.J. Camarena. The senior, Escalon’s lone qualifier to the State Wrestling Meet, went 1-2 on Friday, March 6 to close out his high school wrestling career.

Tired of ‘kicking the can’ down the road, Escalon City Councilman Danny Fox made the motion to accept new proposed water rates for Escalon at Monday night’s council meeting. Councilman Robert Swift moved to amend the original resolution and it was seconded but failed after lengthy discussion – with the council then voting 3-2 in favor of Fox’s original motion.



A single vehicle crash early Wednesday morning, March 25, in Escalon resulted in the death of a Stockton man. According to the California Highway Patrol, the man, identified as William Leech, 58, was driving a 1996 Chevy pick-up eastbound on Mariposa Road, east of Brennan, just after 8 a.m. Wednesday when the crash occurred.

Escalon Community Ambulance has a new partner. Sierra Medical Services Alliance on Monday announced that a five-year management services agreement has been completed with Escalon Community Ambulance.

Escalon Police Sgt. Gustavo Flores and Field Training Officer Robert ‘Anthony’ Hardgraves were recently tapped for recognition by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The two were cited as the officers in the department with the most driving under the influence arrests, earning a ‘23152’ pin. The 23152 signifies the penal code section for DUI.

An idea that started when an old city billing ‘drive thru’ receptacle was abandoned has now come to fruition. And the patriotically painted box to collect U.S. flags for retirement is stationed outside the Escalon American Legion Post headquarters on Second Street.

Painting, patrolling neighborhoods seeking donations of canned goods, helping with yardwork, bringing a smile to a shut-in … all were on the agenda for Saturday’s Love Escalon effort. It can be classified as a mission accomplished.

A mid-morning two-car crash on Tuesday claimed the life of an Escalon man and a midafternoon train vs. pedestrian accident on the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe tracks between Riverbank and Escalon on Friday, April 24 claimed the life of an Oakdale woman.

Overcast skies, a chilly wind and the threat of rain may have prompted some people to forego plans to attend the annual Escalon Chamber of Commerce Wine Stroll on Friday evening, but those that did attend found plenty of reason to enjoy themselves.

A new administrative leader – Development Services Director – has been added to the staff for the City of Escalon. Bill Carlson has come aboard to fill the position.



Hoping to make sure Escalon residents do their part to hit statewide water use reduction targets, Escalon City Council members have put new conservation measures in place. Approved by the council at an earlier meeting, officials said they will use May as an ‘educational month’ to alert residents to the changes before taking any punitive measures.

In a short but effective two-day stand, members of the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District raised nearly $17,000 for the Firefighters Burn Institute. Local firefighters were out en masse for Fill The Boot at the busy intersection of Highway 120, McHenry Avenue and Escalon-Bellota Road on Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3.

After claiming an 8-1 Trans-Valley League win at Hughson on April 24, Escalon tennis players took on the TVL Tournament and saw some success there as well.

Hoping to create a little spot where locals could hit a few golf balls without having to travel too far, longtime Escalon resident Tom Hagan never thought he’d be celebrating 35 years in the business. But the still-active senior – who will turn 99 on June 7 and in his words, is “still kicking” – was watching with keen interest from his seat in a golf cart on Saturday, as hopefuls looked to qualify for a ‘shoot out’ and a chance for a $50,000 grand prize in celebration of the golf course anniversary.

A grisly discovery in a canal at South Henry and River Road in Escalon has authorities still looking for some answers. The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department received a call from a citizen about 10:40 a.m. on Sunday, May 24, reporting a possible body in the canal at the location. Escalon Fire Department personnel were also called to the scene, off Santa Fe and River, responding with deputies.

Flags whipped in the cool morning breeze on Monday, May 25 as dozens gathered at Burwood Cemetery on River Road to pay their respects to the nation’s military. Several longtime members of the Escalon American Legion were especially honored for their service, including Jay Davis, Paul Dismukes, Albert Johnson, Bob Mangini and Ralph Verschoor.



Two men were taken into custody Thursday, May 28, in connection with a body found floating in the canal at Henry and River roads in Escalon. San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department released information on Friday regarding the investigation and said Joseph Michael Denner, 28, and Donald Roradaugh, 32, were booked into San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of murder. The body pulled from the canal on Sunday, May 24 has been identified as Edward William Magana, 47, of Riverbank.

For the second time, the community of Escalon will pay respects to a member of the Layton family with an Honor Guard escort from Deegan Funeral Chapel to Burwood Cemetery. Friends and family were reeling over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend with the news that Brent Layton, 47, passed away unexpectedly while attending a Gold Star Family event in Colorado. He lost his son, James Ray ‘Doc’ Layton – killed in action in Afghanistan – in 2009 and since then had been active in many Gold Star events around the country and was a dedicated advocate for returning veterans and helping them get the services they needed and deserved.

Escalon’s two Masters Meet qualifiers, senior Matthew Gallego and sophomore Yajaira Salinas finished out the EHS track season this past week. Gallego competed on both days in Elk Grove for the Sac Joaquin Section Masters Meet. He competed on Thursday in the discus and Friday in shot put. Meanwhile, at the Masters Trials meet on Thursday, May 28, Escalon High runner Yajaira Salinas ran a personal best time of 2:19.78 in the 800 meters to take 13th place.

Over the course of three nights, graduates were front and center in the Escalon Unified School District. The celebrations started with Vista High alternative ed graduates receiving their diplomas on Wednesday night, June 3. Thursday night, students from El Portal walked in to Engel Field as eighth graders and walked out as incoming freshmen, ready to start the next chapter of their educational lives. Friday, the week wrapped up with the 95th commencement exercise for Escalon High School. Along with the celebration of completing high school, the school district also honored many retirees this year and were able to welcome home the brother of one graduate, Sarah White. Her brother Brandon O’Hanley has served overseas, returning recently from Afghanistan, and was able to surprise his sister and mom by attending the ceremonies. High school teacher and coach Rusty Fachner is retiring after 38 years of service to Escalon Unified School District, teacher and coach Gary Ball retired from the high school with 37 years of service behind him.

Over 100 acres burned – though no buildings on the Escalon side were lost – and multiple agencies responded to a massive wildfire that spanned two counties on Thursday, June 18. The initial call came in to Escalon Fire Department shortly before 2:45 p.m., reported in the 24000 block of East River Road. Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection Chief Rick Mello said though the fire started in Escalon, once it got into underbrush along the river, the winds drove it into Stanislaus County, jumping the bridge on McHenry Avenue that separates San Joaquin and Stanislaus.


Next week, a look at the top stories for July through December.