| In Memoriam: Vacaville city, community leaders remembered
Looking back on 2017, Vacaville had to say goodbye to some individuals who left lasting impacts on the city and surrounding area.
In March, former owner of the Vacaville Nut Tree, Ed Power died. Three weeks prior to his death, Power suffered from a stroke and was hospitalized at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
His ties to Vacaville’s history cover decades and helped shape the city. He is known for establishing the Nut Tree and its airport, which was later donated to Solano County in 1955.
Although he is no longer living, many who knew him say his legacy lives on in the very bones of the Nut Tree Airport, which he founded and which remains a vital part of the city.
“He was a wonderful person,” said Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine after Power’s death. “He was always a positive person. And he certainly put the Nut Tree on the map.”
Power had served as an aircraft mechanic in World War II before getting bit by the flying bug, later becoming a pilot.
According to the Nut Tree Airport Business Plan, Power came up with the idea as a way to bring pilots traveling through the area to the famous Nut Tree restaurant.
Dave Daly, manager of the Nut Tree Airport, described Power as a force. He loved flying and didn’t hang up his wings until he turned 90, Daly said.
“What a full life,” he mused. “Just goes to show you what one person can accomplish.”
Also in March, Vacaville’s Garland Porter died.
He seemed to always be involved with the Vacaville community. He was known for being friendly, positive and polite. That attitude remained even after medical problems later in life.
“I think the main word that comes to mind is ‘gentleman,’” said City Manager John Thompson, who knew Porter through the Chamber of Commerce, city and the Vacaville Rotary Club. “Garland was just … He’s one of that group that was always very plugged into a lot of Vacaville events.”
He was also a military veteran of 30 years.
Born May 29, 1924 in Newsoms, Va., Porter attended the University of Maryland and the Air University of Alabama.
Then he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943.
After retiring as a master sergeant in 1972, Porter settled into civilian life in Vacaville with his wife Joyce.
He served with the Vacaville Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, the Solano County Fair Board, the Dixon May Fair Board, Solano County Armed Forces Committee, Vacaville Museum Board, CMF/CSP Citizens Advisory Committee and the NorthBay Healthcare Foundation.
He was appointed to Vacaville’s Commission on Aging in 1999 and elected treasurer in 2000.
Porter resigned from both posts in 2010 while he recuperated from a possible heart attack and car crash that year.
“I have had the opportunity to serve the community and see our community grow and prosper,” Porter wrote in his resignation letter to Mayor Len Augustine in 2010. “I can look back on my years of service with great pride in knowing that it was a job well done, and that there is a strong foundation upon which the future of the city can rest.”
Another Vacaville leader died just a couple of months later.
Steve Hardy, who served as mayor from 2010 to 2014 and as a city councilman from 2002 to 2007, died in May.
“The passing of Steve Hardy leaves a major void in our community,” Mayor Len Augustine said after Hardy’s death. “Steve was a colleague, and an excellent representative of the City of Vacaville who cared deeply about our community; but more than that, he was a very good friend who will be missed by many, many people. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hardy Family during this difficult time.”
“It’s a sad day, a very sad day,” said Councilman Curtis Hunt, who was on the council when Hardy was mayor, in May.
During the economic downturn, Hardy made the difficult decisions that had to be made, but stayed positive and kept moving forward in tough times.
“He led the city through one of the biggest recessions in the city,” Hunt said.
At the same time, Hardy was sensitive to people’s needs.
“He led with his heart, he has a huge, huge heart,” Hunt said. “Steve was bigger than life.”
A longtime Vacaville businessman and a decorated Air Force veteran also died this year. Morris “Morrie” Wasserman died in July surrounded by family — his wife of 72 years Betty, sons Gary and Wayne, daughter Wendy Kellogg, son-in-law Jim Kellogg, grandson Logan Kellogg and his wife Grace.
He is also survived by his daughter-in-law Debbie Wasserman, grandchildren Rebecca Kellogg, Megan Wasserman, Ben Wasserman and Max Wasserman as well as many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.
Wasserman Travel on Merchant Street, opened by Wasserman in 1978, continues to run with family at the helm.
Wasserman was born in 1921 in Los Angeles.
When he was 13, his father died and he had to provide for his mother and two sisters.
He joined the Air Force and became a B-17 bomber pilot during World War II. He flew 36 missions, his last on Nov. 2, 1944, when he was shot down.
He also flew in the Berlin Airlift, led a squadron during the Cuban Missile Crisis and commanded several flight squadrons.
He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart, four air medals, a European Theater medal and six battle stars.
“We heard all kinds of great stories not only of his military life but also his fun stories,” Wendy said. “He was a fun guy and a prankster too when he wasn’t being serious.”
It was after he was shot down in Germany that he came home and was reacquainted with Betty. They met once as children, and they married when she was 18 and he was 23.
They had an interesting life, Betty said, living on military bases in parts of France and Germany for a time.
In 1957, Wasserman was stationed at Travis Air Force Base and the family moved to Vacaville, a choice he made because he knew he wanted to retire here and make this his home, Wendy said.
After he retired from Travis with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1964, Wasserman started Pacific Pipeline Survey, which he later sold.
Then he broke into the travel industry, becoming the vice president and general manager for E & J Travel out of Travis Air Force Base.
In 1978, Morris, Betty and Wendy started Wasserman Travel. Jim Kellogg joined in 1982.
Wasserman ran the business until he retired about 11 years ago. They have become a travel agency that has not only local clients but also clients from all over the country.
Many families who run businesses together have feuds, Wendy said, but they have always had fun.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” she said.
The Vacaville community was stunned in early August when they learned of the unexpected death of Diedre Eckle.
Eckle, a wife and mother of three, died in a motorcycle crash while on vacation.
Eckle was the executive director of Alpha Pregnancy Clinics, which has locations in Vacaville, Fairfield and Napa, and is a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare, resources and support to expectant mothers and their babies.
Friends and family described her has a “fearless leader who changed countless lives.”
In times of loss and tragedy, Eckle is remembered as the one who stayed calm and compassionate.
“She was always filling in the gaps when needed, never complaining about it, just doing it quietly,” said Carrie C. Voyce, a family nurse practitioner with Alpha, after Eckle’s death. “She had a heart for the afflicted and for all the women who walked through our doors. … Above all, she had a heart for all precious unborn children as our Lord does, and never swayed from her mission in all her years to provide hope, help and healing to each of our clients, educating and empowering them so that they, in turn, could be good mothers for their children.”
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