Merced County Times Newspaper
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Area residents honored for shaping County at annual Old Timers Luncheon

 

Over two dozen longtime Merced County residents were honored as part of a Sunday luncheon event organized by the Merced County Old Timers Association. The annual Old Timers Luncheon inside the Italo American Lodge in Merced on April 28, and in addition to being attended by those who were being honored for helping shape their corner of the county into what it is today, the event also saw political representatives from all levels of government in attendance to support the event’s honorees.

The Merced County Old Timers Association sponsors and organizes the annual event. A committee was formed in 1942 to honor individuals 85 years of age or older who have lived in Merced County for a combined total of 50 years or longer. This years luncheon was served by high school students from Hilmar High School, and allowed those in attendance to learn more about the area’s residents who were being honored.

Of the more than two dozen honoress highlighted this year, Hilmar’s Mary Ann Wickstrom. Wickstrom has been a resident of Merced County for 74 years. She was born in Crows Landing and currently resides in Hilmar. She was married to her husband, Vern, who was also a recipient of the Merced County Old Timers Association. The two were married for 67 years prior to his passing in 2023, and has two children, Timothy and Jill, five grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.

Wickstrom worked for AT&T (Pacific Bell), Emanuel Medical Center in Human Resources and was self employed as a Longaberger Sales Associate, as well as a co-founder of Hilmar Cheese. Wickstrom has continued to serve her community in many ways, including serving as a a Cub Scout Den Mother, a Girl Scout Leader and she helped start the first Girl Scout Brownie Troop in Hilmar. Additionally she has sung in the church choir since the age of 15 and often sings for memorials and weddings. She organized the first community choir that sang at a PTA Patriotic Founders Day Celebration, was a Common Threads Honoree in 2004, co-founder of California Women for Agriculture for the Merced County Chapter and was the first woman to serve on the Merced County Planning Commission.

As a resident of Merced County for more than 92 years, Lydia Louise Lobdell was also recognized for her contributions to the Merced area. She has lived her whole life in Merced. Lobdell was married to Gordon Lobdell for 40 years prior to his passing. Lobdell formed her career with the Merced City Schools for 40 years, where she started as a clerk and ended her career with Merced City Schools as Supervisor of Business.

Outside of work, Lobdell volunteered at Mercy Hospital and was on the Mercy Hospital Foundation Board, and volunteered around 10,000 hours to helping the local hospital. In her personal time Lobdell is an avid reader and enjoyed going on cruises, and noted that in her opinion computers are one of the greatest inventions of her lifetime. Family get-togethers at Merced Lake on Sundays are some of Lobdell’s fondest memories related to living in Merced County.

Born in Haslet, Texas, Robert Cooper has been a resident of Merced County for 85 years and has since called the City of Merced his home, where he formed a family alongside of his wife of 69 years, Shirley Cooper. Cooper served in the National Guard 49th Division, Company B 185 for eight years, and worked on the family farm in El Nido that his stepfather, Joe Silva owned. He later bought the farm from his mother. The farming included a dairy for 31 years and crops (sugar beets, alfalfa, grain, cotton) for 50 years.

Cooper served on the boards of the El Nido irrigation District, the Merced Milling Company and the Los Banos Dairyman’s Association. He also served his community as a Mason with the Masonic Temple, was a coach for the Lyon’s Little League and is a member of Central Presbyterian Church. Robert was one of the first 12 directors of County Bank.

In Cooper’s opinion one of the greatest inventions of his lifetime was the returned water system and converting to 30 inch rows farming. Some of his greatest joys and fondest memories are being named Outstanding Young Farmer in 1970, being an Elder in church, farming in El Nido for 50 years and being married to Shirley.

Carol Bonin was born in Merced, California and currently resides in Winton, California and was honored for her lifetime of work with Castle Air Force Base, her 26 years acting as the owner and operator of The Cook Stove Restauraunt in Winton, and her dedicated service to thc Winton Chamber of Commerce, Winton Municipal Advisory Council, Winton Water/Sanitary District, Winton Old Timers, Winton Historical Society, Winton Community Hall) and Sheriff Department Explorers.

After retirement, Bonin looked to remain active in the community and became the owner and operator of a local gas station in Atwater for 9 years. Carol reported that there have been many great inventions in her lifetime but “the TV was a big thing.”

 

2024 List of Honorees

Marta Julia Munoz Armas

Resident of Merced County for 59 Years

Ralph Barrass

Resident of Merced County for 79 Years

Carol M. Bonin

Resident of Merced County for 75 Years

Robert A. Cooper

Resident of Merced County for 85 Years

Janice M. Costa

Resident of Merced County for 85 Years

Mary Rivas Cotta

Resident of Merced County for 86 Years

Jane Fox

Resident of Merced County for 59 Years

Elaine Gale

Resident of Merced County for 53 Years

Margaret Ann Gurr

Resident of Merced County for 86 Years

Mary Constance Correia Hatfield

Resident of Merced County for 85 Years

John C. Hoffman

Resident of Merced County for 50 Years

Elaine Barcelios James

Resident of Merced County for 50 Years

Lydia Louise Lobdell

Resident of Merced County for 92 Years

Stuart McElwain

Resident of Merced County for 50 Years

Avanell Cooper Nelson

Resident of Merced County for 72 Years

Paul Rivas

Resident of Merced County for 86 Years

Betty Lee Rogers

Resident of Merced County for 60 Years

Lona Joy Sancibrian

Resident of Merced County for 83 Years

Russelle “Rusty” Goss Barrett Shively

Resident of Merced County for 85 Years

Dorothy Helen Gurr Van Someren

Resident of Merced for 88 Years

Rosalie F. Thornton

Resident of Merced County for 55 Years

Mary Ann Wickstrom

Resident of Merced County for 74 Years

Jim Williamson

Resident of Merced County for 68 Years

Shirlene Young

Resident of Merced County for 61 Years

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