Tracing Tracy Territory: Familiar face missing from Memorial Day crowd
by Sam Matthews
May 31, 2013 | 1872 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite strong gusts of wind that came close to tipping over flag standards, Monday’s annual Memorial Day program at the Tracy Cemetery came off in good style.

In fact, the crowd that was present was among the largest I’ve ever seen on Memorial Day.

But at the cemetery south of town and later downtown at the Tracy War Memorial, there was something missing.

That “something” was really someone: the late John J. Serpa.

The World War II Marine Corps veteran — who had missed few, if any, Memorial Day programs for more than six decades — died March 5 at the age of 87, and his familiar presence, decked out in red Marine Corps League uniform, was, for me at least, that missing “something.”

For the last quarter-century of life, John was active in the Tracy War Memorial Association, which built the Tracy War Memorial and conducts services there on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

John Treantos, who followed Serpa as association president, told me Monday that plans are afoot to establish an association scholarship program in the name of John J. Serpa. Children of veterans would be eligible for the scholarships.

If that becomes a reality, as I’m certain it will, the scholarships will carry on John’s long service in support of veterans and their families.

Dr. West had an idea

Following up on last week’s column on the founding of the Women’s Improvement Club of Tracy and the West Side, Ellen Opie has provided some information on the steps leading up to the club’s establishment in January 1913.

Ellen is the indefatigable digger in Tracy history at the Tracy Historical Museum.

She noted that in the March 11, 1911, edition of the Tracy Press, Dr. Joseph S. West, secretary of the Board of Trade, mentioned the need of a “Tracy Promotion Club.”

He wrote: “And why should we not have the Tracy Promotion Club made up from among our ladies? In many small cities such clubs exist and much that tends to the improvement of such cities is brought about through the recommendations and agitations of such clubs. We have no park or public fountains, nor any other thing of beauty belonging to the city.”

Again, Dr. West, an erudite and forward-looking guy, saw a need in his adopted hometown. Earlier, he had been a key player in founding the Board of Trade, incorporating the city of Tracy and establishing the Tracy Union High School District.

His mention of the needs of a park and a fountain obviously did not fall on deaf ears of the women involved in what two years later became not the Tracy Promotion Club, but the Women’s Improvement Club. Those two projects were among the first tackled by the public-spirited women.

Up, up and over

A few weeks ago, I reported watching my granddaughter, Carolina Trimble, compete in the girls pole vault at an invitational track meet at Kimball High School.

That day, the 15-year-old freshman at Walnut Creek’s Las Lomas High School cleared 8 feet, 6 inches to win the girls frosh-soph competition.

Since then, several friends have asked how my granddaughter is doing with her pole-vaulting. It didn’t take a major effort to prompt me to offer this report:

On May 24, Carolina cleared 10 feet, a personal best, to finish in the middle of the pack in the North Coast Section varsity masters meet at UC Berkeley’s Edwards Stadium.

Just reaching the section varsity finals was an accomplishment for a freshman, and getting over the bar set at 10 feet was frosting on the vaulting cake. End of a granddad’s sports report.

• Contact Sam Matthews, publisher emeritus, at 830-4234 or

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