Without a lot of noise, much like the way they live life, Pat and Neal Hayden will be retiring from the bait store business.
Martini's Bait and Tackle will still be there, but never the same. The Haydens have owned the store on the corner of Highway 12 and DeVries for 10 years, and had another store on Thornton Road.
Since 1991, local fishermen have known this duo. Whether you were buying fresh shad, looking for advice, or trying to book a spot on Neal's charter service, everyone knew where to go. The charter service ran from 1996 to 2006, becoming nationally known for the striper and sturgeon they caught. Neal has also won several of the local sturgeon derbies.
The light of the morning for all of us was Pat. With hot coffee ready and a smile for miles, she greeted everyone. An advocate for safety on Highway 12, she attended council meetings and helped people who were hurt or just scared. She even talked the Woodbridge Fire Department into staging between Interstate 5 and Lodi at the corner of DeVries for quicker responses.
Pat and Neal are what all of us should strive to emulate. People were friends, not just customers; it wasn't just a highway but a place where we all lived; they were not just people who cared, they put their heart and soul into what they were doing.