It was a shocking blow to the Lodi Lions (noontime) Club. As I revealed last week, a bounced check led club members to discover they had been a victim of embezzlement, to the tune of $30,000-plus. The club’s first vice-president Rich Prima has confirmed the theft and says they are working with the perpetrator to get the money back. They’ve also made “numerous changes” to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Meanwhile, the longtime service club is now on the financial ropes. Several club members, all speaking off the record, say the club’s finances have been wiped out, at least temporarily. ...

Also last week, I reported the annual July 4th Kiwanis pancake breakfast at Lodi Lake will not be held this year, again because of COVID-19 restrictions. However, the holiday tradition should return next year, as normal.

In the meantime, Kiwanis Club member Walt Scheffer is anxious for me to clarify that the aforementioned theft did not occur in their club.

No reservations

It’s an end to a career, but not the end of an era. Jim and Annette Murdaca have retired from the restaurant business, selling their Pietro’s Trattoria to son Pete. They both agree “it was the right time.”

Jim says he began to step back from the day-to-day operations last November, citing COVID concerns. His son Pete stepped right in and has taken over.

Jim started his culinary career in 1976 at his dad’s place in Vacaville, also called Pietro’s. He opened Pietro’s in Lodi 36 years ago on June 25, 1985. Jim and Annette transformed Pietro’s over the years, having renovated the place four times. After the last one, Annette said she didn’t know if there would be another renovation — but if there was, it wouldn’t involve her!

Their son Pete attended college at University of Nevada, Reno, playing football alongside now-famous quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He eventually followed in his dad’s footsteps, studying culinary arts in Italy for a year.

Pietro’s grows many of the vegetables they serve in the restaurant, a tradition Jim learned from his parents, who grew virtually everything they served at their Vacaville restaurant. ...

A cardinal rule in the Murdaca family is thy shalt not waste food — it’s a sin, Jim says. Local farmer Dave Nuss can attest to this fact. Years ago, when Jim’s mom was alive, she and Jim stopped off at Nuss Farms along Highway 12 in the Delta to survey Dave’s tomato field. It was at the end of the season and Nuss was about to plow under the remaining crop.

Upon hearing this, Jim’s mom started gathering up all the tomatoes she could carry, using her skirt as basket, all the while mumbling something under her breath in Italian. When Nuss asked Jim what his mom was saying, Jim interpreted: “You’re going to hell” for wasting tomatoes.

Shot in the arm

As you may know, the city has offered a $25 utility bill credit to qualified residents who get fully COVID-19 vaccinated. So far, about four people have taken up the city on its offer, according to City Manager Steve Schwabauer.

The idea also doesn’t sit well with some people, especially those who already got the vaccine but weren’t offered the credit. The money is coming from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act, which allows for such a use. If that makes you feel better.

Heroes again

Lodi police officers recently responded to a call in the 500 block of North Church Street of a 10-month-old child who was choking and not breathing. Officers Hettie Stillman and Mark Galvan arrived on scene, began life saving measures, and dislodged the item from the infant’s airway, thus saving the child’s life. The baby was breathing normally again by the time fire and ambulance personnel arrived on scene.

Mr. Clean

Every year, Pigs Lake, the small body of water in the back part of Lodi Lake’s Nature Area, gets covered over with azola, an aquatic plant that grows wild back there. Some say it’s both unsightly and detrimental to the wildlife who call the place home.

Enter Neil Adams, who has more-or-less adopted Pigs Lake as a project. Adams spends weeks each year — about 25 hours a week — skimming vegetation from the lake. It’s become his passion. This is the second year he’s hopped into his kayak and floated around, corralling the plants, dragging them to shore.

Last year, his first time doing this, it took six months to complete the job. But he says his efforts are all worth it. By the time it’s done, he sees the eco system returning to normal and turtles, fish, ducks, otters, and more returning to their natural habitat.

His wish is that the city parks department would take a more proactive role in maintaining the Nature Area, which he calls a jewel of the city.

Great things

The Great Plates Delivered program that started over a year ago when the pandemic erupted has cost the city some $10.4 million in up-front expenses. But all those costs should be reimbursed by the federal government someday.

The program feeds about 500 seniors and the vulnerable every day. The meals are prepared and delivered by four local restaurants.

The city says the program may be extended past its June 7 expiration date, but the state never knows when the feds will answer the extension request. It is usually the day before it is due to expire. ...

Ribbon-cutting for the newly-named Bob Johnson Park is slated for July 10. The new park is at 2900 Gala Drive in the Avalon subdivision, near Lower Sacramento Road and Century Boulevard. A long-time city councilman, Johnson’s name was selected from a list of worthy nominations. Johnson, who died over a year ago, also served on the Parks and Rec Commission for years. ...

A new firefighters’ memorial will be built at Station 4 on Lower Sacramento Road, according to city officials. The city has included $31,000 in next year’s budget for the project.

Nothing much

Have you heard of “Buy Nothing Lodi”? It’s an online Facebook group that offers members a way to “give and receive, share (and) lend.” It’s billed as a worldwide network of “hyper-local gift economies” that form a web of connections between people who are real-life neighbors. “Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share in this Buy Nothing community group,” they say.

Update

Last week, I mentioned that Chuck Tatum, a former local car dealership manager, was prominently written about in Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing the Rising Sun.” Steve Nilssen wrote to remind me that Tatum also wrote his own book, “Red Blood, Black Sand,” which was used as an historical reference for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific.”

Steve Mann is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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