It started as a routine trip to the grocery store. But it didn’t end that way. Mark Weber says he was on his way home, passing Emerson Park on Hutchins Street, where he saw three young men sprinting across the street towards him.

He slowed down. Next thing he knew, someone had hopped into the bed of his pickup truck. “The first thing I thought was a carjack,” Mark recalls.

That’s when Weber proceeded to give the intruder the ride of his life. “I slammed on my brakes and slammed him into my toolbox,” he says.

But the man didn’t get out, so he punched it. The man hit the tailgate. Hard. He still didn’t get out, so he slammed on his brakes again, sending the guy careening into Weber’s back windshield. The guy was pretty beat up by now. Just then, a police car rounded the corner, so Weber flagged him down.

The man told police the two men chasing him were trying to kill him. Weber is thankful he was able to assist, saying, “Maybe somehow I was able to help him from being killed.” The guy may agree, when all his bruises heal.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Longtime Lodi CPA Bruce Sasaki welcomed his son into the accounting practice this past April. Kirk, 28, who is also a CPA, worked for larger firms conducting financial audits.

Bruce, who just turned 65, says he’s not heading for the door anytime soon. But the addition of his son will help him extend his career by reducing his workload. He says with a smile that his wife Joy, who works with him, is first in line for semi-retirement. Bruce has been an accountant for over 40 years, coming to Lodi in 1988. … Down the hall is a similar story. Mike Solari, who is 30 and also a CPA, joined his dad Jon’s accounting firm last year. Jon also just turned 65, but has no plans to retire soon. However, he is looking to score more time off. Mike is 30 and a University of the Pacific grad. His dad was born and raised in Lodi and has been an accountant for 36 years.

BIRTHDAY BASH: Lorraine Katzakian celebrated her 101st birthday last Friday. Her family celebrated the milestone with a reception at her home of 60 years on Saturday. Lorraine’s husband was Bo Katzakian, a former mayor, Realtor and banker. Her sons Ron and Reggie still work in the real estate business. Her other son Terry is a retired banker living in Washington. Lorraine’s daughter Jennifer passed away unexpectedly seven years ago.

GREATER PLATES: Early every weekday Cheryl Francis and her band of volunteers come together in cramped, makeshift quarters to cook and collate meals for Lodi’s elderly. When the Great Plates Delivered program, sponsored by the city, ended a couple months ago it left a number of homebound Lodi senior citizens “food insecure.” That is, seniors who don’t drive and who have very limited resources with which to feed themselves were left with few options.

The Grace and Mercy Foundation, with assistance from the Village Coffee Shop, stepped in to help, delivering meals to this vulnerable population three days a week. The new “meals on wheels” program is entirely donor-funded. But donations have been pretty slow so far. Unfazed, foundation executive director Cheryl Francis has dug deep into her own pocket to finance the effort. Besides meals for the elderly, the organization also feeds hot meals to the homeless out of the former residence-turned-café facility on Sacramento Street. The foundation relies on food and cash donations to make it work. Maybe you can help?

PRIORITY MAIL: A few weeks ago, we wrote about the “deadscape” that passes for landscaping around the post office in downtown Lodi. Plants and shrubs are dead for lack of water. The tall trees aren’t much better. Supposedly the sprinklers aren’t working, we’re told. We received a note from another reader saying after our story broke word filtered up the ranks at the PO and landscape improvement plans are being drawn up as we speak. In the meantime, we’re hopeful the Heritage Valley Oak trees out front can be saved, if it’s not too late.

IN THE SPIRIT: The Lodi-based and family-owned company Tia Linda’s Margarita won a silver medal in the recent USA Spirits Ratings competition, according to Dan Christy, who does marketing for the firm. “We are obviously very excited about this. It’s quite an honor,” says Christy. The competition was held in San Francisco where hundreds of spirit producers vied for a winning medal. The company was co-founded by Dan’s kids Meghan Hayward and Graham Christy, along with Mike Stroh.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Last week we reported that the city had purchased enough energy contracts to supply customers with electricity throughout the summer. All true. But it hasn’t been cheap. City officials tell us the energy cost adjustment (ECA), which represents the cost to generate the power, has surged recently. In fact, it’s gone up so much that the city is pulling a million bucks from reserves to help cover most of the increase, so ratepayers won’t have to. … Sacramento Street at Pine is still closed, pending demolition of the burned-out Rex Pool Hall building and reinforcement of several others. But the half-block long Friedberger-Blodgett building, which adjoins the Rex at 5 W. Pine, is currently for sale for a cool $1.8 mil.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: Even though the 4th of July pancake breakfast was canceled this year because of COVID, the annual Parade of Lights is a go — at least for now, according to Kiwanis clubber Maggie Talbot Bulkin. The December classic attracts thousands of spectators and includes 70-plus parade participants. The idea for the parade came from Cynthia Haynes, who worked for the city in the ‘90s. The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event for years until the Kiwanis Club took it over a few years back. … Ok, so suggestions that we’re perfect are way overblown. Take last week, for example. We mentioned a story about a goose. Everything went swimmingly until we got the person’s name wrong. We should have credited Jim Burlington for the story, but no. Apologies to all.

WATER LOG: It could have been worse. The city’s surface water allocation was cut by about 17% this year because of the drought. Normally, Lodi buys about 6000-acre feet of water from the Woodbridge Irrigation District (WID), according to Public Works Director Charlie Swimley. This allows the city to pump water from the Mokelumne River. The water is then filtered and cleaned at the water treatment facility next to Lodi Lake and injected into the city water system. This year the city’s allocation was pared by 1000 AF, but the impact has reportedly been minimal because water usage continues to track below 2013 levels, according to Swimley. He says the city’s consumption is less, even though several hundred new homes have been built since 2013. That’s about when the water meter installation program began. So those water meters everyone loves to hate have helped “encourage” conservation. Swimley laughs when asked about predictions for this rain year. “Your guess is as good as mine — it’s California.,” he says.

LAST LAUGH: Now that youth sports are starting back up (but without spectators), Randy Snider quips, “How are the coaches supposed to know what they are doing wrong without any parents in the stands?” Hmmm.

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Steve 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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