Join in the tribute to Del Oro Hall-of-Famers

By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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As Del Oro High School prepares to induct a number of its athletes, coaches and associates to its inaugural Hall of Fame on Sunday, April 25, I’d like to tell you more about the honorees. They are Tom Cooper, a four-sport athlete, student body president and valedictorian for the class of 1961; Butch Enkjoi, also a 1961 graduate, recognized for his football achievements; 1969 graduates Randy Hansen, selected for his cross country and track accomplishments, and Ed Bonner, for his football and track achievements; David Johnson, class of 1974, a basketball standout; and Kurt Richter, class of 1978, a tennis singles champion who went on to play at Wimbledon. Also being honored are Jun Takuma, groundskeeper from 1960 to 1986, known for his pride of workmanship on all of the athletic fields; Bob Bonner,chosen for his coaching mentorship and achievements; the 1966 boys basketball and 1969 track team members; and the late Paul Yokote, recognized for years of dedication to Del Oro students and staff. I'm certaion the community will take the time to show its appreciation for the inductees’ contributions to the school and to the community. The induction ceremony is at 2 p.m. in the high school’s Performing Arts Center, followed by a reception at the Blue Goose Fruit Shed. The induction ceremony is free; tickets for the reception are $20 at the door. I'm especially pleased my friend Paul Yokote is among the inaugural inductees. Paul was born in Loomis on July 18, 1925 and died Dec. 13, 1996. Gary Noy and Howard Stitt, just two of the many good friends Paul had, knew him well and compiled a history for his memorial service. I want to tell you his story again. Paul's life was dramatically tied to the World War II. Of Japanese American heritage, he was directly affected by the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Yasuzo Yokote family was one of those forced to abandon their home and relocate to inland internment camps. Paul was 16 at the time and the youngest of five children. While incarcerated in the Amache, Col. internment camp, he contracted polio and spent the next decade in one hospital or another undergoing treatment. Paul returned to his home in Loomis in 1955. Even though he knew he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, "handicapped" was not a word that applied to Paul. Among his many adventures were bowling and riding in water ski boats. His life changed in 1959 with the opening of Del Oro High School. Paul became the football team's statistician and soon began taking photographs during practice, then of games and players. For the rest of his life, Del Oro became his home away from home. For years, Paul photographed school and community events as a photographer for the Loomis News and the Roseville Press Tribune. With his trusty camera, Paul became the chronicler of life in Loomis. Paul lived on Taylor Road across from the High-Hand fruit shed, until recent years the home of the Loomis Fruit Growers Association. For almost 30 years, Paul's modest home became a meeting place, an unofficial hangout for young people. Paul had an open-door policy and provided a safe haven and sage advice. In 1986, Paul, with Gary Noy's help, established Paul's Place Association, a nonprofit organization that has since provided tens of thousands of dollars in college scholarships to Del Oro graduates. Paul did not graduate from high school due to his internment. But in 1991, he received simultaneous honorary high school degrees from Placer High School (where his contemporaries went to school) and Del Oro High School. Del Oro staff and students wanted to show Paul how much they appreciated his dedication to the school. Over the years, students volunteers painted his home, paneled his walls, built a porch, and landscaped his yard. In 1997 the Placer Union High School District named "Paul Yokote Gymnasium" in his honor. When Paul died, more than 1,500 people attended his funeral. The Sheriff's Department provided a color guard, the Del Oro choir sang, and the varsity football team signed a ball that rested in Paul's arms. He was wearing his prized possession: A Del Oro letterman's jacket. Sheriff Ed Bonner, one of the Hall of Fame inductees, counts himself as one of Paul's friends. "Paul was one of the most influential people in my life and I will be forever grateful for his wise counsel," he said. Paul was a humble man and tender person who desired nothing more than tranquility, happiness and success for Loomis, and especially its young people. At Paul's service, Noy saw the crowds and recalled the old adage, "The best way to measure a man's wealth is by the number of the friends he has." If that is true, then Paul Yokote was the richest man on Earth. I'm certain the community will take the time Sunday to show their appreciation for the inductees' contributions to the school and to the community. The induction ceremony is at 2 p.m. in the high school's Performing Arts Center, followed by a reception at the Blue Goose Fruit Shed. The induction ceremony is free; tickets for the reception are $20 at the door.