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NOE GARCIA, The Sentinel 

Sierra Pacific’s Kayla Sizemore (6) goes up for a header during the first half of the CIF Central Section Division V championship game against Washington Union at the Neighbor Bowl on Friday.

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Community gathers to honor Tagawa

HANFORD — The community gathered this weekend to celebrate the birthday of one of its pillars.

Hundreds met on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the First Presbyterian Church in Hanford to wish Naomi Tagawa a happy 99th birthday.

Earlier in the week, Tagawa was surprised at a Hanford City Council meeting with the news that the day would be her own, as Mayor Sue Sorensen proclaimed Saturday, Feb. 23 as Naomi Tagawa Day in the City.

At Tagawa’s party at the church of which she has been a member for years, dozens lined up for the chance to wish her “happy birthday” or to meet her for the first time.

Even after meeting with people for close to three hours, she was still all smiles.

“All of this has been just awesome,” she said motioning to the church’s Fellowship Hall, filled with friends, fellow church members and well-wishers.

In the hall, celebrants enjoyed ice cream and tea provided by the Superior Dairy and L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room, respectively, while taking in moments and accomplishments from Tagawa’s life.

Displayed were dresses and knitted items created by Tagawa as well as hand-drawn idea for clothing she designed while attending the San Francisco Design School, where she earned her degree.  Also displayed were photos and news clippings pertaining to the Kings Hand Laundry Building, which Tagawa’ father opened in 1916.

The First Presbyterian Church and the China Alley Preservation Society are currently raising funds to restore the historic building, located in what was once the Japanese section of Hanford on Green Street.

The funds will go toward establishing a foundation for the building which currently rests on the ground and to eventually turn it into a museum preserving the art and history of Tagawa’s family and all of the families that made up Hanford’s Japanese community.

“This is the kick off for her 100th year and the push to save the laundry building,” fellow church member Sheri Winterowd told the Sentinel. “It’s nice to celebrate this special time for Naomi.”

Winterowd, the wife of Pastor Tony Winterowd, addressed those in attendance saying that the event was a way to “celebrate Naomi’s contributions to the community and the lives she has touched.” The packed hall then sang “Happy Birthday to You” to the guest of honor.

Those interested in donating can do so by sending a check to the China Alley Preservation Society Laundry Building Project, P.O. Box 728, Hanford, CA 93232.

KCFD mourns loss of firefighter

HANFORD — With their deepest regrets, Kings County Fire Department officials announced Saturday the line-of-duty death of Fire Apparatus Engineer Keith Hernandez.

Hernandez, 30, died in the early-morning hours of Feb. 23 at Stanford Medical Center after a hard-fought battle with rhabdomyosarcoma. He was a five-year veteran with the Kings County Fire Department.

“Keith Hernandez was proud to be a firefighter and loved his career,” Clay Smith, Kings County Fire Chief, said in a press release. “He will be deeply missed by family, friends and colleagues alike.”

Hernandez was born in Fresno and raised in Clovis, where he attended Clovis East High School and graduated in 2006. He knew pretty early on that he wanted to be some type of first responder.

He worked for various agencies in the fire service including Cal Fire Sonoma Lake Napa Unit as a seasonal firefighter for five years, Fresno County Fire Protection District as a seasonal paid call firefighter for one year, and Clovis Fire Department as an Explorer for three years.

Hernandez was hired by the Kings County Fire Department in June 2013 as a fire apparatus engineer, where he served the rural areas of our county for the past five years.

He was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, in late 2017.

Hernandez was married to his wife, Crystal, for over five years and they have two children, 4-year-old daughter Henley and 1-year-old son Harper.

In an interview with the Sentinel in February 2018, Hernandez said although his diagnosis came as a shock, his entire family, including his parents, siblings and “fire family” were extremely supportive.

Along with several fundraisers and a GoFundMe page, firefighters from all over including Hanford, Visalia and Fresno helped the Hernandez family over the last year with meals, yardwork and anything else they needed so Hernandez could focus on his health.

Hernandez also told the Sentinel that the one bright spot during his battle was the time he got to spend with his family.

“I’ve always enjoyed family but it’s been a push to count my blessings,” he said last year. “It made me realize exactly what was important in my life.”

Besides his wife and children, Hernandez is also survived by his parents Anthony and Patricia Hernandez, brothers Anthony and Timothy Hernandez, sister Alyssa Hernandez and parent in-laws Hector and Molly De La Cruz.

An over 200-mile procession took place on Sunday from Stanford Medical Center to the Salser & Dillard Funeral Chapel in Visalia. Along the way, members of various fire and law enforcement agencies showed their respect with flags and salutes.

Expressions of sympathy or condolences for the family or the department may be sent to Kings County Fire Department, 280 Campus Drive, Hanford, or by calling 852-2881.

Police seek information on shooting

CORCORAN — The Corcoran Police Department is asking the public for any information regarding a shooting that injured a teenager on Friday.

Just after 5:30 p.m., officers responded to a report of shots fired in the area of the 1800 block of Bainum Avenue.

Upon arrival, officers began to investigate and said they located several shell casings lying in the roadway. While conducting the investigation, they received information about a 16-year-old victim who had been shot once in the upper thigh.

Officers responded to the victim’s location and officials said emergency medical services transported the juvenile for treatment of his non-life threatening injury.

Corcoran Police said they are continuing to investigate the shooting and are following up on leads. The department is asking anyone with information to call 992-5151.

Anyone with information may also remain anonymous by calling the confidential crime line at 992-3591. You may also provide information through the Nixle Alert.

HHS student named San Joaquin Region FFA Vice-President

Hanford FFA added to its History Books yesterday as our very own Hanford High School Agriculture Pathway Sophomore, Isabella Cawley, was elected as the 2019-2020 San Joaquin Region FFA Vice-President.

Her journey began with an application in January which led her to an invitation to interview with the current San Joaquin Region FFA Officers in early February. With over 60 candidates being interviewed, Isabella made it to the slate of the top 22 highly qualified FFA members.

After delivering responses to two questions related to Agriculture and FFA in front of a delegation of over 300 FFA members at Mission Oak High School in Tulare yesterday, she was voted in as one of the 11 regional officers to serve the upcoming year. As a regional FFA officer she will represent and serve over 20,000 FFA members from almost 100 FFA programs in our local region.

The last time Hanford FFA had a regional officer was in 2014-2015. We are excited to see the trend of high level FFA leadership be rekindled with Hanford FFA and look forward to sharing more successes of our talented and motivated FFA members.