This is a limited series of articles saluting some of the past members of the Fresno Commodore User Group, people who have made a significant contribution to the club. Our more recent members did not have the pleasure of knowing these men and women, many of whom have passed on. However, they made a lasting impression on the club and the author.
There are several former members that I don’t know a lot about, or don’t have much to say about. This is a reflection on me, not them. For these folks, I have devoted a couple of paragraphs to each and combined two or three in one article.
This material appeared in The Interface from 2013 through 2016.
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SANDY & INGRID DIPPOLETT
Salvador “Sandy” Dippolett joined the club a year or two after I
did, when we were still meeting at the Fresno
Sandy had been involved in various other organizations, so had experience with matters such as obtaining non-profit status, finding meeting locations, and recruiting members.
He was an optometrist by profession, but had spent a part of his life working for the state health agency, reviewing Medi-Cal claims. He was interested in photography, and during his retirement, took up painting, an aspect of his life that we did not learn about until after his death. When Ingrid invited club officials to come and pick up his equipment, she gave each of us one of his paintings. I chose one showing an old barn, a favorite photographic subject of mine.
Coincidentally, I had met this wife long before I joined the club. She was a social worker at the Fresno County Welfare Department when I was an eligibility worker, and we had a few clients in common over the years. She had retired by the time I met Sandy.
At some point the club decided to hold a picnic and invite members and their families. Sandy and Ingrid generously offered the use of their large patio and back yard. They had a ten acre lot east of the Fresno-Clovis metro area, with a sweeping view of fields and meadows and the Sierra foothills beyond. After moving there, they had purchased another ten acres to the east, ensuring that their view remained unobstructed. The property was further enhanced by a duck pond, a guest house/workshop built in the classic “old barn” shape, a huge lawn, and an extensive cactus garden (they were members of the local cactus society).
The Dippoletts provided soft drinks, members brought food for a potluck, and we were able to enjoy this location for our annual picnics for a number of years. Sandy passed away in 2001, much too young at age 76, and Ingrid left us only a year or two later.
| RALPH & REBA
Ralph Parrott was a member of the club for some time before I joined in 1988, and was a past president. Over the next 14 years he became a good friend.
Ralph started out with a C128, and became quite proficient at creating graphics and animation, using sprites. He was also one of two or three members who really understood the ins and outs of GEOS, and spent many hours giving classes, demonstrations and one-on-one assistance to members.
He was born in Oklahoma, where he graduated from high school. A talented football player, he was offered a college scholarship, but the World War II draft intervened. He did play some semi-pro football around this time.
served in Europe
including the invasion at Normandy, and returned home safely. He married
native. Her parents were migrant workers, following the crops to Arizona, through
California, and up to
they were married, the Parrotts came to California, where Ralph worked as a printer at a small newspaper in
Ralph worked for the Tulare Advance-Register, the Visalia Times-Delta, and then for the Fresno Bee for 30 years. Reba worked at various jobs, the last 15 years at the restaurant at California State University Fresno.
Ralph passed on in 2002, leaving a major void in our club. I visited Reba recently, and she is still doing well, and sent her best wishes to the club.
| BEN & WILMA
Ben Briscoe joined the club several years after I did, although he had been a Commodore user for a while at the time. Over the next few years he became probably my closest friend in the club. Ben had a wide variety of interests, but our relationship away from meetings began when he asked if I could give him some help using GEOS. I agreed to visit him in Avenal, about 60 miles from Fresno, and he invited me to have dinner and spend the night.
I accepted and made the acquaintance of his wife Wilma. Whatever I was able to teach Ben was more than repaid by getting to know him and Wilma. During my first visit Ben showed me a flight simulator program/game he was using on his Commodore. However, it was not till later that I learned he was actually a licensed pilot.
In fact, although Ben had a long career in a highly respected profession, if you just listed the various jobs he held, you would think he was a drifter who couldn’t hold a job!
Ben was born in
in 1921 and attended Indiana
They moved to Avenal in
During his college years and then in Avenal he played saxophone in dance
bands, performing at cowboy dances in nearby Parkfield. He also worked
weekends as a cowboy for a local rancher. During summer vacations he
worked as a seasonal ranger in Yosemite
After retirement Ben went into the real estate business. It was during this time that he acquired his first Commodore computer for use in his work. He also became a pilot, with his own air taxi business, as well as serving in the Civil Air Patrol doing search and rescue.
He was also pressed into service as a substitute teacher, and in his final involvement in the field of education, worked with a university, teaching graduate students who were in the process of qualifying for a California Teaching Credential.
Ben was also active in his community, participating in the Shriner’s organization for many years, and serving on an advisory board for the local Avenal State Prison.
Over the years I visited Ben and Wilma a number of times, including a stop one year at their travel trailer in Lee Vining on the eastern side of the Sierra, where they spent their summers for several seasons.
As he transitioned into using a Windows PC and age began to be a factor, Ben and Wilma made fewer trips to Fresno, and he left the club, but I kept in touch to the end of their lives. Ben fought a difficult battle against cancer, finally succumbing in 2007 at the age of 86. I visited Wilma several times after that, until her passing in 2011 at age 89.
I will always miss and remember the teacher, pilot, cowboy, ranger, musician, civic leader, and most of all, my friend, Ben Briscoe.
Keith is not really a former member, but he’s as close as you can get without actually leaving the country. A number of years ago he was given a life membership for his service as the club's System Operator (SysOp). We haven’t seen him for a year or two, but he sometimes appears unexpectedly at a meeting or our annual dinner.
I first became aware of Keith’s value to the club when he took over the club BBS, so you can guess how long ago that was. The long time SysOp was moving on to other things. The BBS was operated on an MS-DOS machine (probably AT, but maybe XT), and Keith was among the few in the club who had a good working knowledge of that operating system.
Keith continued as SysOp as long as the BBS was in operation, probably
four or five years. Meanwhile, I became better acquainted with him, and
eventually his family. He was a friend from junior high age with Jeff
of our newer members, and Jeff, Keith and I, along with my daughter and
her family, enjoyed a couple of camping trips with my travel trailer on
Keith was self-employed as a handyman, and I was able to hire him for several projects, including the installation of a new water heater at the duplex I owned at the time. In keeping with his computer skills, he had a laptop and a small printer that he kept in his truck, and printed out the invoice on the spot.
By this time Keith had met and married a charming lady with two children, a son and daughter, and they eventually had a daughter together. This girl often accompanied Keith on his service calls at my house, and the entire family was able to join us a time or two for our yearly dinners. Hopefully they will do it again some day.
Doug was one of the two main technical experts who provided their expertise to the club over the years, the other being Del Contreras, who is profiled below.
Doug was already a member when I joined in 1988, and I soon got to know him and appreciate his skills. A visit to Doug’s house was sort of like going to a computer museum, with Commodores and PCs in various states of repair and disassembly in the house and on the patio.
Doug’s profession also involved computer-related equipment, working with a company that installed and serviced large scales. I don’t know if it was “the weight” of this profession that contributed to a heart attack a number of years ago, but I’m happy to say that Doug made a complete recovery.
We had the pleasure of his company at our annual lunch several years ago, and hope that he will join us again some year.
no member worked harder to support and advance the club than Lloyd
Warren. Unfortunately I never talked to Lloyd about how he got his start
with Commodore, but he was a member of clubs in Ventura
before moving to Fresno. He worked for Proctor and Gamble in that area, and I believe he moved
He initially lived in the
Lloyd made a good recovery, but could no longer drive, so he gave up his mountain hideaway and embraced the support provided at the village. He often claimed that there were a number of widows there competing for his affections.
Lloyd’s best-known and longest-lasting contribution to the club was to initiate a “Disk of the Month.” Lloyd spent who knows how many hours collecting and compiling a disk of programs every month, and these were sold to members for $3, an important source of income for the club for a number of years.
Beyond this, he was always ready to help others get the most out of their Commodores. He was an early and enthusiastic user and promoter of The Write Stuff word processor, which was sold as “user ware,” a plan under which the club purchased the right to copy and sell the program. This proved to be another great economic benefit to the club.
Lloyd was born on
As age took its inevitable toll, Lloyd stopped coming to meetings, and
ultimately donated his equipment to the club. He died on
The name Art Cone was familiar to me well before I met him as a member of the Commodore club, because for a number of years he was the official spokesman for the Fresno City Fire Department, addressing the press regarding major fires and other matters relating to the department.
Before he took on that administrative task, he was a fire fighter, fire prevention officer, and arson investigator, working for the department for 22 years. But we knew him best as a Commodore user who also edited the Retired Firefighters Association newsletter. As a fellow editor, Art understood the challenges of creating a small organization newsletter, and willingly contributed articles to the Interface over the years.
I didn’t get to know Art as well as I did some other members, but at our after-meeting lunches, he told us a couple of interesting stories about his life. He met his wife when they were both dance instructors in the 1930s at the Rainbow Ballroom, a long time dance hall and later concert venue near downtown Fresno.
He also related how his wife’s family came to California during the depression, and just moved into a vacant, seemingly-abandoned house in Tulare County.
He was survived by a son who was a commercial airline pilot, and several grandchildren and great grandchildren. Art’s wife Frances passed away during his time with the club, and he remarried.
Art was born in
in 1918 and died
Unlike the people I’ve written about up to now, Helen is presumably still alive. At least we have no information to the contrary, and last time we saw her she was in good health and probably under age 50.
We didn’t keep track of when people joined the club, but Helen was with us for about five years in the late 1990s, and quickly became an important part of the club.
She was interested in many aspects of computing, but perhaps her main focus was on writing and GEOS. She took advantage of Ralph Parrott’s offer to help club members with that challenging program, and achieved a good skill level.
Although she contributed articles to the newsletter, she wanted an additional way to express herself, and started her own unofficial newspaper, which she produced and distributed to club members at her own expense. Taking the alternate name of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit, she called her publication The Halfling, and a PDF sample can be found here.
Her writing was very personal and unique. As editor of the Interface at the time, I was sometimes tempted to change a phrase or two, but I soon recognized that it would only detract from her special approach.
She was also a poet, and once attended a gathering in L.A. at which she discussed poetry with another writer whose day job was being Lou Grant on TV – the great Edward Asner.
Helen took on the difficult task of club equipment manager, which meant storing the computer system, transporting it to meetings, getting it into the meeting room, then reversing the process at the end of the meeting.
Although I’m not sure of her exact title, Helen was a medical aide at a local hospital, which went well with her kind and compassionate nature.
For reasons we never learned, Helen moved to Sacramento quite suddenly without any notice. We had some contact with her for awhile, but eventually lost touch. Helen, if you’re out there somewhere, we’d love to hear from you again.
Check out her photo here
Check out her photo here
& JOEL BERNAL
Once again we return to the land of the living (as far as I know). The name Juanita Eroles was familiar to me long before she joined our club. We exchanged newsletters with Commodore clubs all over the country, and she was the editor for the Sacramento club. So when she moved to Fresno, she knew there was a club waiting for her.
I believe Juanita had some type of mild disability, and did not drive, or perhaps just didn’t own a car. In any case, members were able to give her a ride to meetings, and since she lived near me, I volunteered a number of times.
Considering her past experience, it was not long before we called on Juanita to become our newsletter editor. She was ably assisted in this by Joel Bernal, a young man who had been with the club only a short time. He helped with assembling the newsletter, and probably with transportation to get it printed and mailed.
It was not long before both these members gradually stopped attending, and we have heard nothing more of them for a number of years. However, we are thankful for the significant contribution they made to the club during their short time with us.
It would take an entire issue of the Interface to do justice to the contributions that Del Contreras made to the group. For many years he was our technical expert, repairman and general advisor on the inner workings of our favorite computers. He operated a repair business out of his home, and was always ready to help members who were having problems, even the notorious “intermittent problems” that I often plagued him with.
was born in Gallup
In later years he had variety of occupations, traveling as a salesman for Motorola for ten years, and then operating a TV and appliance store. He also worked with his mother, who owned Zenny’s Restaurants, a very popular eatery in the 1950s and 60s with two locations, open 24 hours. In still another career change, he worked for ten years as a new car salesman, mostly for Toyota.
In retirement, in addition to computer repair, he built and repaired golf clubs, and was a regular player until his late 80s. He also developed an interest in genealogy and did extensive research, tracing his ancestry to Spanish explorers who came into New Mexico in the 1500s.
He and his wife Lupe had five children, one of whom followed Del into the computer industry.
Although he is no longer active in the club, he still does some repair work, for family only. In recent conversations, Del has continued to show an interest in what is happening with FCUG, and has been willing to provide advice and information on computers.
See a photo of Del here.
See a photo of Del here.
ZELLA MALLARD and BERNICE LALLO
There are several former members that I don’t know a lot about, or don’t have much to say about. This is a reflection on me, not them. For these folks, I will devote a couple of paragraphs to each and combine two or three in one article.
For some reason I always think of these two ladies together, although they had different backgrounds, different interests, and made different contributions to the club. However, if my memory is correct (which is by no means certain), they both served as club secretary for several years each.
Bernice was married to Tony Lallo, a local musician, and I don’t know anything about her career away from the club. As far as I know, they had no children. She was a charming and delightful person to know, and we were saddened when she left us much too soon after a short battle with an aggressive form of cancer.
Zella was an interesting personality – a retired teacher, and a person who did things her way. She was an early riser, and never attended our evening meetings back when we had both a Saturday meeting and a regular Thursday night gathering. One reason was her desire to get to one of the local farmer’s markets early to get the best produce at the best price.
I last spoke with Zella when we had our reunion lunch in 2006 and she was still going strong at the time. There’s no reason to doubt that she still is.
MONIS, BOB LOVING, and
Barbara Monis was the president of the group when I joined in 1988. She
was a teacher and later I believe she held a position with the local
school system involving computers (IT). Because of her contacts with Fresno
Bob Loving joined a number of years after I did, and made significant contributions with his enthusiasm and knowledge. He served as vice president for a time, and attended our 2006 reunion. He was employed in sales at the time of his membership, and later worked for the local workforce development agency.
Gilbert was a long-time employee of the local newspaper, working in the
press room with another
JEFF ADOLPH and DENNIS FITHIAN
I think of
Jeff Adolph was one of our few members whose primary occupation involved working with computers on the technical side, rather than just as a tool on the desk. He was in charge of information technology for Valley Dental, a company that manufactured dental equipment, and also operated a number of stand-alone dental clinics.
Dennis was an X-ray technician for a local hospital, and served a short period as editor of the Interface. Both of them were very knowledgeable about the latest developments in telecommunications and all sorts of Commodore technology. These skills were of great benefit to the club during their time as members.
I’ve lost touch with Dennis, but we were fortunate to have
BILL TERRY and MARIE TERRY
Marie Terry and Bill Terry and were the only mother-son combination who ever attended our meetings. As far as I can recall, Marie was not an official member, but came to most meetings and seemed to enjoy the group. Her big interest was genealogy – she was a member of a local genealogy society, and was heavily involved in research. I don’t know if she made use of a computer for her record-keeping, but it’s not likely she did much of her early research on the Internet, which was barely known at the time.
Bill was a teacher, and like many in that profession, used his Commodore to maintain class records and grades. He was also a devotee of slot machine gambling, and had some interesting and useful ideas on how to succeed at this activity. (I’m sorry to say that either I did not follow his advice correctly, or it just didn’t work for me.)
After he retired, and probably before, Bill handled the announcing duties at school sporting events, mainly varsity football, in Visalia where he lived.
It’s been a while since Bill came to a meeting, but Robert, also a Visalia resident, kept in touch with him for some time. Marie passed away a number of years ago, while Bill was still attending meetings regularly.
Jim Kirby was certainly one of the more interesting members of the club. He passed away a number of years ago, and I don’t think it would be speaking ill of the dead to also say he was a fairly strange gentleman.
In earlier days he had some mental health issues, but received treatment, and as he was fond of saying, “I’m the only person I know that has a piece of paper saying he’s sane.”
Jim was a teacher by profession, but I believe was retired at the time I knew him. He had major issues with the local school administration, as well as politicians at all levels. He made no secret of his feeling, writing strongly worded letters, and maintaining lengthy documentation of the problems he saw, real or imagined.
He was also a fun person to know, enthusiastic about the club and the Commodore, and ready to help out a fellow member at a moment’s notice.
The world needs colorful characters, and it was our pleasure to know someone who personified that category.
Randy Clays was a major contributor to the club at the time I joined in about 1988, and for a number of years after that.
He was the club librarian and keeper of the equipment, a considerably more challenging job at that time than it is now. He brought all the library disks to every meeting, along with the club equipment. The amount of equipment is about the same, but we no longer transport the library except by request.
The plastic bins that simplify carrying and storing the club computer, disk drives, etc. were originally obtained and labeled by Randy, and I guess it’s a tribute to the maker that these items have held up under fairly heavy use for over 30 years!
At one time Randy was an installer for the local cable company, which included sales work, but I believe he changed occupations some time before he left the club. We were happy to see Randy at our reunion lunch in 2006.
Throughout the history of the Fresno Commodore User Group, we’ve had kids at our meetings. Some of them were tagging along with a parent; some were full-fledged members in their own right, such as our current Grand Poobah of the VIC 20, Vincent Mazzei.
The first kid I was aware of was close to adulthood when I first met
him, and was no longer a member. Brad Roltgen had started selling disks
of public domain software in his early teens, and when I met him, he was
offering software and hardware accessories at our annual swap meet.
Later he had a small store in an industrial area under the name
I can’t recall the name of the other memorable youth member, who was in the club when I joined in the late 1980s, and left when he went off to college. A few years later I happened to talk with his mother, who told me that he was working for a software company designing games.
We don’t know what the future holds for Vincent, but he has some
illustrious footsteps to follow over the next few years.
We don’t know what the future holds for Vincent, but he has some
illustrious footsteps to follow over the next few years.
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Updated December 26, 2019