Nice people

Four likeable folks, including one whose sudden passing is a jolt

One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet members of the community, and it’s especially rewarding when they are genuinely nice people. Well, we lost a good one last weekend, when Rick Rees passed away suddenly at the too-young age of 63.

Rees was a longtime member of the Chico Unified School District board of trustees, but I knew him in his role as the associate director of Student Activities at Chico State, where he worked for more than 30 years. Rees was a go-to guy for me, back when I was the higher-education beat reporter for the local daily.

I loved talking to him because he was a straight shooter. When I sought information about the latest student scandal—such as the Chico fraternity whose members ended up in a porn film—Rees didn’t sugarcoat things. He didn’t give me some public relations drivel or the careful nonanswers typical of some administrators. Moreover, he possessed a vast institutional memory of student organizations.

In other words, he was a damn good source.

My interactions with him were all on a professional level, but I couldn’t help but like Rees. In addition to being a wealth of knowledge, he was a heck of a nice guy. After I became editor of this newspaper, he sent a thoughtful email congratulating me. My thoughts are with his family and friends as they mourn his passing.

Speaking of nice people, on Saturday I finally met Edgar Ovalle and Sharon Stern, the Chico couple who are park watchers extraordinaire. My husband and I, with our 3-year-old son in tow, ran into them, naturally, while riding our bikes in Bidwell Park.

I was pleased to make their acquaintance outside of our morning ritual of waving hello to each other as I head into work, me in my car and Ovalle and Stern typically sitting on a bench near the roundabout at Vallombrosa and Manzanita. I’m happy to report that they are as friendly and engaging in person as I’d hoped.

Stern was jogging and Ovalle riding his bike when Ovalle and I recognized each other just as we were passing in opposite directions. We had a nice chat during that chance encounter. The couple know hundreds of people from their volunteer work at the park, but since being featured in the pages of the CN&R a few weeks ago, they’re recognized more than ever.

Another Chico celebrity. Alec Angel, a fifth-grader at Hooker Oak Elementary School, took home first place in the county spelling bee last week. He—along with runner-up June Majer, a sixth-grader from Shasta Elementary School—will compete next month at the California State Elementary Spelling Bee in Stockton. I know Alec through his mom and dad, Devanie and Tom, who worked for many years at the CN&R, as associate editor and photographer, respectively. Congrats to the younger Angel for his big win, and kudos to his parents for rearing such a nice kid and ace speller.