Slim Edwards won the title of Honorary Town Marshal of the Mother Lode Roundup by a landslide, with 525 nominations.
He will receive a badge from the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse and join the Mother Lode Roundup queen and grand marshal in leading the May 11 Roundup Parade along Washington Street.
The nomination forms asked voters to explain their choices. One voter echoed what many others wrote, calling Edwards "... a great guy. Always helpful and friendly and goes the extra mile to lend a helping hand. He volunteers his time a lot."
Many people mentioned the fact that he donated his bulldozer work on such projects as the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse Grounds, Tuolumne County Senior Center and the skatepark on Greenley Road in Sonora, and the fact that he is a Mason and a Shriner.
He recently won the Mason's Hyram Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Masonic Lodge.
The fact that many voters mentioned that he "has all his marbles" could be confusing until one hears the story of his 35 years in recovery from alcoholism.
"I go to a lot of AA meetings," he said. "When I meet a new person, I give him (or her) a marble and my business card. When they ask why, I tell them next time they want to start drinking, remember, if they do, they have to throw the marble away because they lost all their marbles."
After getting a little misty-eyed Saturday in appreciation for all the votes he got, Edwards said he can't remember how many times someone he doesn't remember has come up to him and showed him a marble, saying they still have it after a lot of years.
Many of the voters said he was their sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous and inspired them to stay sober. Edwards said nobody can make someone else stay sober. They have to do it themselves.
He never had another drink after going to his first AA meeting in 1978. He had wanted to quit for 20 years, but two events in the same week created the perfect storm that started him on the road to recovery.
First, his boss said he would have to fire him if he couldn't stay sober on the job. He was working on preparations for the New Melones Dam, and was hanging 200 feet down a 700-foot cliff in his tractor when he decided to drink a half-pint of whiskey and fell asleep. His boss rescued him then, but said he couldn't do it again. It was too dangerous.
Soon after, a neighbor invited him to an AA meeting. He went and never looked back.
Edwards and his wife, Yolanda, have been married for 62 years. They have one daughter, Candace Kashur, of Paradise, two granddaughters, and three great-granddaughters.
He has been a heavy equipment operator for most of his adult life. He would borrow equipment and split the pay 50-50 with the owners until he eventually had enough money to buy his own equipment. He and Yolanda also built their own home on four acres off Campo Seco Road 55 years ago. They paid $4,000 for the land, and Edwards said old timers told him that was way too much.
Edwards doesn't work much any more because of pain from a broken neck he suffered in 1954, but he still belongs to the Operating Engineers union and is due to receive a gold watch later this year for 50 years of membership.
Asked how he feels about being named Honorary Town Marshal, Edwards said he can't believe he won when so many notable people were nominated. "There are some wonderful people there," he said. "I'm honored just to be mentioned with them."
He dominated the field of nominees with his 525 votes.
Steven Marshall Duke came in second with 110 votes. Voters described him, among other things, as a hard worker, good singer, a great window washer, extremely friendly and a fixture in downtown Sonora.
Longtime educator and community volunteer Dave Crocker came in third with 84 votes, and Zane Orr and Bill Dunlavy tied for fourth place with 35 votes each. Other vote getters were Max Kernaghan, Sharon Marovich, Bob Leslie, Tony Ybarra, Larry Cope and Carlo De Ferrari.