Melborn 'Mel'

Norman Simmons

Sept. 10, 1924 - April 28, 2004

Longtime Twain Harte resident Melborn "Mel" Norman Simmons died Wednesday at a Sonora hospital. He was 79.

He was born in the Hot Springs area of Arkansas and had lived in Twain Harte for 36 years. He attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga., and graduated from Henderson State Teachers College in Arkansas with a bachelor's degree in math and received his master's degree in math from the University of Arkansas.

He taught day classes at Davis High School in Modesto and math night classes at Columbia College and Modesto Junior College in 1968.

He started the mathematics department at Columbia College in 1969 and was an instructor there for 23 years until his retirement in 1992. He was listed in Outstanding Educators of America in the 1970s for devotion to the cause of higher education.

He was a member of the Mathematical Association of America and of the California Retired Teachers' Association-Mother Lode Division No. 87. He was a past member of California Mathematics Council and a member of a flying club in Modesto for many years.

He had many cultural interests, his family said, and he enjoyed watercoloring, gardening and canoeing.

He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a Navy Corps cadet in preflight.

His wife said he was a low-key, caring and patient person.

Mr. Simmons is survived by his wife of 38 years, Ellen Simmons of Twain Harte; sons, Daniel Simmons of Tennessee and Michael Simmons of Hawaii; a brother, Euclid Simmons of Roseville; sisters, Lou Ella Vaughn of Yuba City and Monteene Hastain of Van Nuys, Los Angeles County; seven grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Cremation has taken place. A memorial gathering will be held in June at Columbia College.

Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Marjorie Still

Jan. 24, 1917 April 26, 2004

Longtime Tuolumne County resident Marjorie Still died Monday at her Sonora home. She was 87.

She was born in Indianapolis, Ind., and moved to Southern California at the age of 5. As a student and librarian at Glendale Junior College, she met her future husband, Abe. The two were married in 1938.

They moved to Tuolumne County in 1946 and began a pioneering life on Big Hill. They first settled in an 8-by-12 foot miner's cabin without electricity or running water.

They re-dug Gold Rush-era ditches by hand to bring water to themselves and their neighbors. This was the rudimentary beginning of what was to grow into Big Hill Water Company, which they ran until both were in their 80s.

They built their own home on Big Hill and then, in 1968, moved to a new home in Sonora. This home was Abe's masterpiece as a woodworker, and Marjorie's as an interior decorator, It was twice featured on home tours.

The surrounding gro-unds, several times featured on garden tours, demonstrated their mutual interest in landscape design, her family said.

Mrs. Still was a skilled seamstress and needle worker, an interior designer with a refined aesthetic sensibility and a fine cook, who made what was arguably the best lemon mer-ingue pie in culinary history, her family added. Many times she was the first- place winner of the St. James holiday tablesetting contest, with her elegant, delightful, sometimes whimsical, creations her family said.

She worked for the California Employment Development Department for 21 years, heading the employment side of the office. She derived real satisfaction from helping people find work in Tuolumne County's seasonal, often depressed, labor market, her family added.

After her retirement, she and her husband opened One Acre Wood, a childcare business taking its theme from Winnie the Pooh. The children who came there were a second family to them, and received education in arts and crafts, music, literature and social graces. Highlights of the One Acre Wood social calendar were the annual Christmas and Easter pageants and the annual Mother's Day tea, where children poured tea from a formal tea service and presented their parents with gifts of art projects. They received visits from former students and their parents until the end of their lives and derived enormous joy from tales of the progress of their alumni, whom they considered to be their living legacy, her family said.

She is survived by her daughters, Carolyn Takhar of Taos, N.M., and Suzan Still of Big Hill; and grandchildren, Amrika Takhar of San Francisco and Devi Takhar of Hilmar, Merced County.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Abe; a brother, Louis Stockman; and a sister, Thelma Ozenghar.

A graveside service was to be held 1:30 p.m. today at Shaws Flat Cemetery. After the service, a gathering will be held at the Still family home.

Heuton Memorial Chapel is handling arrangements.


CROWE Kenneth Dale Crowe, 80, of Arnold died Saturday at his home. A service is scheduled for 2 p.m. tomorrow at Angels Memorial Chapel.

EAST In addition to the donation address listed in Edward "Bill" East's obituary, which ran on Wednesday, donations also can be made to Tuolumne County Special Olympics, 18037 Lime Rock Road, Sonora, CA 95370. Heuton Memorial Chapel handled arrangements.

OTTS Claudia Otts, 85, of Sonora died yesterday at a Sonora hospital. Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

RUSSELL William Russell, 84, of Tuolumne died this morning at a Sonora care home. Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home is handling arrangements.