Eight more distinguished Taft Union High School graduates are wearing gold medals these days following their induction last Saturday into the school's Hall of Fame.
They bring to 55 the number of grads to be enshrined since the honor was established six years ago – the brainchild of lifelong Taftian and current TUHS board member Stan Barrett.
The 2013 inductees are:
Bill Black (Class of 1943), a World War II veteran and businessman who helped change the face of the community with developments that include the Caprice Motel, West Kern Junction shopping center, Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and hundreds of new homes. He's been active in community affairs as a planning commissioner, cemetery board member, membership in service clubs (Kiwanis, Elks, Moose), and was honored with a Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award.
Dr. Ben Dykes (Class of 1940), a prominent dentist who lived in Taft nearly half a century who was deeply involved in community education. He served as president of both the Taft High and Taft College boards of trustees, and president of the Taft Quarterback Club. During a mission to Cambodia, Dr. Dykes sponsored a family of refugees he brought back to Taft. He created dental hygienist training programs in seven California community colleges, including Taft College.
John T. Howe (Class of 1953), who created, owned and directed the Skylake Yosemite Camp in Bass Lake, a summer camp for children 7-16. He guided the camp program for 38 years, building Skylake into a popular destination that boasted a 70 percent return rate. Howe, who has perfect attendance during his 43 years in the Kiwanis Club, served as president of the American Camping Association, which oversees 2,500 camps that serve 12 million youngsters. He retired in 1995.
Richard "Dick" Walsh (Class of 1956) played on the 1956 Taft High valley championship basketball team and was an all-conference player at Taft College. He coached high school teams for several years before becoming the first coach at Ohlone College – a team that had no gymnasium. He quickly developed the program at the Fremont community college and in 1981 was hired to develop New Zealand's men's and women's teams for the World Games. That work led to developing New Zealand's professional basketball league. Last year he was inducted into the California Community College Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Page 2 of 2 - Lee Roy Kelley (Class of 1960) turned his love affair with fast cars into a career writing and editing automotive magazines like Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding, Motor Trend and Sport. It was a job that had him rubbing elbows with racing legends like Carroll Shelby, Don Prudhomme. Mickey Thompson, Richard Petty, Andy Granatelli, Don Garlits and Jackie Stewart, celebrities like James Garner and Steve McQueen and test-driving an array of exotic high-performance cars. He was an editor, editorial director and vice president at Petersen Publishing, where he developed and acquired new publishing opportunities for the company.
Tracy Rogers (Class of 1985), one of the finest football players to come out of Taft. He was All-Area at Taft High, team captain and All-Central Valley Conference at Taft College, Big West Conference Defensive player of the year at Fresno State and played seven seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs before injuries and surgeries forced him into retirement in 1997. He returned to Taft and, with his father and Charlie Comfort, formed the independent oil production company known as TRC. Rogers also is a member of the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame and the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame.
Milt Stark (Class of 1950) carved out an impressive career in the world of fast-pitch softball after playing baseball and football at Taft High, Taft College and baseball at Whittier College. His passion, though, was softball – a sport he fell in love with watching games at Franklin Field as a boy. He played for the famous Long Beach Nitehawks, played in 11 International Softball Congress world championship tournaments and was on four world championship teams. Twice he was named first-team catcher on the All-World team. Stark was active in the ISC for more than 30 years, 20 of them as the executive director. He is a member of the ISC Hall of Fame.
Larry Peahl (Class of 1953) may be best known as an educator who taught in Taft for 36 years (three at Taft High, 33 at Taft College), but he's also remembered as a musician, historian, author, administrator, business manager, coach, surveyor, treasurer, active Rotarian and community leader. He had a hand in creating the West Kern Oil Museum, Taft High Hall of Fame and the Taft College Foundation. His teaching assignments included not only math at all levels from arithmetic to calculus and differential equations, but also physics, surveying, computer programming, and even slide rule (anybody remember those?)