The Sunrise Rotary shrimp feed is scheduled for Saturday, and I will see you there if you happen to attend. It is always a good time and the food is delicious. It’s okay if you lick your fingers, spill stuff, and sometimes you will find a screaming deal at the silent auction (if you happen to like baskets of wine and nuts).
This year, though, there will be something — or perhaps I should say someone — missing. That would be Val Clute, one of the founders of Sunrise Rotary, who died Sunday. He was 85, and had spent about 39 of those years in Madera.
He was one of the first people I met when we moved to the city. He was a part-time secretary for the church we attended. He was a welcoming and friendly presence there. At the time he gave no hint he had recently endured a great loss. His wife, Nancy Clute, had died as the result of an automobile accident. His heart was broken, but he never revealed his sorrow. I never knew Nancy, but I quickly learned she had been the soul and body of the Madera County Arts Council since its beginning. She was Empress Nancy when it came to building support for the arts and to giving hope and the occasional bawling out to the artists themselves. Val, an artist in his own right, was at her beck and call when she needed help.
Whenever Sunrise Rotary would hold a fundraiser, Val would be on the phone, or on email to me, asking how many tickets I’d need. Then he’d say, “When can I come over and pick up the check?”
Val was a member of the Madera Community Hospital League of Volunteers for years, and the thousands of hours he spent helping others in that role were a phenomenon.
He came here as head of wine bottle design for Madera Glass, retired in 1984, and went right to work helping his community.
He and I were used to sitting together at the shrimp feed. I will miss his impish smile, the chance to gossip and trade jokes.
As for Val, Nancy probably already has put him to work drawing signs for whatever heavenly art exhibit she is putting together. Bless them both.