Gary Svanda had just finished walking his three dogs, Tasha, Deja and Abbey. He stood at the west end of Lions Town and Country Park and looked out over the expanse of Madera’s largest park.
He sipped on a cup of coffee from a local shop as he watched teenagers toss a Frisbee, parents talking as their kids enjoyed the playground equipment, and a group preparing a family get together at the nearby pavilion. On a cool summer morning Svanda was enjoying another day of retirement.
A few weeks earlier Svanda would have walked his dogs at daybreak and been already to work as a financial advisor at his office at Edward Jones on Howard Road. At work, he constantly checked the stock market and other investment opportunities and managed accounts for hundreds of Maderans.
Svanda and his wife, Theresa (a retired school teacher), met in 1968 in the small town of Pinckneyville, Ill., (current population: 5,464) and moved to Madera in 1989 from Sparta, Ill., where Svanda had operated a car dealership. A year later, Svanda joined longtime Madera car dealer Darwin Shebelut in the local Chevrolet dealership and converted it to Pacesetter Chevrolet-Toyota on Country Club Drive...