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Longtime residents fill role of Grand Marshals

Patty Mandrell/The Madera Tribune

Bob and Grethel Capehart lent their smiles and good cheer to their reign over the Chowchilla Spring Festival.


Chowchillans Bob and Grethel Capehart reigned as the 2019 Grand Marshals of the Chowchilla Spring Festival Celebration, which began Thursday and ran through Sunday in conjunction with the Madera County Fair.

The Spring Festival began in 1946 and has become a tradition in the Valley. The festivities include a parade, a deep-pit barbecue and a queen coronation.

Each year the Spring Festival Committee selects an individual or couple that has made a difference in the community and represents Chowchilla in a positive way.

Bob and Grethel Capehart are well known in Chowchilla. Their compassion for others and desire to lead by example make them a natural choice to represent the Spring Festival

The Capeharts have lived in Chowchilla for about 45 years. Bob was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He graduated from Hot Springs High School and served in the Air Force from 1954 to 1956. Grethel was born in Ola, Arkansas. Her family moved to California when she was very young. They settled in the Merced area and she graduated from Merced High School.

While stationed at Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, Bob attended a church in Merced. It was there that this young soldier met the love of his life. He and Grethel were married in September of 1955 in Merced and will celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary this year.

After Bob was discharged from the Air Force he went to work for the State Department of California Water Resources.

Bob and Grethel were both reared in Christian homes, giving them a solid faith foundation. Their mutual faith in God directed their lives. Bob accepted the call to ministry. He has been an Assembly of God minister for more than 50 years. He was first called to be the pastor of Alamo Assembly of God and they moved to the Chowchilla area. He served in several churches as pastor, Sunday school teacher and over the year filled in for pastors, always going to where God called him.

As he preached God’s Word he continued to work full-time. He later worked for the Chowchilla Water District and retired in April of 2001 from the San Luis Canal Company.

Grethel was also active in the church in women’s ministries and as a Sunday school teacher. As a child she had a love for flowers which eventually led her into a 20-year career as a florist. She first began All Occasion Floral in her home and then moved the business to town on Robertson Boulevard.

Family has always played a vital role in their lives. They have two children, Carolyn and Jim. Carolyn and her husband Bobby Ragsdale and Jim and his wife Kelly all live in Chowchilla. They also have seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

Both their children say their parents led by example.

“Their Christian walk and their trust and belief in God made a difference in our lives,” said Carolyn.

“I was a blessed child,” Jim said. “I could not have asked for better parents.” Besides everything else his dad did he still had time to coach his Little League team.

Bob and Grethel say they have had many blessings throughout their lives, specifically each other and the special people they have met along the way. They are proud to call Chowchilla home.

They have seen lots of changes over the years especially in number of people and development of homes. The one thing that first attracted them to the community was how friendly the people were and they say that is still what makes Chowchilla special.

Currently, Bob is the chaplain of the local American Legion Post 148. When asked about their future plans, Bob said to continue to be used by the Lord.

“We are humbled and honored to be chosen as this year’s grand marshals,” Bob stated. Bob and Grethel helped lead the Spring Festival Parade down Robertson Boulevard Saturday.


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