Motorists who travel the stretch of Highway 99 from Mitchell Road in Ceres to north of Delhi may have glanced at the green freeway sign memorializing Joash E. Paul with no clue as to his identity or why he is remembered.
That’s common as years roll on and the one being honored fades from memories.
Lawmakers designated the stretch after Paul, who was a 12-year member of the Stanislaus County supervisor who served from 1964 to 1980. It turns out he was the first and only elected member of that board of Assyrian descent. He died at the age of 80 in 2000. The Army veteran of World War II was a Turlock resident and represented Turlock yet his name is tagged to an area of Ceres.
According to the book, “Familiar Faces in Unfamiliar Places: Assyrians in the California Heartland,” Mr. Paul was born in Turlock in 1919. His parents, Philip and Sarah Paul, started farming grapes and almonds in 1924 and also had a dairy. Joash was active in the Assyrian Civic Club with wife Julie and his father.
The highway memorial designation came about in 2003 from a concurrent resolution introduced by then state Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian. It noted how Paul was a lifelong resident of Turlock where he was a rancher of 50 years, a real estate agent for 25 years and a “dedicated servant of the people of Stanislaus County.” Until the mid-1970s he helped operate a family-owned lodging and dining establishment in Turlock along Highway 99. He also served as president of the fundraising foundation for, and as a board member of, the then county-owned Scenic General Hospital in Modesto.