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Our Bill Noble was quite a guy
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Those of us who knew Bill Noble knew that he had been ill with cancer - and in great pain - for months now but the news of his passing on Saturday still carried a bit of shock. Our readers, who enjoyed his five years' worth of columns, will sense the loss as well.

It was like hearing of a mighty oak that you've enjoyed for many years come crashing to the ground. It'll never be again. There won't be another like him.

Bill Noble was an intriguing man. He was born into what Tom Brokow called the "greatest generation." They were the Americans who rose to the greatest menace facing our country and triumphed. They were the ones who knew the value of hard work and family values, who built a great country.

I am glad Bill Noble came along to share with us his rare glimpses of Ceres in the 1930s and 1940s. Had he not, they would have been lost forever.

Bill never truly left Ceres. Even though he and wife Polly moved to Washington to be close to their children, Bill returned to catch the reunions. He also stayed in touch with old classmates as well as bouncing new ideas off of me.

He took his readers into adventures of the past. And he often carried them on the high seas during war. We learned of his antics and mischief. How he learned to appreciate the soil and what it would do if you worked hard. We learned how to harvest certain crops. He taught us a bit about the oil business, and how he serviced cars at the Christiansen gas station at what is now Griffin Valero at Fourth and El Camino.

I was always gripped by his recollection of detail. He clung to the memories of his early life in Ceres as a source of strength. Through his memories he could have his mother again, even though death claimed her when he was just 10.

I cannot forget his heart-wrenching column about his childhood buddy, Holbrook McCurry, who died in a tragic gun accident. I sensed that he was crying as he wrote it. I know that I had tears in my eyes as I was editing that piece.

He also got emotional when dealing with the subject of Mary Kimoto, the classmate who was ripped from her Ceres farm and shipped off to a Japanese-American interment camp in the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He recounted the tragic handling of patriotic Americans like Kimoto, who kept in touch with Bill.

Through his eyes we learned about Ceres' colorful characters, like constable J.M. McGuffy who once shot out a motorists' tire after he came close to hitting pedestrians in a Ceres crosswalk. We could almost hear the French accent of Frenchie Dillon, who came to Ceres from her native France after World War II to help run a Ceres boarding house. We could almost smell the dust swirling as he took us on a ride aboard the Alkali Express - an early westside bus. We could see his juvenile face light up as he was handed $5 in silver dollars as payment for hard work knocking almond trees. He would occasionally take us on a Model A adventure into Yosemite and allowed us to sneak off with him as he made an authorized trip to the Bay Area where he got into an auto accident. We now can chuckle as he expressed shock in his Aug. 24, 2005 column about gas prices reaching $2.72 a gallon.

We are better people for having known Bill Noble in the print of these pages. I know that I am going to miss him on a personal level. Every time I head over to Griffin Valero, I will see a young man sharply dressed in white, waiting to serve the next customer with a happy attitude and certainly not afraid to work hard.

He lived a great life.

How do you feel? Let him know at