By November 5, 2020 0 Comments Read More →

VeteranView – Celebrating Alfred E Menshew

A Life of Example
By Chris Murphy

There are people in our community that just bleed community service.
There are some people that are not afraid to serve our country
There are some people that are not afraid to serve our community
There are some people that are not afraid to serve others
There are some people that take the time to celebrate the good in others.
There are some people that make it fun to be alive.
There are some people that are all of these.

Alfred E Menshew was one of these people. Al could make you smile, make you cry and make you look around and see if someone else was listening. Al was truly a one of a kind. He was always involved and made things happen since we returned from his duty as a decorated Navy man in the Korean War. For this November Veteran’s Day, it is appropriate that we celebrate Navy Veteran Al Menshew who passed away last month, living a long life that made a profound affect on so many.

Born in Oklahoma in 1931, he grew up working the harsh fields on a sharecropper from, Al knew hard work, honesty and learned integrity. Like many others, he and his family made it to California during the dustbowl. This toughness gave him a base that would be the foundation of his life. After graduating from Ripon High, he enlisted in the US Navy and served admirably with honors. Following his service, he graduated from Humphrey’s College in Stockton before having a lengthy and successful career at the Gallo winery glass plant.

I didn’t grow up or pal around with Al during the 60s and 70s like so many did, but he was a key Gallo employee and leader in the Modesto Jay-Cees (the Modesto Junior Chamber of go-getters, movers and shakers) and an active young Kiwanian. But the stories are legendary, many of them celebrated and some that shouldn’t be told. He was a leader, he got people involved, encouraged them to join Kiwanis and other civic projects. One of his most favorite projects was his role as a Clamper and served many roles, lastly being the “Sublime Noble Grand Humbug of all Clamperdom and all the civilized world”. Additionally, Al was a 32nd Degree Master Mason and deserved all of the honors that go with that responsibility.

I met Al when I started dating my then girlfriend Becky McNulty though her father Mike McNulty. I entered the realm of many of Modesto’s classic characters. Listening to stories from Menshew, McNulty, Lloyd Ploutz, Terry McGrath, Gary DeHart, Dwight Trammel and others was truly an “education”. I first got to know him as our family’s Santa Claus and he changed the lives of our kids and many others who will remember him through their whole lives. I was the one that made sure that Al got his thank you gift bottle of brandy on Christmas Eve. He was Modesto’s Santa Claus for many years, along with Mrs. Claus, Bette Belle Smith. Many other people learned who Al was as the announcer for the Modesto 4th of July Parade for over 30 years. Al knew every parade entry and this parade is one of the best in the nation. These were traditions that made Modesto what it is today, a community loaded with volunteers and people that give back.

Most of those who knew him, knew of his great ability for excellent public speaking and engage rooms full of people with wry wit, honesty, and great storytelling. But this was an obstacle that Al worked hard to overcome when he was younger. Al tackled many challenges and his friends, family and our community were the recipients of this effort. One of my favorite examples of his skills occurred when I asked him to MC the bicycle race I was putting on in downtown Modesto. He told me he didn’t know anything about bicycle racing, and I told him that it didn’t matter since he was Al Menshew. And he did it, over 6 hours at the microphone. No one was the wiser and everyone had a good time.

Part of what made Al who he was surely was his wife Loretta. He was basically “Al&Loretta” for so many years. Loretta is so friendly and kind. Our girls loved her in her administration role at LaLoma Jr High where she always had a smile for them in the office. Their teamwork and passion for our city truly made this package deal a special part of our community.

When our family moved back to Modesto, I told Becky I wanted to be like Al Menshew. I truly admired who he was and what he accomplished. I quickly learned it is impossible to be like Al. Heck, nobody could be like Al. I think it serves as an inspiration to us all to aspire to serve the community and our friends like Al Menshew.

Al is basically a “Past President” of almost everything. He is even the “past-president of the past-presidents” for the Old Fisherman’s Club. Now you try that one out. The list is so very long for the organizations where he played a leadership role. Whatever he did, attracted many others. Over the years, as the Modesto Jay-Cees faded, the Modesto Kiwanis club would take on the 4th of July Parade the places in the parade for the Clampers and the Shriners and the American Legion would always hold positions of esteem and recognition.

Veteran’s affairs were one of Al’s main passions. He was a proud veteran, volunteering for service in 1948 and proudly serving through some of the toughest times of the Korean War on an aircraft carrier.

I am truly humbled and honored to have been a friend of Al and Loretta. It was a tremendous honor for me to take over the announcing role for the 4th of July Parade from Al. It was an honor and a huge responsibility to do this job with both irreverence and reverence at the very same time with my need of coaching from Al on the various pronunciations of the Mason, Shriner and Clamper titles. I was also very honored to be among the recipients of the Citizen of the Year Award in 2019 from the American Legion Post 74, where Al was both a recipient of this award and served as the committee chair, joining the ranks of Dick Haggerty, Marie Gallo, Carol Whiteside, John and June Rogers, Jeremiah Williams and other leaders. I am truly grateful.

There is so much more about Al and my observations here are just a fraction of the life of Al Menshew. He will always be remembered by so many in our community and his deeds and actions will be felt for generations to come.

Rest in Peace Al Menshew, our community salutes you on this Veteran’s Day and celebrate your life, loves, accomplishments and impacts on our community.

You can read more about Al and his list of accomplishments at www.modestoview.com
Please also leave any comments about Al on this article.

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.